Perfectionism can be pretty challenging to avoid.
We’re inundated with a barrage of instructions and imperatives: Clean that gross thing with this product to make it spotless! Use this magic tool to get rid of everything icky and imperfect! This stuff makes your x look flawless!
It also comes at us from inside our own heads (the call is coming from inside the house!): Whoa, that sentence is too long. I need to do x (lose weight, get my hair done, buy new clothes) before I go to that convention. This image isn’t magazine-worthy. I’m an imposter.
What happens when you try to let yourself be less-than other-than-perfect?
Well, that can be challenging too: Synonyms for ‘imperfect’ include: defective, broken, inadequate, blemished, weak, sketchy, shoddy, bad, unacceptable. 😆
I’m laughing, but maybe with a bit of sadness and cynicism. Is this really how language and the world see anything that isn’t ‘perfect?’ No wonder perfectionism is a burden so many of us carry.
What are some alternative words for imperfect? Authentic. Real, natural, trustworthy, true.
The Japanese have a beautiful term for imperfection, which does not imply brokenness or sketchiness: Wabi-sabi.
Author Richard Powell: “Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”
Pretty reassuring, hey? Doesn’t that make creating an Instagram post feel a lot easier? Idem cleaning your home, cooking for friends, dressing for a meeting….
Nothing lasts—not even a first impression. How many times have you changed your mind about people after getting to know them? While digital impressions may technically last in the ether, they are also ethereal: Typically your posts are being seen in a mildly distracted scroll along with dozens of others. While the very occasional Tweet or IG post may stay in someone’s mind for a long while, for the most part they are fleeting and carry about 3.7% importance in the eye of the beholder compared to the massive weight we give them.
Nothing is finished. Can you take a deep breath and feel that, let it sink in? Nothing is ever finished. We’ll all always find ways to tinker with a text, a project, an idea; we’ll always see ways something could have been better after we share it with the world. So it just has to be finished enough. That’s imperfection.
Nothing is perfect. Here we can look at the definition of perfect—which is contextual and dependent, and therefore impossible. Know what’s possible? Imperfection.
Can you embrace the authentic wabi-sabiness of your brand, your marketing, your life? What would that look like? If you have a few minutes right now, give yourself the opportunity to explore the idea of celebrating flaws, rejoicing in impermanence, and being truly authentic.
If you're willing to share (because sometimes imperfection requires courage), I’d love to hear about it.