How to Be Perfectly Imperfect

“If at first you don’t succeed, you’re running about average.”

– unknown –

As I was growing up, I somehow came to believe that I had to be a pillar of strength, to know it all, to carry it all, to fix it all. Weakness on my part would only burden others. So I determined not be weak. I created the image of perfection as best I could, although at the time, I didn’t see it as an image. I thought I was creating reality. Wasn’t I growing stronger day by day, growing more into God’s image? I was progressing from less perfect to more perfect, right?

Year after year, I studied the Bible more, spoke the right scriptures, defended beliefs, and presented myself as the expert wife and mother with the perfect family. There was no room for deviation from the script of perfection. But if my heart had been a flower, it would not have been opening and blossoming but curling tighter and tighter into a hard, shell-covered knot.

Eventually the outer shell began to crack. Then the cracks began to widen. Like the king’s men’s rescue attempt for Humpty Dumpty, none of my canned answers could glue the shell back together again. I had tried to please others and live up to their expectations, but I felt that I had disappointed every last person I knew. Most of all myself.

But just as disillusionment is a good thing, so is disappointment. Appoint means to officially name someone to a position. Disappoint literally means to remove them from that position, to dispossess them. When I disappoint, I’m removed from what I or others appointed me to be or expected of me. I can then either reappoint myself and try again to live up to expectations, or I can leave behind the old expectations, the ones that no longer fit, and readjust my expectations. I can reappoint myself to something new.

The fact that we are imperfect makes us perfectly human. We are perfectly imperfect. Not only is that okay, but it’s also good and right. Life is a mixture of good choices and bad, some made by us, some made by others but affecting us just the same. Both good and bad choices can make us wiser. But those of us who strive for perfection often don’t learn how to deal realistically with bad choices. We hope to bury them or outrun them or deny making them.

When we allow imperfection, we take ourselves off the pedestal of our own making. Once we’re down, we no longer have to fear opening our eyes and exploring the landscape – or the soulscape. Sure, we’ll fail. But loving-kindness picks us up, dusts us off, and gives us permission to try again without being condemned.

Do we ever really get past the fear of failure? I don’t know. But I do know that’s where courage comes in. Courage exists only where there’s fear. Judging by the number of shared quotes and blogs and podcasts about persisting in the face of failure, I’d say the courage to fail is highly sought after. Obviously, a lot of us have failed or anticipate the possibility, so we gravitate toward any bit of encouragement as we plot our next steps.

Of course, failure is unavoidable. So how do we deal with it?

That’s next week’s topic.


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Text © 2017 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

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