Nobody’s perfect, as the old saw goes, but each of us can be perfectly imperfect. I read somewhere (though I don’t remember where—I confess to having an imperfect memory!) that great quilt makers like to sew a single imperfect stitch among their patchwork, as an act of homage to our fallibility as humans. There’s a beauty in imperfection as a contrast against which the rest of us can emerge and be most appreciated. While I’m not saying “screw up on purpose,” acknowledging our imperfections is to accept ourselves for what we are and allow us to distinguish our more admirable qualities.
“There’s a beauty in imperfection as a contrast against which the rest of us can emerge and be most appreciated.”
Embrace Your Authentically Imperfect Self
Being honest with others, and yourself, about your imperfections involves risk. Others could end up making fun of you, or worse, use your imperfection to their advantage. But the alternative, living behind a tightly constructed façade of perfection, is worse, and ultimately soul-crushing. Pretending to be someone you aren’t is a fast-track to a therapist’s office. Speaking from experience, much of the work done in therapy is about accepting and embracing your true, down-deep, authentically imperfect self. This work often means dismantling whatever carefully constructed disguise of perfection you may have built to please others, or to keep from looking at yourself honestly. Frankly, it means getting acquainted with the uglier parts of your nature, and figuring out how to make peace with them. If, instead, you deny your imperfections, you unconsciously strengthen their hold on you, forcing you to devise new ways of remaining concealed behind a mask of perfection, as you endlessly try to evade everyone else’s insincerity detectors. There are consequences to this approach both immediately and down the road.
“Pretending to be someone you aren’t is a fast-track to a therapist’s office.”
The Consequences of Denial
First, it’s going to impact your ability to connect with or lead those around you. Owning up to your shortcomings and leading from a place of connection instead of fear (of being found out as being imperfect) will make you a more relatable and effective leader. Regardless of station, people can often sense when others are putting up a façade, plus: that wall you build around yourself to hide your flaws also does a pretty good job of keeping others out.
“Mistakes don’t have to be personal failures, as the perfectionist believes—they can be mile-markers on the winding road of progress.”
Second, trying to be a perfectionist is an ultimately joyless endeavor. No one and nothing can be perfect, so choosing not to be satisfied until you are perfect is an impossible standard you’re setting for yourself, which will lead to loads of entirely unnecessary disappointments. Accept your flaws, don’t reject them—by valuing your shortcomings for giving you character, you can celebrate quirkiness and humanness and give yourself a break. Mistakes don’t have to be personal failures, as the perfectionist believes—they can be mile-markers on the winding road of progress.
And if you’re so afraid of making a mistake, you’ll be less likely to take the risks you need to succeed in the first place. When you allow yourself to be perfectly imperfect, you come to appreciate risk-taking as a process of discovery, full of shortfalls and setbacks, but also serendipity and satisfaction.
Being human doesn’t mean triumphing over our imperfections, but triumphing with them. Because, hey, pobody’s nerfect.
Are you interested in learning how to put your mistakes to work? Seeing how the fruits of your risks can create a more empathic and confident leader? Get your copy of Right Risk by author, Bill Treasurer.