This is the second in a three-part series on embracing imperfection. If you haven’t already, read Part 1.
It started last weekend with a wonderful family mini-vacay to Sesame Place in Philadelphia. It was a great time, but with a toddler who is currently in peak meltdown season, it was … um … challenging at times.
The kids cozy up to Super Grover, my hero.
Leaving town for the weekend meant that my board and batten DIY project got moved to Monday. That meant I had less than three days to complete an entire room renovation, photograph and write about it, and submit the sponsored post by its deadline.
I wouldn’t recommend three days for a project that big, even if you have an amazing husband who understands your craziness and pitches in without complaining. In my head, it seemed easy, or at least feasible. By day three, however, my hands were blistered from sawing, nailing and painting, and I was on the verge of tears. Once again, I vowed to get a better handle on my schedule.
During the weekend vacation and the whirlwind renovation project that followed, the many imperfect parts of me popped up at the worst moments, like a pimple on prom day. And I was reminded of my limitations as a wife, mom, DIYer and blogger.
So here I am today, writing about imperfection and three reasons why we must embrace it. Sigh.
By “embrace imperfection,” do I mean that we should abandon progress and live in constant defeat? Should we shrug our shoulders and give a, “Well, that’s just how I am,” answer after responding in anger to loved ones or disappointing our bosses? Absolutely not!
Rather, I mean that we must understand our limitations, gain the wisdom to know when to work within them and when to defy them, and stop holding ourselves and those around us to standards of appearance and performance that no human can sustain.
So why, exactly, is it important to embrace imperfection in this way? There are three main reasons.
- Embracing imperfection draws people to us. Just as a “know-it all” tends to repel people, nobody wants to surround themselves – for very long, at least – with a seemingly perfect individual. It makes others feel inadequate and uncomfortable. It also requires constant effort from both parties to maintain the appearance of perfection. An unspoken “you’d better not fail because I don’t fail” expectation keeps people at a distance and prevents authentic relationships. On the flip side, when people see us embrace our imperfections by admitting them, working around them, and giving grace to others, it can be powerfully magnetic.
- Embracing imperfection makes us better. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, accepting our imperfections can help improve our performance in both our personal and professional lives. For example, I now understand that I really don’t have the energy or experience to complete an entire room renovation, photograph it, and blog about it in less than three days without serious stress on my body and family. So, with that new knowledge, I can make future project and schedule decisions that will keep me out of that trap. To use another example, if we know we have a tendency to yell at our kids when they misbehave (guilty as charged), we can commit to learning new anger management strategies that will help us respond better. And we can also build structure into our family schedules that will help our kids understand their responsibilities and comply with expectations.
- Embracing imperfection helps us relax. A lot of pressure is relieved when the veil is lifted and we realize that no one out there has the perfect life. Sure, certain people are good at certain things. But none of us is good at all things. It can be very freeing to realize that, although Joanne down the street has a killer garden, and Anne from church is always fashionably dressed to perfection (with perfectly coifed kids in tow), I don’t have to be. Since I’m a women of faith, I believe God has given me certain skills and talents that I’m meant to cultivate while I’m on this planet. It doesn’t make sense for me to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to perfect things I’m not good at. Rather, I should continue to contribute in the ways I excel, given the season of life I’m in. I’ll never be an Ina Garten-level cook. I’ll never compete in an Olympic sport. I’ll probably never own a villa off the coast of Spain. But that’s OK because I have a beautiful life, surrounded by people who love me in spite of my imperfections.
… Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. – 1 Thess. 4:11-12
Do you have trouble embracing imperfection? In what ways can you use the knowledge of your limitations to help you succeed in work and life? Stay tuned for the third in this series, “How to embrace imperfection.”