On Being Imperfect
Oh imperfection. What role you've played in all of our lives.
Which leaves me wondering:
We know we are imperfect. But what does that actually mean?
We know we are imperfect. So why do we still seek perfection?
If we know we are imperfect, how can we then embrace it?
If you've heard mental health pros talk about *perfectionism* or have done some of your own work on unlearning it — you may be familiar with how the therapy community sees it: as a coping mechanism to compensate for feelings of lack or not enoughness. Those with perfectionistic tendencies rarely see themselves positively and get stuck in cycles of holding relentless standards with little self-compassion, fixating on mistakes and feeling engulfed in shame, avoiding situations where there is discomfort in not excelling, and feeling tethered to external accomplishments and the validation or approval of others. Raise your hand if you've ever struggled with perfectionism. *everyone raises their hand* You're not alone if this is where you've been or where you are right now. And it's so okay. If we think about it: it truly makes so much sense that is a seemingly collective issue. As humans, we have longstanding valid fears about being safe and accepted. And because we are social beings and evolved to care about where we fit within our community ( to ensure we could contribute and in turn, be fed, sheltered, and an active participant of our group ), we still experience this deep craving to be perceived highly. while there's nothing inherent wrong with that, where we get ourselves into trouble is when this need is compounded by our society's views on self-worth and the culture around inflated achievement and productivity that we so often internalize — creating mask of perfectionism to feel protected from fear and vulnerability.
Letting go of perfectionism means seeing yourself with gentle eyes and trusting that you don't have to be perceived as perfect to be successful, likeable, loveable, or enough.
It's a tough practice to let go but entirely possible. Here are the cliff notes on why and how:
We are all imperfect. And it's a really REALLY good thing.
Striving for a flawless existence is painful, distressing, limiting, and also entirely unrewarding. Being imperfect is a practice. And a practice of permission and grace that actually helps us show up fully for ourselves, our relationships, and our dreams and goals.
Life is a heck of a lot easier and frankly, more fun when we embrace that sometimes we mess up and drop the ball. Sometimes we don't know the answer and face uncertainty. Sometimes we face rejection and failure. And sometimes, we feel small and insignificant. But letting ourselves accept the realities of the human experience and recognize that none of us have it all figured out is so relieving and calming. That's when we can invite in kindness, radical self-compassion, and empathy — for ourselves and eachother.
Like I said: striving for perfection works to soothe and mask our deepest fears of not being seen and heard for who we are. While our most stubborn of coping skills are adaptive and become almost a *default* response, there's so much more joy and peace on the other side. No, it isn't always easy. But it is easier long-term when the inevitable ebbs and flows of life are not ALSO crippled with shame, guilt, and unabating anxiety.
And while sometimes it sucks and feels so uncomfortable to fall short of where and who we want to be, there's also beauty and a softening to this reality — that we are all imperfect and doing our best. imperfect and honestly sometimes not doing our best. imperfect and good enough, loveable, kind, learning, and inevitably, human.
Our flaws or shortcomings don't make us failures, losers, or unsuccessful or whatever your fearful part tells you. In fact, we grow, succeed, learn, love, and connect because of our blind spots and mishaps.
Perfectionism is what prevents us, burns us out, traps us and fails us.
Because it's both brave and scary to be imperfect. but without surrendering to it, we never get to see or feel the full depth of our lives, hearts, and smiles.
Reflections for your journey.
When do you first remember feeling the weight of perfectionism?
What has perfectionism gotten in the way of?
What judgments do you have towards or about imperfection?
What are you most scared of about being fully seen as human and perfectly, imperfect? what do you think will happen?
What beliefs do you hold about being imperfect may not actually be true?
What might be possible if you had more ease, joy, rest, and compassion in your life?
What would it be like to both thank your perfectionistic part for keeping you safe for so long and also practice letting it go?
What may it be like to allow perfectionistic urges or thoughts and also not act on them?
What if you allow imperfection to be more of a practice and less of an arrival?
I hope this offers you some pause and reflection.