One of the real pain-points we feel as human beings is that often times we’re trying to be perfect. We want to get it right and we want to be seen as smart, competent, and together. While it can be a beautiful thing to want to produce something that’s effective, polished, and of service, we put ourselves in a prison of sorts if we can’t let ourselves be human.
I think I had a strong perfectionist-type mentality growing up. I grew up with 5 siblings and part of how I liked getting attention was through earning good grades. I also majored in chemistry, and I don’t know if you’ve ever taken a chemistry class, but precision is everything. I had a job one time where I was determining the nutrient quantities in natural supplements (like how much calcium is actually in this pill?) and I had to create 3 sample replications all within .1% error of whatever was being measured. Long story short, it was very tedious and there were many, many, “redos.”
Something that makes life a whole lot easier is when we’re open to owning our mistakes. We say things like, “yep, that could have been better.” I remember one time I was helping one of my meditation teachers out with a retreat as a Kitchen Manager. I was in charge of all the logistics of the food and prep. I had learned from my first kayaking trip I lead (in 2015!) that people love coffee in the morning, and so people NEED coffee in the morning.
When I got to the retreat center I realized we had forgotten the large coffee maker. "Ahhh!” There are times in my life where I would have tried to cover something like this up. Pretend it didn’t happen.
What created freedom for me is owning what happened, first with myself, then with my meditation teacher. And from this place we were able to brainstorm some things we could do.
I find this practice of what I call “embracing imperfection” or “owning mistakes” a very freeing practice. There have been times in my life where I have made mistakes, big and small. If it’s relevant to the situation, I’ll usually be the first to bring up what’s going wrong (or what went wrong). It can feel like a weight is lifted—because the alternative is usually identifying with the mistakes (I’m terrible, never enough, etc) or trying to hide mistakes.
Through this practice of embracing imperfection, we own our humanity. It would be insane to think that humans could be perfect in every way—then we would be machines.
There is one caution I have for you if you do try this on. You also can’t get lost in your mistakes. If you notice yourself focussing only on mistakes you’ve made, then it might be helpful to also practice looking at what’s going right and what’s beautiful.
Now to you: Where in your life could you embrace imperfection? How would that feel to allow yourself to be more human?