Finding the Perfection in Imperfection

Finding the Perfection in Imperfection
What is 'Perfect'?

I met Bel in our first year of high school. She was tall and slender, with thick hair that fell to her waist. She topped all of her classes with ease, and flittered through the different social groups of our year, somehow befriending everyone, from the goths to the ‘in crowd’.

After school, she took part in various extracurricular activities; she starred in the school play, sang a solo chorus in the choir, and was part of several sports teams. She got signed by a modelling agency.

At least, that was the case for the first four years of our high school career. In our senior year, everything changed. Bel got sick.

No longer was Bel the top of our year, she stopped flittering her way through the social groups. On the rare occasion she appeared at school, her eyes were sunken, sporting dark circles underneath. Her once bubbly nature was gone, replaced by dark cynicism.

Fast forward a couple years, and Bel still struggles with her illness. Meanwhile, at university I meet Martin. Unlike Bel, Martin is not a social butterfly, nor is he the most popular in our year. What Martin has is an incredible mind.

High distinctions in every class. The founder and editor of a new university magazine. Bound for great things, surely.  

But in our third year, Martin stopped coming to classes, he missed group assignment meetings. I later found out that Martin was hospitalised, diagnosed with a mental health condition.

Playing the ‘Imposter’

Many perfectionists, like Martin and Bel, try to portray a ‘together’ image and often fool many people. But, as Gordon Flett, a psychologist at York University, says, this is actually a mask, underneath “they feel like imposters” and are emotionally drained.

Perfectionism can lead to physical stressThe stress that constantly striving for perfection causes often has mental, emotional and physical effects. Image: Tuva Mathilde Løland.

You may be thinking that my friends remind you of someone you know, perhaps even yourself, and you aren’t alone. Many of us harbour traits of the ‘perfectionist’.

It could be that your home has to be ‘just right’ before anyone comes over. You may need your hair to sit exactly the way you want before you leave the house. Or perhaps you spend more time than you should on a work project.

Often these traits are ones we are secretly proud of, and that others admire in us. Perfectionists are often viewed as more successful, healthier, and, well, more ‘perfect’ than others.

Research has found, however, that this is far from the truth. There are links to various physical ailments, including migraines, chronic pain, and asthma. And, rather alarmingly, a 51-percent increased risk of death.

Likewise, there are links between perfectionism and mental health issues, such as crippling anxiety and depression. A paper published in Review of General Psychology argues it may even be an overlooked risk factor for suicide.

Unfortunately, this dark side of perfectionism, perhaps particularly the suicide link, is often overlooked. As outlined in The Cut, this could partially be because perfectionists are apt at hiding their pain:

Admitting to suicidal thoughts or depression wouldn’t exactly fit in with the image they’re trying to project. Perfectionism might not only be driving suicidal impulses, it could also be simultaneously masking them.

In today’s society, it seems like the pressure to be perfect is greater than ever. The pressure to look good, yet stay natural; the pressure to have a successful career, yet maintain a work-life balance; the pressure to be healthy, yet not be a health freak. The list goes on. It is no wonder we are facing a mental health crisis, with tens of millions of people in the US alone suffering from a mental health condition each year.

So how can we let go of the need to be perfect? That is a tricky question as everyone is on a different path. From my experience, the following has been helpful, however, it is important to recognise that everyone will have their own unique way of coming back to their true selves. Perhaps the following will help you, but if not, please don’t lose faith in yourself. 

Accept that ‘Perfect’ Does Not Exist

As poet and social media star, Prince Ea says, the correct definition of ‘perfect’ should be “a ten letter word describing something that does not exist.”

You are perfectly imperfect!Learning to accept yourself, flaws and all, will help you live a happier life. Image: Kelvin.

“Have you ever seen a perfect tree?” He asks in his latest video ‘The Prison of Perfection‘. Despite trees all leaning different ways, or have bark falling off, we see them all as beautiful, he says. “But when it comes to people, we don’t seem to see that we are all beautiful.”

Life is too short to live up to something that does not even exist

Aim Your Perfectionism Outside of Yourself

Gordon Flett advises that perfectionists use their traits in ways that help others, instead of focusing on being perfect in all areas of their lives. He says:

There is much to be said for feeling better about yourself by volunteering and making a difference in the lives of others.

So go out and find someone to help, the feeling inside you will be much more rewarding than any physical award you could receive.

Choose the ‘Right Door’ in Life

Prince Ea says there are two doors you can choose to walk through in life. Through the first door, you can aim to be perfect and admired. But through the second door, you choose to be the real you and be loved just the way you are. I know which one I prefer.

Stop Procrastinating

Perfectionists often wait until something’s just right before taking action. This results in leaving things too late and then having to rush to complete a task, or alternatively, working too slowly and missing deadlines. Either way, things don’t get done in a timely manner and you remain stuck in the procrastination trap. This could be why many perfectionists actually drop out of college/university.

Ending procrastination isn’t always easy, but remember that the more you do, the easier it becomes. 

Accept Your ‘Flaws’

I was once utterly ashamed of my speech impediment, always trying to cover it up. But a few years ago, I stopped caring so much and I let it be heard. It was then that I realised it wasn’t as humiliating as I imagined. Some people didn’t notice it at all, and those who did often commented that it sounded exotic and even beautiful.

“Be the marble that doesn’t quite roll right…And don’t worry if people stop and stare.” Prince Ea says. He uses the Leaning Tower of Pisa as an example. “I mean if [it] was straight, nobody would care!”

Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes

How many inventions do you think were perfect the first time they were created? In fact, many popular inventions were made completely by mistake.

Take the inkjet printer for example. An engineer once was ironing his clothes when he placed the hot iron on his pen by accident. In what would have been a very messy incident, ink was ejected from the pen.

This mistake led to the creation of the inkjet printer.

Remember: Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

If everyone followed the popular phrase “go big or go home”, nothing would get done. Those who take small steps instead of giant leaps often get further. Sony’s first product cooked rice, now look at them!

Practice ‘Kintugi Living

Kitugi is an ancient Japanese tradition where if something breaks, they fill the cracks with valuable substances such as gold, silver, or platinum. These damaged goods then become unique and even more valuable. This art can inspire the way we see ourselves and our lives. Instead of looking at your cracks as something to be ashamed of, see them as something that makes you valuable and different from the rest.

Perhaps true perfection is acknowledging, as a society, that there is no perfection; to accept each other the way we are, to stop putting pressure on ourselves and others, and if we see someone struggling, to reach out and provide support.

Our uniqueness, our individuality, and our life experience molds us into fascinating beings. I hope we can embrace that. I pray we may all challenge ourselves to delve into the deepest resources of our hearts to cultivate an atmosphere of understanding, acceptance, tolerance, and compassion. We are all in this life together. – Linda Thompson

Prince Ea: The Prison of Perfection.

BY Ashleigh Wilson
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Sandra Williamson
1 year ago

I am unique, perfectly imperfect, as are we all.

Traci Jones
1 year ago

I choose door number 2. Tried of trying to be someone I am not. I pledge to follow what my heart wants.

Mohamed Sabry
3 years ago

Amaaaaaaaazing.. I realy liked it soooooo much. Few weeks ago I made a very similar post on my Facebook page but it was not that professional 🙂 It was just a very short post.
Many thanks for that great article. I will share it on Facebook so that it would reach the whole world.. May be it can help me, my friends and everyone around us be and feel much better.

3 years ago

Nice article

4 years ago

I loved this article! I was reminded of Leonard Cohen’s verse:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Daniel Mosier
4 years ago

We all are loved unconditionally and that love is in our hearts it never judges us.When we see this we are free to live this life knowing that nothing can stop that perfect love.

Nichole | Wildly Alive
4 years ago

“Life is too short to live up to something that does not even exist”- Yeah! its true. Its worthless if we keep trying to be perfect. Because no one is perfect. We are all humans. Humans are imperfects. And that makes the world beautiful. There is beauty in imperfections. Stop trying to be perfect. Live the life you’ve always wanted. And just be happy. Even making mistakes. Just learn from it. Forgive yourself. Be kind to others and to yourself. Thanks for sharing!

4 years ago

Perfection-ism………is what happened to billions of humans. It’s a ‘life stopper’. As kids we had NO choice. Perfectionism WAS the standard. If ‘we’, the kids, had few options, one thing we CAN do is to NOT ‘demand’ that humans, bipeds……mammals… other than who we ARE. Often, doing things “…well enough…” does not require perfection. Just do the job well, if it’s warranted. Thanks for this article. Good points well done!!! I’m an ex-perfectionist. It’s quite the ‘fight’ to be ‘less’ than perfect….AND….it IS worth the ‘switch’.

Eila Neergaard
4 years ago

I am 88 years and my life is certainly not all perfect – as my surroundings are neither.
But I am aware of for me rare instances where I can choose to see in a different way: that the total picture is perfect just as it is without anything changed.
And that is an ability I hope to learn much better: to learn seeing the world as imperfect as it is, but perceiving it as perfect.
There are two different ways to perceive and I wish to learn to choose seeing the world as perfect.
That includes forgiving all. With Love, Eila.

4 years ago

lol Ok so in an article about perfectionism, when not perfect and trying to overcome procrastination(which comes from fear of not being perfect) to an article calling the non perfect Lazy?!?!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

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