Summary of The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

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  • Post last modified:October 11, 2023

Summary reading time: 5 min

Book reading time: 2h55

Score: 1/10

Book published in: 2010

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Table of Contents

What The Gifts of Imperfection Talks About

The Gifts of Imperfection is a book written by Brené Brown. It’s a book about self-esteem and compassion. The author explains that in order to feel enough, you have to be yourself, be compassionate towards yourself and others and establish a genuine connection with people. I learned that vulnerability is fully accepting who we are and not hiding it from others.

I read this book when I understood I had to develop some self-love and confidence or I’d never get anywhere in life.

It ended up being one of the most confusing books I have ever read.

First, it’s disorganized. There is no plan, no outline, no logical links between the parts, and the author speaks of everything and nothing without any backing.

Second, the author only speaks about herself. “And I to go to this conference”…”and I felt so bad I wanted to cry”…”my daughter Ellen is amazing”.

I, I, I, me, me, me. It’s absolutely awful.

It felt more like a personal diary than a book, and not even an interesting one.

Despite it being short (thank God), the book felt unusually long. It also features (besides the jeremiad of the author) some simplistic stories of people that struggle in their relationships and fix the world once they did ThAt OnE tHinG.


The more you progress in the book, the more nonsense it becomes. We reach peak irony when in the conclusion, the author condemns “bs self-help” without realizing she just wrote its embodiment.

I now feel like an a*shole for criticizing Brené Brown since she is universally acclaimed everywhere she goes.

That’s the price to pay when you commit to being honest.

I guess too much water-down self-help has made me allergic to it, particularly those that contain the words “deeply in love”.

By far the worst book ever summarized on this blog.


Get the book here, or actually, don’t.

About the Problem at Hand

I eventually found a way to love myself and be confident (and not thanks to the book).

It’s very rational, but it works for me.

When I read Dating Essentials, I learned that girls were biologically driven to be attracted to confident guys.

In other words, the bolder the move, the more attracted she becomes (with limitations obviously, don’t go try to kiss girls in the street).

Since it took confidence to date girls and since I wanted to date girls, all I had to do was being confident with girls.

Unfortunately, I did not apply this principle to the other areas of my life. I thought somehow it was good to be not confident. Don’t ask me why – I too sometimes am a victim of mainstream brainwashing.

As I was reading this book, I realized that self-worth and confidence had to be difficult to practice, as if they were easy, everyone would have them, and everyone would succeed.

We often talk about the work we need to do, but we rarely talk about the mental work we need to do.

Unfortunately, it’s 100% part of the game.

If you force yourself to like yourself, to have self-worth, and to have self-respect, it directly catapults you to the top 1% of the population.

It also makes it much easier to succeed as you cut out self-sabotage and procrastination.

In other words, self-worth and self-esteem don’t happen automatically, not at least for those that weren’t raised by healthy parents (which is 99% of people).

You need to proactively work to get them.

And to get them, you need to practice them.

Summary of The Gifts of Imperfection Written by Brené Brown

Introduction: Wholehearted Living

Living wholeheartedly is about living with an inner feeling of worthiness.

It’s about thinking “I am enough” whatever sh*t may happen.

Getting to this point is not an event – it’s a process.

You reach worthiness by practicing courage, compassion, and connection.


Courage comes from Latin. It used to mean “saying what you truly think”. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability out there.


Compassion comes from Latin and means “to suffer with”.


Connection is the feeling that happens when people feel understood by the people they are talking to.

Connection is not only about listening and helping others.

It’s also about asking for help. If you are not comfortable reaching out for help, you’ll never entirely be able to listen to others either. Receiving = giving.

The Power of Love

So many want to experience love yet don’t because they don’t believe they are worthy of receiving it.

Few people ever do.

Most believe they will be worth it at some point, when:

  • They lose weight
  • Earn more money
  • Stop drinking
  • etc

This is a mistake.

You’re already worthy.

Defining Love and Belonging

A sense of love and belonging is as important as food and water.

When we don’t experience them, we don’t function as we should.

Love: we can only love others if we love ourselves first. We cultivate love when we allow our vulnerable selves to be seen.

Belonging: the innate desire to be a part of something larger than us. To fulfill it, we try to blend in and seek others’ approval. But true belonging happens when we are our authentic selves.

While it would be outrageous to call someone else an idiot, we do it with ourselves all the time. It eventually takes a toll on our mental health.

The Things That Get in the Way

Joy and happiness aren’t states we are supposed to work for.

They are the default states.

When we are not happy and joyful, this is because there are things getting in the way.

These things are shame, fear, and vulnerabilities. Once they’re out (once you have talked about them), they are already taking less space.

Here are the first three things you need to know about shame:

  1. We all have it
  2. No one wants to speak about it
  3. The less we talk about it, the more we have it, and the more control it takes

Shame is the fear of being unlovable due to flaws.

This is why perfectionists have so much of it.

People that manage shame well:

  1. Understand shame
  2. They’re aware of their inner voice whispering self-limiting beliefs
  3. They talk about shame with people they trust
  4. They ask for what they need from others

Shame VS guilt = I am bad VS I did something bad

The effect of guilt is often positive (we apologize), while the effect of shame is often destructive (we attack ourselves).

Children that feel shame are more likely to bully, be violent, depressed, or aggressive.

Shame is instilled in them by parents trying to get them to do something. When kids refuse, parents shame.

Start with asking yourself these five questions:

  1. Who do you become when you are full of shame?
  2. How do you protect yourself?
  3. Who do you call to feel better?
  4. What’s the most courageous thing you can do for yourself when you feel shamed?

Guidepost 1: Cultivating Authenticity

Authenticity is about letting go of who we think we need to be and embracing who we are instead.

It means:

  • Accepting to be imperfect, set boundaries, and be ok with being vulnerable.
  • Being aware that we’re all made of strength and struggle
  • Maintaining healthy connections we can establish when we know we are enough

If you trade authenticity for safety, you will experience anxiety, depression, addiction, rage, blame, etc.

Sacrificing who we are on the altar of people’s expectations isn’t worth it.

Guidepost 2: Cultivating Self-Compassion

Perfectionism arises out of the shame of not being worthy of love if the work isn’t done correctly. It’s protection against attacks.

“If I do everything perfectly, no one will ever attack me”.

Perfectionists struggle to understand that:

  • Perfectionism and doing your best are two different things.
  • Perfectionism isn’t self-improvement: it’s looking for acceptance.

Perfectionism does not enable success, it prevents it. Perfectionists are afraid to get out there and try and fail.


  • Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels the thought that if everything is perfect, you won’t be criticized.
  • Perfectionism is self-destructive because it’s never reached. It’s also more about appearances.
  • Perfectionism is addictive because when we are criticized, we believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough.
  • Perfectionism increases the chance of feeling shame, hence worsens the problem.

We get out of perfectionism by acknowledging our vulnerabilities. When we become more compassionate towards ourselves, we can embrace our imperfections.

Self-compassion has three elements to it:

  1. Self-kindness: being nice to ourselves when we suffer or fail.
  2. Common humanity: accepting that shame is part of the human experience.
  3. Mindfulness: being mindful of our negative emotions prevent us from being carried away

Guidepost 3: Cultivating a Resilient Spirit

Resilience is the capacity to absorb shocks.

Resilient people share five characteristics:

  1. They are resourceful
  2. They ask for help
  3. They believe they can do something to cope with their feelings
  4. They have people around ready to help them
  5. They are connected to their friends and family

These people are spiritual. Spiritual here means that they believed we are all connected to each other by a power greater than us.

Three other practices are related to resilience:

1. Hope and powerlessness: hope isn’t an emotion, it’s a mindset. Hope is what happens when we set realistic goals, figure out how to achieve these goals, and believe we can do it. As for power, it is the capacity to change things. Powerlessness is dangerous. It leads to desperation.

2. Critical awareness

3. Numbing: most people numb their pain to avoid feeling it. Addiction plays a part in it. Addiction helps us avoid the vulnerability and “pain” that may come with it.

Guidepost 4: Cultivating Gratitude and Joy

Joy comes from gratitude, not the other way around.

Some people, upon feeling happy and grateful, have flashes of terrible things happening. This is because they are overwhelmed with vulnerability, and instead of welcoming this vulnerability, they fear it.

Vulnerability should be welcomed with gratitude.

(I skipped guidepost 5 because there was nothing there.)

Guidepost 6: Cultivating Creativity

We spend our lives comparing ourselves to others. As a result, we don’t take the time to be creative.

Everyone is creative.

Guidepost 7: Cultivating Play and Rest

Happy people play and rest.

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