“Perfection is inhuman. Human beings are not perfect. What evokes our love — and I mean love, not lust — is the imperfection of the human being. So, when the imperfection of the real person peaks through, say, ‘This is a challenge to my compassion.’ Then make a try, and something might begin to get going.”
Joseph Campbell from Pathways to Bliss
Sometimes I really want my daughter, Phoebe, to wear one of the cute new dresses one of her grandmothers has given her. Her sense of style, however, does not permit this. She prefers leotards, bathing suits, leg warmers and shoes too big for her little feet (like a pair of my red Toms wedges she sauntered around in recently.) Today at breakfast she wore one flip-flop and one gold ballet flat (also way too big) with her brother’s Rays baseball cap to top it all off.
While I have never thought of myself as a perfectionist – and any of you who have seen my house, my handwriting, or what I wear all week – know this. I have my moments. And it’s usually when I venture out of my comfort zone.
It’s ironic striving for perfection because perfection, of course, does not exist. It’s an illusion. We are all imperfect beings, and we are perfect because of this! And thank goodness we are imperfect because it makes us far more interesting.
I’ll never forget my first lunch as a junior in high school after just moving from Arizona to New Jersey. I can’t remember exactly what was being discussed, but I was having a conversation with some girls when a perky pony-tailed girl across from me said sarcastically, “Oh, so you’re normal!” Ha! I wanted to stand on the table in that depressing cafeteria and shout, “NO, AS A MATTER OF FACT, I AM FAR FROM NORMAL AND THANK GOODNESS FOR THIS.” I didn’t do that, I just continued on with my pork roll (those unfamiliar with this delicacy, please see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pork_roll) sandwich and giant ass cookie. (And yes, I’m trying to make up for some of these food choices now by drinking kale smoothies in the morning.)
The problem with striving for perfection is that usually in the midst of such tomfoolery, we aren’t being very kind or compassionate to ourselves. I’ve heard it said many times before, “Perfection is the antithesis of compassion.”
If I’m having a day where I’m feeling bombarded by my imperfectness (and these days happen often,) it helps me to remember this: Often our imperfections are tied to our greatest gifts. (Thank you Michael Mervosh with the Hero’s Journey Foundation for sharing this insight.) And people are drawn to us because of these imperfections. Furthermore, these are the people we really want in our lives because they love of us and appreciate us for who we really are, right down to our very core.
While reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, I was reminded of a deeply touching story I heard on Oprah years ago where the great author, Toni Morrison, speaks to the price of perfection. Below is an excerpt from her book talking about letting go of the critic and instead allowing love to shine through.
Ms. Morrison asked, “Does your face light up?” She went on to explain, “When my children used to walk in the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up…You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face and say ‘What’s wrong now?'” Ms. Morrison goes on to say, “Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they walk in the room my face says I’m glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see?”
So this morning as Phoebe danced out of the restaurant, I smiled to see her presence making so many others smile. People were actually looking up from their cell phones and tapping one another on the shoulder to get a good look at the little girl with the mismatched shoes. She was so happy, free, and completely unaware that people were watching her. And for the first time, I truly understood the greater purpose for her wacky fashion choices and why I should never let it bother me again. Imperfection is far more fun for everyone!