“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” ~Gilda Rader
The older I get, the more I’ve learned to love the imperfections of life and of people. The crooked path, the flaws, the messiness. Those things are what I remember. Those are the things that taught me what I needed to learn. Perfect hasn’t given me anything except anxiety and fear. Imperfect has given me possibility, opportunity, empathy, and compassion. Which would you prefer?
In Japan, “kintsugi” is an art form and method of mending. When a piece of pottery develops cracks, those cracks are filled with gold. The flaws aren’t hidden; they’re highlighted. We try so hard to give the illusion of perfection—in photos, in words, in life. What if we not only let our imperfections and flaws and mistakes and scars show, but we actually brought attention to them? What if we shouted them from the rooftops and claimed them as sources of strength and resilience and courage? What if we could celebrate them, in ourselves and in others? Imagine how much kinder and more productive we could be if we stopped being so afraid to try, and just decided to go for it without any concern of failure and success, only to embrace doing our best and learning every step of the way. What would you try first?
“Do not just slay your demons; dissect them and find out what they’ve been feeding on.” ~ The Man Frozen in Time
Even the most well-adjusted, confident, and kind people have occasional thoughts and feelings in which they feel less-than. I don’t need to look any further than my mirror to find someone who fits that bill. And while I can play the game of fake it ’til I make it with the best of them, the most effective treatment I’ve found is to really get at the root of my own negative self-talk. Hack away at that root, and there is so much more freedom and joy that gets unlocked.
For example, whenever I’m searching for a new job opportunity, I read the role description and if I don’t fit one bullet my first reaction is to move on. I’ve learned that this is a direct result of my inner perfectionist (which causes plenty of other challenges for me, but let’s just stick to this one for now.) If I can’t do something 99.9% perfectly, I’m obsessing about that 0.1%.
As an adult, I’ve learned to constantly put myself in the role of being a beginner to counter this. Along the way, I have grown my skill sets, met incredible people, traveled to stunning places, and dare I say it, become a recovering perfectionist. I don’t know that I’m ever going to completely get rid of that perfection instinct, but I do know that I control it now and it doesn’t control me. I’ve learned to congratulate myself for trying something new, even when it’s a complete disaster. I’ve learned to be my own best cheerleader and my own best company. I’ve learned to value my strengths and to no longer fear failure.
And as for those job applications, I send them off. I don’t take myself out of the running for anything that sounds interesting to me. My friend, Brooke, once told me years ago that we are all born knowing nothing. We all start at zero. We learn everything we need to learn just by going through life . And that process never stops, so why stop ourselves? Now that’s what I call slaying a demon and then eating its lunch.