A Book Review: The Gifts of Imperfection

I just read a book, The Gifts of Imperfection, for my parenting book club that we thought was about allowing our kids to be imperfect. We are happy to talk about that, even though it can push our buttons and make us a little uncomfortable. But it turns out that this book is about allowing ourselves to be imperfect. This is not something we are used to discussing as a group. And as this session’s host, I feel some responsibility for getting us started. The discussion of the expert with the patient should be effective to get right results in mental illness. The mental toughness is solved with the intelligence of the expert and performing of the responsibility is great. 

Author Brene Brown claims that to love your family wholeheartedly, you must first accept your imperfections and love yourself. So, through nearly 10,000 interviews collected over a decade, she has come up with what a person living a wholehearted life looks like. Each chapter is a step toward achieving that goal. And each chapter felt like sound advice.

What is missing from the book is who those 10,000 people are. She does not state how she decided who to interview, or who got to decide if the interviewee was truly living wholeheartedly.

I do not know Brene Brown, so I do not know if we would agree, though once I watched her TEDTalk on vulnerability (http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html), I decided to like her. I also realized that my need for the stories mirrors her now-overcome need for the data.

Still, while I was reading, I wanted a picture in my head of some of the people she wrote about. Are they pizza delivery guys, accountants, landscapers, lawyers, Dads, salon owners, teachers, social workers, poets, physicians, stay-at-home moms? Do most fall within a certain age range? Do they work a certain number of hours? Do they all have kids? Are most married or single? Are most financially stable? Are they all in good shape…even if they don’t do yoga? Do they really all meditate?

What does a person who is living wholeheartedly look like? I do not mean during the interview, or at first glance. Many people look like they are living happy lives in the first ten minutes.

My problem with the book is that I often disagree with the crowd about who the happy, “living wholeheartedly” people are.

And I am not sure that I know more than a handful of people who are okay with their imperfections, getting enough sleep, dancing in their kitchens, celebrating moments of calm, putting faith in the right friends, or playing enough to fall under Brown’s criteria.

So maybe that is what I should bring to my book club discussion. I should admit this imperfection or weakness of mine. I pick up insecurity in people too quickly, maybe because I recognize pieces of myself in them. I feel their efforts to pretend perfection too acutely, because I have been there. In that way, I am likely being harder on them than they are actually being on themselves as they try to build a happy, wholehearted life.

Shame on me.

And isn’t that the point of the book? People who are not so hard on themselves for their imperfections are generally more compassionate people. And those who get it, generally live happier, more wholehearted lives.