The Joy of Imperfection

by Amanda Linehan on May 18, 2009 · 22 comments

in Best Of

Flowers by a wall on Gotland, Sweden.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Per Ola Wiberg (Powi)

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect.  Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” – Alice Walker

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali

Perfection is overrated.  Trying to be perfect is the best way to insure that you will never truly like yourself, because perfection can never be reached.

Perfection always leaves you wondering if you could have gone further.  There is always a place farther from where you are right now that you might be able to get to if you could step away from the known.

In order to be perfect you have know exactly what you are doing, and you have to do it in a way that you know will be successful.  But there is value in doing things where success cannot be guaranteed.

In a sense, perfection is an addiction to the known.  However, by always keeping your feet planted firmly in certainty you lose the excitement of possibility, trading what could be for what you know can be.

Human beings aren’t really meant for this kind of perfection.

In some ways being a “perfect” human is reveling in imperfection.  As humans, we are learners, we are adapters, we are creative and flexible, this is what allows us to survive and thrive in our environments.

And frankly, accepting those imperfections and not being afraid to show them at times makes you more endearing to others.  To see someone who knows they might fail still push themselves forward towards the possibility of what could be is to watch a human being at their finest.

To be imperfect is to learn, to grow, to develop, to fail, to succeed, to try something new, to try something that’s never been done before, to create, to love, to become yourself.  Would you give that all up for certain success?

There is something about letting go of perfection that allows you to begin living.

It’s to acknowledge and to share that you have weaknesses and you know it, but also that you have strengths and you will use those to go as far as you can.  It’s not to worry too much about the things that hold you back – they will always be there.  It’s to focus on the attributes that will take you where you want to go and then to allow them to take you there.

The joy of imperfection is knowing that who you are is enough.  And, in fact, it’s perfect.

How do you let go of perfection?  Tell us your ideas in the comments!

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1 Positively Present May 19, 2009 at 10:38 am

Wonderful post! It’s not easy to let go of the notion of perfection (especially when we see it all the time in the media), but it’s important to living a happy, healthy life. I think one of the best ways to let go of perfection is to focus on the positive things in your life. Be grateful for what you have. Surround yourself with people who support and encourage you and who love you for who you are (not who they want you to be). Accept and appreciate yourself and you will soon realize that perfection is something that no one attains and that, really, is actually quite boring. Yesterday I heard this song “Freckles” by Natasha Bedingfield and it’s a really great one. It made me realize how important it is to embrace our imperfections.

2 Roger May 19, 2009 at 3:21 pm

This could be the next best selling book, “The Joy of Imperfection”!

Most of the best lessons I have learned have come not from success but from failure. The trick has been to look at these from the realistic viewpoint that we are imperfect rather than failures.

Most of know people who suffer from the sense that any showing of their flaws may expose them to different forms of judgment. Most of us have been guilty of doing the same to ourselves at times.

This is an excellent topic for each of us to think about.

Namaste

Roger’s last blog post..Letting Go of Control

3 Lance May 19, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Hi Amanda,
This is an excellent topic to explore. Have you ever heard someone say “I’m a perfectionist”? And of course the thought behind this is that this is a good thing. But is it? Or is it better to be an imperfectionist, accepting that we’re not perfect. I used to think that the “perfectionist” title sounded really good. Nowadays, I’m more for imperfectionism (is that a word?). I’ll go out and do my best, and on any given day – could it be better? Sure. Or, sure, because it’s subjective. And that’s what I try to focus on now. When I find myself spending too much time on something, trying to make it just a little bit better – I remind myself of subjectivity – that it’s never going to be perfect for everyone. This helps me in “letting go” and moving on.

Amanda, thanks for this – so important for me to think about and keep fresh in my mind.

Lance’s last blog post..Sunday Thought For The Day

4 Jun Loayza May 19, 2009 at 6:14 pm

I find it very hard not to strive for perfection. For example, with my current startup company, we’re working day and night trying to make it a success. I have written posts about this before, but it feels like I’m neglecting my friends, family, and girlfriend to try and build the perfect startup.

I just need to let go, but I find it so hard. This post helps a lot.

Just stumbled it and submitted it to Viralogy: http://www.viralogy.com/index.php/blogs/my/531

Hope it brings you some good traffic!

- Jun

Jun Loayza’s last blog post..The Roller Coaster of Entrepreneurship

5 Amanda Linehan May 19, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Hi Positively Present – Focusing on the things we have, what we do right and our strengths is a great idea for overcoming “perfectionism.” When we are grateful for all the positive things that we have, we have no need to be perfect. :)

Hi Roger – I like the idea of being realistic about our failures, that they are simply due to our imperfection. And, consequently, that we will never cease to have them. Of course, without them we’d always be stuck in one place. Another good thing about imperfection ;)

Hi Lance – That’s a great idea. That “perfect” doesn’t even really exist, because not everyone agrees on what’s perfect. Striving for excellence doesn’t necessarily mean striving for perfection. Doing your best can, and does, involve lots of imperfect things. When we try to cut out the imperfect pieces, sometimes we cut out our best too. Thanks. :)

Hi Jun – Thanks for your comment and the social media submissions. We always want what we do to be the best, but that’s not really the same thing as perfect. Good luck with your startup. :)

6 Penny May 20, 2009 at 12:27 pm

I do agree that being imperfect at times is so much more endearing. After all, what’s completely imperfect to us could be perfect to someone else :) . ‘Perfect’ is a subjective word.

Penny’s last blog post..Life As A Film

7 Grace Boyle May 20, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Ah, what a beautiful post. I often say, “I will never be the perfect girl, with her hair always done right, nails done and dressed to a T. I spill things. I make mistakes.” The list goes on, right? Nonetheless, it’s nice to finally dive into who you are and accept it. It’s like taking a really deep breath after holding your breath, all these years.

I also think we should open our eyes. MOST everyone feels this way, where they’re not seeking perfection but realizing who they are is enough. This quote always helps me: “Perfect is boring. Human is beautiful.”

Grace Boyle’s last blog post..How I Prepared to Relocate and Made it Work

8 Amanda Linehan May 21, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Hi Penny – Perfect is subjective. I like to think there is a lot of perfection in imperfection. That’s why I was drawn to the Alice Walker quote above. :)

Hi Grace – Thanks for your comment! Exactly, a lot of people do feel like this! Maybe if we realized this, our own search for perfection would seem a little silly. I love the quote you left too. :)

9 Blynn May 22, 2009 at 10:32 pm

Browsing your blog, came across this, and I have to be the dissenting voice here, and speak in defense of perfectionism. Of course anything to the extreme can be pathological, but knowing we all fall short, it is a good thing to strive for perfection. Why strive for mediocrity?? The thing is to strive for it in yourself, but not to demand it in others. Where would we be if the captains of industry in an earlier age were not perfectionists? Or saints, or artists, etc. Do we really think that the likes of DaVinci or Michelangelo strived for imperfection? Not that I don’t get your point, but we must be careful not to settle under the guise of love for self. What if we are slugs? Should we not get off our butts and reach for the stars rather than sitting in our own egos? This subject could go on ad infinitum, but will end here. Just remember perfection can be motivating if we keep our priorities in mind.

10 Amanda Linehan May 24, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Hi Blynn – Thanks for your dissenting opinion on this. :) Hmmm…you’ve got me thinking. Is it the same thing to strive for perfection as it is to strive for excellence? I see what you are saying – we want our best to shine. I just don’t know that I would call that striving for perfection. Maybe this is more about semantics, but would we describe the works of DaVinci or Michelangelo as perfect? Personally, I would call them beautiful, great, extraordinary, but not perfect. Maybe that’s just me. Certainly, settling for work that is less than what we are capable of is not desirable, but I still feel that when you strive for perfection there is a lot that you miss. Thanks a lot!

11 Blynn May 26, 2009 at 10:52 pm

What is the difference between perfection and excellence? The definition in the dictionary is almost the same. I see it is a battle of semantics. Tricky. I’m not saying we can be perfect, only that we should not try to attain the most perfection we are capable of. I don’t believe that Da Vinci et al were perfect, only that I believe they were striving to attain it to a degree.

12 Blynn May 26, 2009 at 10:54 pm

correction: we should try to attain the most perfection we are capable of.

13 Amanda Linehan May 27, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Hi Blynn – I think trying to “attain the most perfection we are capable of” is exactly the right way to say it. Thanks for the discussion!

14 Sherryd July 23, 2009 at 9:29 pm

Most people we believe are perfect would laugh if told. They know they are imperfect. On the other hand, what we perceive in ourselves as an imperfection, may to another be an attribute to be admired. Perfection means different things to different people.
.-= Sherryd´s last blog ..How to Get Back Pain Relief =-.

15 Amanda Linehan July 26, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Hi Sherryd – Perception is funny. And, I agree that those who we find perfect would certainly say they are not. Maybe another reason why we shouldn’t seek it. :)

16 Taji January 1, 2010 at 5:45 am

Bah, perfection sucks. Who in the heck wants to be perfect? It’s a ridiculous thing for to strive! Not saying we all shouldn’t try our best… but perfection? Sure, let’s all be obsessed with the trivial. Let’s all be obsessed with not presenting our very best. So what if my house may be a little messy. So what if I leave a glass in my sink. So what if I get a “B” instead of an “A.” So what if I need to lose 5, or 10, or 15, or 50 pounds. Are you kidding me? I’m not going to kill myself over it. I’m going to enjoy life. God is the only perfect one. God didn’t mean us all to be perfect. Wouldn’t it be boring if every one were the exact same. Yes, try your best, but enjoy life. Learn what you love to enjoy. Don’t worry about the other sheep people out there. For this we were not made. Shame on the people who look down on others.

17 Amanda Linehan January 8, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Hi Taji – I understand what you are saying – get caught up in perfection, and you forget to live your life!

18 dede February 11, 2010 at 6:36 am

I find that I always want to strive for things to be perfect in general, not just myself. Such as when I buy something, there always seems to be flaws with it, and it’s hard for me to deal with that and it gives me a headache! I always want to look for the perfect piece, but it always ends up that there is still something wrong with it either big or small. I really want to break this habit but I guess it is in our personalities.

19 Amanda Linehan February 12, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Hi dede – I know what you mean. It is both hard to find perfection in ourselves as well as the world. :)

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