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  • Writer's pictureLiz W.

Review for "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brené Brown

*Workbook in Progress*

I am still catching up on creating workbooks for the previous books I posted questions for - including this one. All questions will remain available to you here in the meantime!

Intro to the Review

We have all had the experience of enthusiastically starting a new book only to realize that it is not what were expecting. The purpose of the following review is not to express my opinion on whether the book is "good" or "bad." Whether or not it is the right book for you is another question entirely. My objective is to help you decide whether this book would be a good fit for you.

Start by asking yourself:

  • Does it seem like the content covered in this book aligns with what I was expecting to find?

  • Is the main problem addressed in this book similar to my own goal for what I would like to get from reading it?

  • Is the style and format written in a way that will not hinder my ability to get the most value from this book?

  • Am I the intended audience for this book?

If after reading the review, you can answer yes to all these questions, there's a pretty good chance this book is the right fit for you. If not, well, there are plenty more books out there just waiting for you to read them.

The Gifts of Imperfection

Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Brené Brown

Ⓒ 2010 Hazelden Publishing

160 pages

“Worthiness doesn't have prerequisites.”

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Book Review

Author Background

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston who has spent over two decades studying vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She has written numerous best-selling books including Dare to Lead, Braving the Wilderness, Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, and her newest book Atlas of the Heart.(affiliate links)

Her TED talk The Power of Vulnerability can be found here.

Her website can be found here.

She has two podcasts: Dare to Lead and Unlocking Us available on Spotify and elsewhere. She also has a Netflix special released in 2019 called A Call to Courage.

What Problem Does This Book Attempt to Address?

The overarching goal of the book is to help us engage in wholehearted living. This goal is accomplished by defining wholehearted living, describing what elements make up wholehearted living, what gets in the way of wholehearted living, and providing 10 guideposts to help readers work on living more wholeheartedly.


· Concept explanation: Mostly clear

· Related stories: Many

· Data references and studies: Average

· Charts and graphics: None

· Practical application: Decent

The biggest thing that struck me about this book is how much information there is crammed into such a short book without it feeling that way at all. I didn’t realize just how much information was included until I began writing the discussion questions for each chapter. I think this is a testament to her writing skill. What feels like a short feel-good read is actually packed full of useless information that can change your life is you apply it.

Because of the book being centered around Brown’s personal experiences, it is a concern that a reader may actually miss a lot of this information because it is not laid out in more impersonal manner. That is why I chose to rate the concept explanation as only mostly clear, and the practical application as decent instead of excellent. Each guidepost ends with action steps for the reader, but only a framework for coming up with your own action step instead of something more concrete.

In order to make the most of this book, readers will need to spend the time being introspective and reflecting on their own thoughts, feelings, and life and figuring out exactly how the material presented in the book relates to their experiences. Without that, this book will not have the impact the author is hoping to have.

A very unique aspect to this book is the data references. Brown is a professional qualitative researcher. This means there is very few studies referenced in the way that is commonly seen in other books, such as 40% of people did x or y, etc. Instead, she references her qualitative research findings, including how she developed definitions to certain words and how she determined how people live wholeheartedly to begin with.

Writing Style & Presentation

· Tone: Causal, relaxed

· Organization: Excellent

· Flow: Excellent

The format of this book was very well thought out. It begins by introducing the concept of wholehearted living and describing to the reader what it entails. Next, it goes into what the roadblocks for wholehearted living are. The second half of the book is organized into ten “guideposts” with more practical advice on how to begin living more wholeheartedly. The flow between the information, advice and personal experiences is done well. The tone feels like you could be sitting in a room with her having a conversation about the topic.

Bringing It all Together

One thing done really well: The author is known for her ability to share information with her audience through her stories, and this book is no exception.

One thing that could be better: Reinforcing concepts, perhaps by creating a short bullet point list at the end of each chapter, would help make sure the reader does not miss important concepts without realizing it.

One main thing I took away from this book was: Working to achieve wholehearted living is a lifelong practice, but there are small things we can do every day that move us towards this goal.

Overall Recommendation

Who I would recommend this book for: People who are struggling with self-doubt, worthiness or feeling like they are never good enough.

Who I wouldn’t recommend this book for: People interested in a more analytical presentation of information about shame, worthiness, love etc. (Although she does include a section at the end about her research you may like)


Discussion Questions

Introduction: Wholehearted Living

What is wholehearted living about?

What is wholehearted living and what is it not?

What do we need in order to overcome what is holding us back?

What is the purpose “DIG deep”?

What does DIG stand for?

What is more difficult than owning our story?

What are the three gifts of imperfection?

Courage, Compassion, and Connection: The Gifts of Imperfection

What is the key word in cultivating worthiness?

How do we invite compassion into our lives?

Why is it important to be able to recognize our own physical symptoms of shame?

What does shame hate?

Why is it dangerous to hide our shame experiences?

What happens if we share our story with the wrong type of person?

Who shouldn’t we share our shame stories with?

What makes it hard to practice compassion?

What is the definition of compassion?

What kind of courage does wholehearted living require?

What is ordinary courage about?

Taking what type of risk also demonstrates courage?

Why do we downplay our excitement or anticipation?

What does compassion practice involve?

What is a common response to the pain of ourselves and others?

How do we often act as a result of this response?

What is a common barrier in compassion practice?

What is the heart of compassion?

How do poor boundaries lead to decreased compassion?

What is “blame culture” and what are the consequences of living in this culture?

Why do people resort to shaming instead of setting boundaries?

What is the definition of connection?

What is the impact of connection on our brain?

What myth must be let go of to cultivate connection?

Why is receiving help important to our mindset of giving?

Exploring the Power of Love, Belonging, and Being Enough

What separates those who feel a sense of belonging from those that don't?

How do we fully experience love?

What happens when we try and distance ourselves from the parts of ourselves we don't like?

What is the greatest challenge of worthiness?

What are some common “worthiness prerequisites”?

What is the difference between belonging and fitting-in?

What are the three truths of love and belonging?

How do we cultivate love?

What is love and what is it not?

What damages love?

What is the definition of belonging?

What are barriers to belonging?

What does practicing self-love entail?

What is more important than saying “i love you”?

Why is self-love an important factor in loving others?

The Things That Get in the Way

What do we have to do if we want to live wholeheartedly?

What gets in the way of wholehearted living?

What is the key to dealing with shame?

If we know how to make good choices, why aren’t we making them?

What two places can anxiety come from?

What message does shame tell us?

How does shame make us feel?

What are 3 things to know about shame?

What is shame?

Who experiences shame?

What does shame love and why?

What is “the master emotion” and why?

What is shame resilience?

What three things does shame need?

What 4 components make up shame resilience?

Whats the difference between shame and guilt?

What does shame corrode?

What are we more likely to engage in when we fear shame?

What does the process of resilience often look like?

What are the two unhealthy ways people handle shame?

What is the easiest way to recognize when we are experiencing shame?

What question should we ask ourselves before sharing our shame story with someone?

Guidepost #1

What is the proper way to look at authenticity?

What is authenticity?

What are the three ways authenticity is practiced?

How may others respond when we decide to live with authenticity?

Why is practicing authenticity scary?

What struggles occur when trying to be authentic?

What makes being authentic the unsafe option?

Why must we care what others think?

What happens when we suppress our authenticity?

What is the DIG deep advice for this guidepost?

Guidepost #2

What is the birthplace of perfectionism?

What is perfectionism and what is it not?

What is the primary driving force of perfectionism?

What debilitating belief is tied to perfectionism?

What is life paralysis?

What is the definition of perfectionism?

What makes perfectionism self-destructive?

Why is perfectionism addicting?

What does perfectionism lead to?

How do people engaging in wholehearted living view imperfections?

What are the three elements of self-compassion?

What does mindfulness require?

What is the DIG deep advice for this guidepost?

Guidepost #3

What is resilience?

What 5 factors are present in resilient people?

What is spirituality?

What three resilience patterns arise from spirituality?

What is hope?

What three thoughts create hope?

What is hope a combination of?

What do children need to learn hopefulness?

What is an example of hopeful self-talk?

What is at the heart of hope?

What is a recipe for hopelessness?

What is powerlessness?

How do we practice critical awareness?

What 3 questions establish critical awareness?

What behaviors do most of us engage in that people living wholeheartedly do not?

What happens when we numb painful emotions?

How does trying to numb painful emotions create a vicious cycle?

What feelings sabotage resilience?

What is the DIG deep advice for this guidepost?

Guidepost #4

What did every joyful person practice?

What is the difference between joy and happiness?

What are a few ways to practice gratitude?

What part of joy is constant and what part comes and goes?

What is a joyful life made up of?

What causes joy to manifest fear?

Why is tolerating vulnerability important for joy?

How do we try and beat vulnerability?

How do our lifestyles aggravate fear of scarcity?

What is sufficiency?

What false belief do many people have about joyful experiences?

What does our culture equate with ordinary?

When does joy happen?

What is the DIG deep advice for this guidepost?

Guidepost #5

What myth do we have about intuition?

What is intuition?

What silences our intuition?

What do we do instead of trusting our intuition?

What can our intuition tell us about uncertain situations?

Why might we charge into big decisions without doing due diligence?

What is the definition of intuition?

What pits faith and reason against each other?

What is faith?

How does wholehearted living use faith?

What is the DIG deep advice for this chapter?

Guidepost #6

How are conformity and competition related?

What is the paradox of comparison?

What does comparison steal time from?

What makes someone creative?

What happens when we don’t use our creativity?

How do we make meaning?

What requires constant awareness?

What is the DIG deep advice for this chapter?

Guidepost #7

What is viewed as a status symbol in our culture?

What is a critically important component of wholehearted living?

Why can play create shame?

What is the opposite of play?

What does play help us with?

What is the result of chronic sleep deprivation?

What is the truth behind our shame self-talk regarding play?

Why can making time for rest be difficult given our culture?

What is the DIG deep advice for this guidepost?

Guidepost #8

What is calm?

What do panicked responses result in?

What must we do in order to choose calm?

What first practice can help us change our reactivity?

What are some non-reactive responses?

How is stillness different from calm?

What is stillness about?

What assumptions about stillness need to be let go of?

What is the first barrier to stillness?

What makes anxiety self-perpetuating?

What is the second barrier to stillness?

What is the only way to overcome this barrier?

What is the DIG deep advice for this guidepost!

Guidepost #9

How do gifts and talents relate to meaning?

What happens when we don’t use our gifts?

Who defines meaning?

How does self-doubt get in the way of meaningful work?

What 4 unhealthy thought processes stem from “supposed-to”?

What happens if you ignore the shame gremlins?

What happens when you write down your specific thoughts of self-doubt?

What is the slash effect and why is it important?

What belief helps overcome self-doubt?

What is the DIG deep advice for this guidepost?

Guidepost #10

When do we sing and dance?

What do laughter song and dance create?

What does shame resilience require?

What does not count as true humor?

What is universal about song?

What are some shame triggers around the vulnerability of laughing, song and dance?

What perception is elevated in our culture?

What is the purpose of this perception?

What happens when we don’t allow ourselves to be free?

What is the DIG deep advice for this guidepost?

Vocabulary List

These are words I noticed while reading that some people may be unfamiliar with. Use the worksheet to customize this list for yourself.

None! Use the workbook to add your own.

Discussion Question Workbook

The workbook that accompanies this post includes:

  • All discussion questions with space for writing answers

  • All vocabulary words with space to write definitions and add your own words

  • Chapter reflection questions

  • Final reflection questions

  • A condensed list of all discussion questions, for reference.

You can download this complimentary workbook for free:

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown Discussion Question Workbook - Oak Tree Reading
Download P • 593KB

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