3 reasons why we must embrace imperfection

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.

Super-Grover

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.”

My pursuit of perfection: How the veil of illusion was lifted

This post is the first in a three-part series on embracing imperfection. 

My pursuit of perfection started when I was a young girl, growing up in the 1980s and 90s. I remember poring over pages of perfectly styled bedroom suites in JC Penney’s “Big Book,” trying to mimic the look in my yard sale-furnished bedroom.

But even worse than my early preoccupation with home décor was my fascination with the models in “Teen” Magazine.

“How can someone’s skin look so flawless close up? It must be that brand of makeup they’re using,” my naïve teenage mind concluded.

It wasn’t until I was introduced to the world of Photoshop as a twenty-something journalist that I understood how simple – and common – it is to digitally concoct perfection for the pages of magazines and websites. But the final veil of illusion was lifted from my eyes when I began blogging.

While attending my first blogging conference in 2012, a few months after I launched Living Rich on Less, I nervously struck up a conversation with a seasoned blogger whose work I admired. “Tonya, your home must look so perfect, with all the amazing projects I’ve seen on your website,” I remarked.

I’ll never forget her response. After a loud laugh that continued for several seconds, she managed to spit out the words, “Yea right.”

“What a strange reaction,” I thought. It wasn’t until later, after many projects and posts of my own, that I truly understand the lunacy of my statement.

When I showcase projects on my blog, I usually meticulously – and painstakingly – stage the environment I’m photographing. And in addition to setting the scene with the decor, I use a professional-grade camera and a studio lighting kit. In other words, I do my best to make sure everything in front of the camera looks perfect.

What isn’t conveyed or reported is what’s behind the scenes. So the audience is left with only the reality in front of them – the staged, “perfect” version of reality.

Laundry-room

Because most of us saturate ourselves on a regular basis with the perfectly staged eye candy we find online and in magazines, we assume that our homes, or worse, ourselves, are somehow in need of improvement. Inevitably, we continue to chase a horizon of perfection we’ll never reach. And when our real lives don’t match what we see in media, we’re left feeling frustrated, empty and inadequate.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to feel frustrated, empty or inadequate! That’s why I decided to start this blog series on embracing imperfection, because it’s one key to ridding ourselves of these nasty feelings. Later this week, I’ll be sharing my top three reasons why we must learn to embrace imperfection. I’ll conclude the series with some practical ways we can do it!

Do you struggle with perfectionism? What coping strategies have you learned?

Instructions for a meltdown-free Easter

As I was researching what to write about today, I came across this post I put together before Easter last year. No matter how hard I try to get caught up, I always seem to feel overwhelmed and exhausted at the end of each week. Thankfully, this post reminded me how to have a truly restful and joyous Easter. I hope it does the same for you …

From time to time, I experience what I like to call a “mom meltdown.” For example, as I was driving home yesterday after a late-night Easter basket run, I looked around my vehicle, at the kid crumbs and discarded french fries and junk from all the projects I’m working on, and I mentally threw my hands up in the air.

“Why can’t I ever seem to get it together?” I asked myself. “I’m always so overwhelmed and behind on everything.” And then came the other inevitable questions:

  • How do my friends do it? They always seem so organized and at peace.
  • When will I ever get caught up?
  • What do I need to change to make things easier?
  • Why does life seem so hard?
  • What is wrong with me?

And as I drove home in the dark, exhausted and on the verge of tears, this verse popped into my mind:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Cor. 12:9 (NIV)

For Type A people like me, this verse is hard to grasp. Because I want so much to improve myself, to accomplish my goals, to please others, to control the outcome. It’s unnatural for me to boast about my weaknesses because I spend so much time trying to get rid of or minimize them.

But during this particular late night “mom meltdown,” it was as if God himself laid His hand on my shoulder and simply asked me to let go …

… To let go of the idea of perfection – the perfect home, the perfect family, the perfectly organized and chaos-free life.

… To let go of the silly notion that I will catch up on my to-do list.

… To let go of the striving for significance, influence and approval.

And then He asked me to rest. Rest in the promise that He’s still working on me and I will never be complete on this side of heaven. Rest in the promise that He cares for me and has never failed to provide me with everything I need.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

 

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV)

So in spite of the fact that my life often looks and feels a lot like the wobbly fan I renovated on my back patio, I can actually rest and rejoice in the chaos of every day. Because it is one more piece of evidence that Jesus is alive. His power rests on me and is made perfect in my weakness.

Hyacinth

May you enjoy a restful and joyous Easter celebration!