Books: Brene Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection”, by Pranada Devi

In November 2006, researcher and social worker Brené Brown took a look at the data she was gathering, put a hand over her mouth, and said to herself, “No. No. No. How can this be?” The pattern she saw was so shocking and so transformative that she experienced a breakdown (or spiritual awakening) that has since galvanized her work and catapulted it into the public eye via TED talks, PBS specials, and her book “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go Of Who You Think You’re Supposed To Be And Embrace Who You Are”.

Simply put, what Brown discovered was that the people who are living wholehearted, joyful lives are not the people who push themselves to exhaustion in order to be perfect, not the people who follow the rules, not the people who feel they have to do everything themselves. The people living wholehearted, joyful lives are authentic, playful, intuitive, believing they are worthy and cultivating a sense of belonging (not just fitting in). For someone who had spent her life, as many of us do, feeling that if we just work hard enough and obey all the rules and get everything “right”, we can be happy, this discovery was a sobering wake-up call. Brown realized, “How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but there is something that is even more essential to living a Wholehearted life: loving ourselves. […] This journey is equal parts head work and heart work, and as I sat there on that dreary November day, it was clear to me that I was lacking in my own heart work.”

In “The Gifts of Imperfection”, Brown narrates what she learned from this experience and how we can live a more wholehearted life by letting go of our old ideas of strength, courage and fitting in, and practicing real courage and compassion.  She shows how sometimes, when someone says something unkind to you, it can take more courage to feel the hurt feelings and cry than it does to return the “favor” with devastating wit. And she delivers it from the perspective of a former “cynical, smart-ass academic” who had spent years researching shame and fear.

“Courage sounds great, but we need to talk about how it requires us to let go of what other people think, and for most of us, that’s scary. Compassion is something we all want, but are we willing to look why boundary-setting and saying no is a critical component of compassion? Are we willing to say no, even if we’re disappointing someone? Belonging is an essential component of Wholehearted living, but first we have to cultivate self-acceptance – why is this such a struggle?”

With “The Gifts of Imperfection”, Brené Brown shows us how the work of setting aside the mask of “I’ve got it all under control”, and being more authentic, courageous and wholehearted people may feel frightening and messy, but can lead to feeling more alive and more joyful than we have ever felt before.


Pranada Devi is a communications professional living in Toronto, Canada. She is the Managing Editor of Parvati Magazine, and serves as an advisor on marketing communications for Parvati’s various projects.