In Praise of Imperfection

Somewhere along the line, most of us were indoctrinated into the myth of “perfection.”  We think that we should look, behave and acquire perfect lives on every level.

 Of course we know, logically, that this is impossible. And yet, in our striving for perfection, we are left dissatisfied and unfulfilled by our bodies, our mates, our jobs, and our station in life.

Early this morning we were watching one of our favorite TV shows, CBS Sunday Morning.  Each week the show covers an eclectic mix of topics from art, music, architecture to pop culture and world events.

Today, one of the segments was about a Miami dentist who makes customized tooth veneers that are not too white but rather just the right color for his patients.

He says that “imperfection is natural” and when your teeth are “too white” (or in his case, veneers) your smile looks artificial.  His greatest joy?

When his patients tell him that their friends and family tell them they look great but they can’t seem to pinpoint what’s different about them. Proof that the new smile he has created for them looks totally natural…little flaws and discolorations and all.

More than 25 years ago I was on a personal quest for physical perfection.  Each day I carefully measured my food intake and charted my exercise (miles of running, hours of weight-lifting).

I was convinced that on a special day when the digits on the scale hit a magic number, and the measuring tape proved diligent effort, and all ten of my fingernails were the exact same length….on that day THEN I would be perfect. (i.e. finally happy)

I finally achieved my goal.  

It was a huge disappointment.  

First off, I couldn’t actually “tell” anyone I was perfect, so I had no one to share my success with.  Secondly, after about 3 minutes of realizing I had worked hard and suffered much (no chocolate!) for six months, I was still the mildly depressed, “frightened-by-life” person I had always been. (And, yes I looked amazing in my bikini, but it was now just a big “so what!”)

It was a life-changing lesson for me.  I discovered that my happiness did not lie in perfection.  If would take many more years of therapy and workshops to master happiness for that. (see previous blog)

Fortunately, two years later I learned about the ancient art form of Wabi Sabi, and began my slow but steady journey to learning to find and love the beauty in most of my imperfections. I am still striving for improvement in some areas of my life, but it’s a relief to no longer be obsessed with misbegotten notions of perfection.

How about you, do you have a self improvement project that is running your life?  Feel free to comment below:

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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5 Responses to In Praise of Imperfection

  1. Jennifer says:

    This upcoming site opened something in my mind….

    I had an experience recently. A friend and I took there 29 year old developmentally challenged son to the local park.

    It was an exquisite day and we stopped for coffee and sights at a busy cafe. People were gathered in droves and families were indulging in the amazing mild summer day.

    There was a small squirrel running about our feet, gathering the dropping on the floor. I was drinking coffee and soaking in the experience. As I sat alone with my friends son; I noticed as we spoke he really tuned into anything that had a emotional connection…He has the ability to see the important parts in all of us and is somewhat removed from all the useless chatter around him… Hum; I was thinking what a gift.

    Next to me seated at another table was a lovely young family…. three children vibrant with health. I could not help but notice the differences between my friends son and the other children. My eye caught the poised movement of the oldest boy at the other table…. this kid was waiting for something. The friendly squirrel ferreted around his feet for crumbs…. I saw the boy jump up, total satisfaction was written on his face and he attempted to smash the small rodent with his boot.

    Instantly through my mind, I saw the boy I was sitting with had a crack in him, he filled it with love…

    I saw the young perfectly formed boy, and he had a crack in himself too, it was filled with destruction.

    I look at my own cracks and and coming to a place where I find they make sense and I can even celebrate the reality of my total imperfection.

  2. By what standards do we measure perfection? As someone with a vocal inner critic, I am abundantly aware of the ways in which I fall short of my own expectations for myself, rather than any external measure. Somewhere along the line, I absorbed some messages of ‘not-enoughness’, rather than ‘imperfection’. I am and you are, a magnificent work in progress…sometimes a magnificent mess too. Enjoying it all. <3

  3. What power there is in your article. I’ve been consistently in the process of accepting my imperfections since I came upon the idea in the past couple of years. What I see is that it takes a bit of practice.

    I’m up for practicing and have been enjoying creating a feeling of fun and ease around those “less than perfect” things about me that have driven me nuts over the years.

    Thank you, Arielle, for sharing your wisdom. It’s such a contribution.

  4. Susan Cann says:

    I have struggled with weight to some degree al my life. Then I had children and was embarressed by stretch marks. Then a couple surgeries. After my divorce I lost a lot of weight fast…at 47 that is not a help to your body’s appearence in the nude, believe me.
    I met a man whose ex wife had a near perfect body (no kids either) and I have nearly driven myself crazy because that will never be me.
    He has this thing about I am never quite who he wants, and keeps breaking off with me then coming back.
    Well my imperfect body carries stretch marks from all my 3 kids, and of course, the daughter that passed away. I LOVE that. I had 2 very necessary operations. Can’t change it, wouldn’t if I could…he says none of it matters but I always feel it does and it bothers me.
    I cannot be whatever he seems to want or need for more then a couple months then he is off to sleep with someone else. Now I realize it is HIM with the problem, NOT me. I am a fine, decent, kind, generous and loving lady. He has issues and I don’t want this torment anymore. I may not be perfect all through, for him. But one day I will be perfect for someone.
    thanks

  5. [...] Midnight” is a wonderful paradox: a movie passionately committed to the ideal of imperfection that is itself very close to [...]

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