Celebrate your imperfections
Celebrate your imperfections.
In this article, Helen Guinness, Principal Consultant at Four by Four Consulting, and member of The Midlife Hub, talks to us about Celebrating our Imperfections, inspired by the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi.
In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi is a world view centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent and incomplete”. Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenious integrity of natural objects and processes. Nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect.
“One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist…….Without imperfection neither you nor I would exist.”
Things that come off an assembly line, mass production for example, are perfect, but things made by hand, like the glaze on a Japanese Raku fired bowl, are imperfect. It is their imperfections that give them their charm.
The same is true for people. It is the combination of all of our imperfections that makes us vulnerable and beautiful.
I challenge every one of us to deny that we haven’t at some time in our lives wished we were more of this or less of that, better at X, more able to do Y, etc……. the list is endless! Our desire for this notion of perfection (if I had longer legs, then my body would be perfect) has probably been around since the dawn of time – well, maybe 70,000 years!
The dictionary offers this in the first line of its definition of perfection: “the state or quality of being or becoming perfect.” Perfection seems to be indefinable in the general sense, unless you look from a mathematical perspective or a geometrical one, for instance, a perfect circle or an equilateral triangle. Included in the synonyms offered are ‘immaculate’ and ‘faultless’. This is all very well, but whose perception of immaculate or faultless are we to go by?
It seems to me that perfection lies in perception (and perception is reality: your perception = your reality). One person’s notion of perfection could easily be another’s idea of imperfection. Furthermore, it appears to be transient. So, fixing on one definition of perfection and trying to emulate that is unlikely to work for any length of time.
All the above leads me to question perfection (a preoccupation of many) as something to aspire to; instead, I have sought to come to terms with, to befriend, my own imperfections. My body is not symmetrical and never will be; my legs and arms are too short; my hair is too fine: that’s some of the superficial stuff, but there’s more! I can be lazy, insensitive, judgmental, dogmatic and prone to minor exaggerations.
No one’s body is symmetrical, so is that an example of perfect imperfection, I ask myself? If we’re born asymmetrical and as some believe, perfect in the eyes of God, then the answer to my question could be “Yes.” Why then, strive for something else?
Many people perceive themselves as inadequate, not good enough, less than. Often, they find evidence that could lend credence to those perceptions, which makes it that much harder to escape the grip of the negative thoughts. But those perceptions are not true. Furthermore, they are often the perceptions of others that we have chosen to adopt in order to justify our own imperfections. How mad is that? Think about it.
One such example in my life was the comment, “Could do better” against several subjects in my school report. All I could glean from that remark was that I was not up to standard, let alone any good. It would have been so much more helpful if the report had for instance said, “Helen could do better if she spent more time listening and taking notes in class.” Now I know that there is something useful I can actually do.
I love the idea of wabi-sabi as a metaphor for the way I see life and the work that I do with my clients. My work focuses on the notion that life is a series of encounters in the pursuit of bettering ourselves. We encounter both others and ourselves; we encounter places, circumstances, consequences. It’s then a matter of choice as to how we manage those encounters. Life is a work in progress!
You’ll see and experience little things that seem imperfect and others that seem to you to be perfect. For instance, a hand drawn image may look imperfect if what you are looking for is a photographic image. Flip that and you’ve got a different view of perfection!
The road to perfection can be a tough one and can have painful consequences. An obvious one is dieting. Other examples come to mind: chances are that if you think you can’t get something perfect first time around, you won’t do it at all. I suppose it’s a bit like being faced with a blank page or canvass – where do you put the first mark that will lead you to the perfect essay or drawing? We all have to start somewhere and some of the world’s most significant inventions have been born out of imperfection. Dyson made literally thousands of prototypes before he found what he considered to be the perfect vacuum cleaner.
Simon Sinek says, “The goal is not to be perfect by the end. The goal is to be better today.” We can only do our best in any given situation. So long as you honestly feel that you are doing or being the best that you can, you’ll get there. I strive for continuous improvement (and believe me I have made some supremely awful blunders in my life!) and I support and encourage others to do the same; I’ve discovered that part of the joy of growing and improving is finding out what doesn’t work. After-all, you can only learn to ride a bicycle by falling off it! I believe that it is the imperfections that make us human, in every sense of the word.
“Your imperfections are marks of authenticity……
And that is the beauty of you”.
More about Helen Guinness
Helen’s career as a consultant, mentor and coach spans more than thirty years. She helps people to transform the seemingly immovable obstacles in the way of finding fulfilment and to reframe and manage unhelpful patterns of behaviour. Helen is Principal Consultant at Four by Four Consulting.
What is a Career Coach?
A Career Coach is someone professionally qualified to support and guide you to identify a future career path that suits and fulfils you. Career coaches can work with you at any point in your career; their role is to encourage you to work out the best way forward for you and help you to create a plan with action steps which might include a career change.
If you enjoyed Celebrate your imperfections, why not read Helens Article on Finding your Voice in midlife.