Part One: Why being imperfect makes perfect sense!
The title doesn’t make any sense. Who wants to be imperfect?!
Well, who wants to spend their entire life being unhappy? The answer would be no one. But that is what we are likely to do if we continue the rather unpleasant and futile search for achieving perfection. Reaching life achievements in general? Good. Achieving perfection? Impossible.
Here, imperfection is not the opposite of perfection like good is the opposite of bad. Imperfection here, is rather a “freedom from perfection”. That is what we all ultimately want – to be free from the chains of the unrelenting quest for perfection. Instead, learn to fly on the wings that you have been given, not the ones that you believe everyone wants you to have. It’s time to let go, allow and just “be”.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. Self-help books talk about “letting go” but they don’t always get to the step-by-step instruction part. We all want to rise above the morass of lists, approved milestones, magazine covers and the noise of just about everyone telling us how to reach perfection. We endure this day after day with the only acceptable end goal being that always elusive and unattainable “perfection” that we are advised we should be seeking. Obviously some people have reached that point or they wouldn’t be writing books about it, right? Why can’t the rest of us join too? I think all that we may need is a bit of healthy enlightenment and perspective. So, let’s get started.
In this series you will learn what imperfection and perfection mean, find out how to embrace your inner “imperfection” and be quite comfortable- dare I say at peace? You will learn about cultivating the skills you need to make the most of yourself throughout your life as well as giving others the permission to do so as well!
Who Are You?
How many of us have asked that question in the mirror? We actually may ask that question many times throughout our lives. What kinds of answers do you get? Could it be that we have not yet grasped the inherent worth and importance of who we truly are so we have to keep asking? Most people think that they keep asking because they are not perfect yet. Here’s an enlightening news flash: No one is perfect. As long as you occupy this mortal vessel called a body, mistakes will always be made, nobody escapes the reality of aging and few of us ever meet what is commonly accepted as “societal beauty standards”. Starting by accepting these facts will begin the journey to true self-acceptance. What a relief, right?!
Our lives are built upon the “trial and error” principle. We find things out by learning and doing. The learning process involves trying, failing, trying again and finding a solution so we can move on. New neural pathways are created by our experiences- good or bad, positive and negative.
Many people look to others to tell them who they are. This is unfortunate. Other people can summarize their own experiences with you, but that is not all to your personal story. Yes, every human being has a unique story. Even if you share some experiences with others, your perspective on them is never exactly like the perspective of someone else.
In life we often are burdened down or growth-blocked by preconceived notions. Our parents may have believed them, so we simply adopted them for ourselves. For instance, what is the American Dream that everyone is in such hot pursuit of? For some, it may be the white picket fence, a loving spouse and 2.5 kids (boy, that last kid has a hard way to go). In reality, that dream doesn’t fit nor could it ever fit every single person’s life.
Our “dream” is supposed to be subjective. It’s whatever it is that you feel fits your best self, not a prefab mold that pops out perfectly happy people.
Sadly, people have undoubtedly died without ever realizing that they were playing a role created for them. Who they were meant to be was lost along the way of being who they were supposed to be or who they needed to be to “fit in”. It can be unfair. We owe it to ourselves and to others to love as, and be loved for who we truly are. Being our authentic selves is a healthy and clear path to creating a strong foundation for building long lasting relationships with others.
Living a Whole-Hearted Life
Whole-hearted means with your “whole heart”. How often do we do anything with our whole being involved? We’re not talking about pushing through when you were tired. We’re talking about when from the very beginning, you pursued your passion for something with all that you truly were at the time. You hoped, you believed and you trusted.
That is really what we all want, isn’t it? A feeling of deep satisfaction within ourselves. It is not about material things, although the world would have you think so. If that were the case why do so many people who seem to have “arrived” succumb to drugs, alcohol, abject loneliness , suicide or some other downward spiraling situation? They didn’t have to worry about money, so what made them so unhappy?
Many think the answer to that question in regard to their own lives is material things because that is what they believe they lack. Some fall in to the endless trap of blaming others for this perceived lack. The real reason lies much deeper though. It often turns out that people did not feel valued, validated or acknowledged.
When you look outside of yourself for validation, you may find it- temporarily. More than likely, you will find a roller coaster where sometimes you are in favor with others and sometimes you are at their mercy. We may find in time that’s no way to live for our entire life.
If you desire to live a full and whole-hearted life, it’s about accepting our imperfections and embracing them. One way to get started is by evaluating where we are and cultivating courage, compassion and connection in our life.
When people think of courage, they talk about soldiers, first responders and those who work in dangerous professions. These people do have courage and bravery. They exhibit “heroism”. It is the state of putting your life on the line for someone else. For many, it is the mandate of their job to be heroic. It takes a special person to volunteer for this type of courageous service.
The courage spoken of here is the kind that most people don’t take the time to sow into their lives anymore. It is the courage to stand up for someone else, to show your vulnerability even when it might be ridiculed or to empathize with someone else. This exemplifies the everyday courage that can impact the lives of every human being you come in contact with. Now that’s real power, isn’t it?
Courage to be who you really are allows others the space to do the same. What gets in the way of courage? Often it is debilitating shame, embarrassment or even guilt. You want to raise your hand and ask for clarification in a class or meeting but don’t because everyone else seems to “get it”. There are those preconceived notions again. You think “everyone knows what’s going on except me.” When you show courage and begin to be your own champion by raising your hand, others will follow suit. By the end of the meeting or class, everyone can then truly be on the same page.
This can be a tough one for many. How many of us jump on the bandwagon of blaming another because everyone else is doing it? No one wants to be singled out as being “different”. If society had its way, we’d all look, act and think the same to ensure everyone’s comfort. With the absence of active compassion, we lose a part of our humanity.
What is compassion anyway? It is acknowledging the light and dark places in our own lives (mostly the dark places, we don’t mind if people stare into our light). Then, we are truly free to be there for someone else when they need a kind word or to share their story. Instead of holding a mistake over someone’s head, we can instead choose to let them into our own space of vulnerability by sharing an experience that could help them. This gives way to understanding. We are taken into the breach with someone else without judgment, only to share their experience and bear witness for their sake as well as our own.
What about accountability you ask? Compassion also works when paired with healthy boundary setting. Holding people accountable for their actions shows a desire to help them to achieve their best. It helps you to separate what actions they take or don’t take from the person they really are. Doing the opposite is when we “shame and blame”.
Have you ever ridiculed someone for something they did? It could be a friend, relative or a spouse. In sports, the often held belief is that shaming will toughen up players by making them take the criticism to “whip them into shape”. You might as well put their hands and head in the stocks and throw rotten tomatoes at them. The results would be the same. Ridicule only serves to demoralize a person at the deepest levels. It attacks who they are – their identity.
Instead of helping them, it hurts them. As a result, you don’t look too good either. Your conduct is then brought into question. When you set boundaries and keep them, people know you are serious and respect yourself enough to set them. In turn, by setting healthy boundaries you are showing your confidence in the other person.
Social media is not an acceptable replacement for meaningful connection. It is a form of communicating with others, but on a surface level and from a distance. It doesn’t allow an authentic connection to be built. For that to happen, it takes effort, courage and compassion. From miles away, you can say you would help another but what would you do when actually faced with that situation? To build strong connections we must be present- either physically or in the least, consciously. Put down the phone or book, turn off the t.v. and truly listen. Build connections that enrich your life and that of others and stay connected.
When we take the time to invest in another life, our own lives are enhanced. What does it take to invest? It could be asking someone about their family or their new job. Show interest and engage in active listening when the other person speaks. See yourself in their situation. Listen without judgment. Be in a state of just allowing.
Connection can also means offering help. Did you know that there is a perceived stigma in society associated with asking for help? People are often reluctant to ask for help because of fear of being seen as weak or being made to feel ‘less than’. People fear how others will treat them. This prevents them from seeking the help they need when they need it. There are numerous ways to help someone when you have identified someone is in need. This help can be offered in very low key and subtle ways that does not bring attention to their situation. Besides, getting out of your own way by helping others just plain feels good.
To live a free and exceptional life, we can simply choose to accept and embrace all the parts that make up who we are- the great parts and those parts that are a work in progress. When you make this choice, an incredible life begins to open up before you- a life of happiness, meaning and purpose.
Next In The Series: Living Your Best Imperfect Life
What are some of your thoughts about perfection? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.