The French poet and Nobel Prize laureate Anatole France once said “I cling to my imperfection as the very essence of my being”.
It is amazing to think how much our values have changed in little over a century.
Agents of culture
We are now agents of a culture that prizes perfection, competition and flawlessness over failure and singularity.
As children we’re given medals for being the bravest, the fastest, the cleverest.
But where is the medal for the bored child who is able to express his discomfort? Where is the praise for the sensitive child who cries when sensing that his carers are stressed?
Instead we praise our children for not making a fuss and sedate them with ipads, iphones and Pokemon Go.
We encourage them to be brave and mask pain and discomfort with emotional band-aids that teach them that suffering is to be avoided at all costs.
Our internal reality is further hushed when we grow up.
As mothers we are applauded for juggling careers and motherhood and encouraged to question, review and improve our parenting, our waistline and our wrinkles in a never-ending quest for perfection.
Men don’t escape this dire agenda either with benchmarks for income, performance and the expectation that they should be able to be in touch with their feminine side all the while remaining true to a masculine archetype.
But where has all the authenticity gone?
Why is no one saying “enough’s, enough” with the apps, the 50 Facebook notifications of meaningless rubbish, enough with the radio and TV morning shows’ drivel and fluff?
I seek deep meaningful connections in my everyday life that are carried out face to face, skin to skin – not on a marketing-driven social media platform that categorises my thoughts and feelings into searchable hashtags.
It IS ok to feel boredom, sadness and anger without hiding them under a barrage of meaningless entertainment.
It IS ok for children to experience those emotions and sit with them. To learn to recognise them, name them and identify how they affect their behaviour and thoughts rather than teach them how to self medicate with technology or food.
We are all so busy updating our facebook status and profile image to project an aura of smooth perfection to the world in order to hide the most surreal truth that pervades every minute of our lives: our emotions are changeable, uncontrollable, our lives brief.
And it is scary but it is also profoundly beautiful as every moment is unique, unfinished and perfectly imperfect.
I have met many amazing women in clinic through the years who have moved me to tears through their courage, creativity and selflessness. Yet, they are so oblivious to their great beauty, focused as they are on their imperfections and ‘self imposed’ standards.
They beat themselves up for not managing to contribute to their daughter’s school bakesale or missing a work deadline as their 5 year old kept them up through the night.
They tell themselves that they ought to be able to juggle all the balls without ever dropping any. After all, their friends, relatives and neighbours all seem to be coping.
The result is an existential struggle between the desire to hold up a shiny front of success and perfection and their internal reality. The result is depression, anxiety and self-medication – both medicinal and chemical – behind the closed doors of their flawless white picket-fence mansion.
These women feel broken and it is a terrible shame as in my eyes they are heroically beautiful.
I think we are going to continue to feel broken and hide it under a thin layer of ‘perfection’ until individually and collectively we acknowledge that we are all flawed, unfinished and impermanent and rejoice in the transience of our lives.
The perfection of imperfection
The Japanese have a beautiful expression for this honest acknowledgement that true beauty is in the flawed, the perfection in the imperfection. Wabi sabi literally meaning finding beauty in imperfection – like a lotus flower, blooming from the deep mud below the surface.
So next time you feel you’ve fallen short of perfection as a mother, partner or colleague, instead of crucifying yourself and revelling in the self-destructive energy of guilt, marvel at the unique beauty of your own flaws.
Reflect on the amazing and fleeting richness in your life and remind yourself that life is short and the only perfection out there is you – just as you are.