Lesson 9.2 - Embracing imperfection: why it is important and how it works
Do you feel resistance when I mention the topic of imperfection? I get it. I truly do.
I believe that, when it comes to imperfection, we need to go through a massive mindset shift. WE, as in you and I, as part of our personal growth. But I also mean that WE as a society are in need of a transformation.
Our western society fetishizes perfection. It’s the default, the norm, the one true measure of success. It’s what everyone should strive towards.
We’re so used to ‘perfect’ being the ideal, we’ve bought into that notion being true, that we don’t see it for what it really is: it’s simply one perspective embraced by society. It’s ONE perspective and that means that you have to power to change that perspective for yourself.
Society’s perspective of idealizing perfection is causing you harm, it makes you feel miserable, so why not choose a different perspective that makes you feel a little better?
I know that’s easier said than done. Going against the grain isn’t easy. You might raise a few eyebrows along the way. But it is doable.
To start off changing our mindset about imperfection and building up your imperfectionism, let’s examine other ways to look at imperfection.
Not every society views perfection as an ideal. In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi is a worldview centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.
Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, and appreciation of the integrity of natural objects and processes. In art books, it is typically described as ‘flawed beauty’.
One example of the wabi-sabi philosophy in action is the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi, which translates more or less as “joining with gold”. At its heart lies the belief that nothing is ever truly broken.
The story of Kintsugi is said to have begun in the 15th century when a Japanese military commander broke one of his beloved tea bowls and, disappointed with a shoddy repair job, urged craftsmen to come up with a more pleasing method of repair. The broken pottery was repaired with a seam of lacquer and gold.
Kintsugi emphasizes rather than hides damage. It beautifies the breakage and treats it as an important part of an object’s history. It makes the object more precious than it was before.
Now, obviously, wabi-sabi and Kintsugi isn't about broken vases and shattered pottery, but it’s a deeper way of looking at the world as a whole. It’s a philosophy of living that finds beauty in the imperfect.
You can adopt that philosophy and apply it to your life.
The thing no one tells you about imperfection is that when you accept and even celebrate it instead of treating it like a scary liability, it actually becomes something new: it becomes part of what makes you valuable. It’s the gold in the cracks of your life. The broken bits make you more beautiful and it gives you more story to tell.
What if I say that you’re probably already embracing imperfection in your life? You like the things that have aged and evolved and may not look like much anymore but still have emotional value for you, like your favorite teddy bear growing up or a family heirloom piece of jewelry. You love ruins and old buildings with history: tumbled down, humble buildings that have all of their flaws on display and are infinitely more magical and beautiful because of it. You love vintage clothing, because it’s unique and tells a story. Your favorite people are those who have been to therapy and come out the other side, because they’re always so much richer, deeper and better to know.
That’s right, you’ve made wabi-sabi your own. Now, it’s time to embrace imperfection in other parts of your work and life too.
The Greek concept of meraki might help.
Here’s the definition of meraki: 1. the soul, creativity, or love put into something; and
2. the essence of yourself that is put into your work.
It’s when you love doing something, anything, so much that you put something of yourself into it. Your essence is forever connected to whatever it is you have done.
I’m not referring to how much of yourself you put into your career. I’m referring to what you do when you want to share yourself with those you love. For example: preparing a meal, throwing a celebratory party, gathering with family for the holidays, purchasing a thoughtful gift for your best friend, or making a home with your significant other. You put time, thought, and energy into preparing for these occasions. You leave a piece of yourself behind.
You might have wondered up until this part of the course:
“If I don’t come into my work wanting it to be perfect, what do I bring to my work then?”
“If I used to show my love for my family and friends through making sure everything was perfect, what do I have left to give now?”
The answer is meraki. You bring your soul, your love into your work. What you have left to give is the essence of yourself. No matter how imperfect, no matter how much golden broken lines are showing.
You’ve probably realized by now that I believe it’s crucial to redefine what imperfection means.
Imperfection isn’t about being broken or messed up, but about being brave. It isn’t failure, but a fierce and powerful force within us.
Embracing imperfection is not AT ALL about pointing out your flaws, it means owning your talents and knowing where you shine. Imperfection is where recognition and connection happens.
This is a new definition I’ve come up with:
“Embracing imperfection means uncovering and identifying our strengths, values, ideas, and gifts, and giving ourselves permission to grow, change, and evolve every step of the way.”
Can you imagine what will happen when we make imperfect normal?
When we’re focused on being perfect, we’re not able to connect with people deeply. We’re too busy trying to manage our image, remember everything, do it all flawlessly, and make it look easy to boot. When we’re not willing to be vulnerable, we don’t create a safe space for others to be vulnerable, which means we never get to the deepest level of human connection. So when we make imperfect normal, we no longer miss out on the deepest level of connection with others.
As perfectionists, we never feel good enough because we always worry, “If people knew this about me, they’d never accept me.” So we’re constantly playing a role. Any parts of ourselves that don’t fit with the perfect image get shoved down into the back of a dark drawer and locked away, never to be seen by anyone. So when we make imperfect normal, we can be fully self-expressed.
As perfectionists, we’re so afraid of trying new things in case we’re not instantly perfect at it that we’ll likely pass up potentially amazing opportunities and experiences that force us to step out of our comfort zone. So when we make imperfect normal, we no longer have to pass up these great opportunities.
Other things that will happen when we make imperfect normal:
We have the freedom to live and work totally alive, because we've been liberated from perfect.
We get the opportunity to be fully led by our heart without the fear or pressure of what it needs to look like to fit in or get approval.
We start to see and accept our imperfections not as the things that disqualify us, but the things that make us amazing.
We receive the gift to actually really, really be ourselves, which is not only so needed but also so healing.
We stop hiding and start owning who we are with confidence.
We receive the invitation to let go of everything that’s holding us back because we realize that all of who we are is needed. Literally, every inch.
We transform the way we see each other as women when we become enamoured with the light in each other instead of searching for the imperfect in one another like the world has taught us to do.
Alright, that’s it for this lesson. Hopefully, I’ve given you reason to really examine and redefine what imperfection means to you and could look like in your imperfectionist life.
Now, we need to be real here. This is going to be a process. Fully embracing imperfection is going to take some time and practice. Your resistance against imperfection goes deep and it’s been that way for years. So, give yourself some grace.
In the next lesson, we’re going to go over a few tips and exercises that will be helpful for you along the way. See you there!