The Gifts of Imperfection and Health at Every Size®


I recently finished reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, PhD.  Brené is a researcher who has collected stories from thousands of individuals who are living, full, vibrant, wholehearted lives.  In this book, Brené shares strategies to embrace your authentic self and live a wholehearted life.

I believe the concepts in this book tie in nicely with a Health at Every Size® (HAES®) philosophy.  I’ll explain how in this post.

No one is perfect.  And feeling imperfect can make you feel vulnerable.  However, your imperfections bestow gifts that enable you to live wholeheartedly in the world.  According to Brené, the gifts of imperfection are:

  • Courage: The courage to be true to yourself, despite feeling vulnerable.
  • Compassion: The ability to understand and empathize with yourself and others.
  • Connection: The capacity to bond with others who value your true, authentic self.

Embracing a HAES philosophy helps to cultivate these gifts of imperfection.  HAES requires the courage to love and accept your body, even if it doesn’t look the way society suggests it should.  It requires compassion for yourself and others.  And it facilitates a true connection with others, as you begin to understand that you are worthy of love and belonging at any size.

Brené also discusses the importance of cultivating the following practices:

  • Authenticity – letting go of who you think you are supposed to be and embracing you you are
  • Self-compassion – letting go of perfectionism and being kind to yourself
  • A resilient spirit – protecting yourself with critical awareness (i.e. a B.S. meter) and learning to bounce back from feelings of shame
  • Gratitude and joy – counting your blessings instead of your blemishes
  • Intuition – willingness to trust your inner voice that draws from instinct, experience, faith and reason
  • Creativity – letting go of comparison and letting your artistic juices flow
  • Play and rest – making time to relax and do things you enjoy
  • Calm and stillness – learning to live mindfully and let go of anxiety
  • Meaningful work – sharing your gifts with the world
  • Laughter, song and dance – letting go of ‘being cool’ and allowing your spirit to soar

The HAES principles also support these practices.  HAES encourages practicing intuitive self-care, where you tune into your body’s innate wisdom to guide eating, exercise, play and rest.  A HAES approach helps you to cultivate authenticityself-compassion, a resilient spirit, and the remaining practices as you learn to challenge weight stigma, declare your own authentic beauty, and are freed to pursue your true life passions.

Recently, I have started swimming in the river near my house.  People passing by look at me curiously, and some may think I’m a little nutty, but I don’t care.  When I’m swimming in the river, I feel free, one with nature, and alive in my body.  What practices are you cultivating to live a wholehearted life?

River at sunset

Health At Every Size and HAES are registered trademarks of the Association for Size Diversity and Health and used with permission.

2 responses to “The Gifts of Imperfection and Health at Every Size®

  1. Great post! I wish everyone struggling with body image, fruitless dieting and/or low self confidence would read this. Perfection is not possible…and even if it were how boring would that be? Striving for perfection is ultimately setting oneself up for failure. EVERY body is a beautiful gift worthy of compassion, love, joy, celebration and respect and this has absolutely nothing to do with size!

  2. Nicole Geurin, RD

    Amen to that! Thanks for your comment. 🙂

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