Beauty in imperfection

Many times, perfectionism can arise from conditions of worth. It’s perfectly normal to want to do something to our best abilities, to have standards and believe in quality. This is healthy, what isn’t healthy is when we give ourselves the task to achieve the unrealistic expectations we may hold, to chase perfection when there is no such thing and to use punitive or critical judgements on ourselves if we fall short of this.

So, what are conditions of worth and how are they formed? Carl Rogers (the founder of person centred approach), describes conditions of worth as the conditions we think we need to meet in order for us to be accepted by others, these develop in childhood when we may learn that certain things we do please our parents, caregivers or other adults.

An example is, schools shame us from an early age by not taking into account child development stages or being trauma informed and from a very flawed and archaic system. It judges us and grades us, and we are defined by this.

As Albert Einstein says, “You can’t judge a fish by how well it climbs a tree”.

Parents and caregivers may praise children when they ‘succeed’, this approval may be addictive, if approval lacks in other areas, the child may feel they have worth only as long as they ‘achieve’ academically.

Society and its messages especially in the media or to sell, work on conditions of worth. Girls in particular from a young age are conditioned to base their worth on their appearance and later on in life on how well they can attract or please men. Our worth is seen to lie on how wealthy we are, as this is seen as what is means to be successful and what is desirable.

Perfectionism tends to stem form the wound that is caused by shame and the belief that we are never enough. The void of emptiness that we feel we must fill in order to be worthy. The problem is that it can get addictive and like addictions we need a ‘fix’ a fix that is short lived and then the downward spiral and cycle starts again, because ‘success’ is short lived and until that emptiness isn’t filled by ourselves and within rather than by chasing external things to validate us, we will never be free.

Bullying is another life experience that can cause this, especially if our appearance is mocked. Plastic surgery and beauty products all condition us to believe that we are never beautiful enough, we are not okay as we are. The truth is, someone will always be smarter, younger, more beautiful but that doesn’t mean we have any less value or that beauty is not within us. We are all beautiful, worthy and unique in our own way. We can embrace our flaws and see the beauty that can be found in imperfection. Being human, real and authentic is not something to be ashamed us, it is natural raw beauty.

Let’s explore how imperfections can be seen for the beautiful things that they can represent.

Many times, when people have suffered great emotional pain such as trauma or a break down, they may develop the erroneous belief that they are ‘broken’. People are often seen as needing ‘fixing’. People are neither broken or need fixing but when we may feel less then, try to think of the Japanese art of Kintsugi (golden joinery) or Kinsukuroi (golden repair) which is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with gold. The philosophy is that the broken pottery is seen as being valuable and its history is not something to be ashamed off, therefore by embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art. These so-called flaws or imperfections do not mean we have less value, we can find beauty even in the ‘broken’.

Persian rugs, Turkish carpets (and Navajo weaving customs) are weaved with a mistake, this mistake is done deliberately, and the imperfection is embraced to create the beautiful rugs and carpets that are created. They are not any less beautiful or valuable. It’s important that we don’t attach our worth on external things and that we cultivate our own self-love where we can learn to love and accept ourselves for who we are and how we look like, this doesn’t mean we have to like everything, it doesn’t mean we will, but it does mean that we can still see our beauty and value regardless.

Many people are perfectionisms because they may feel that they are lowering their standards if not striving for perfectionism, but perfectionism and striving for excellence are not to be confused. One is a based on quality and realistic and the other does not exist and even hinders the flow and beauty of our creativity. In addition, as we can have seen there is beauty in mistakes, think of inventions that were the results of mistakes. Without those mistakes they would not be discovered. Enjoy and trust in the process.

As for who we are, we are only loved when we are accepted and loved for us not for who someone else wants us to be. That is control not love and transactional ‘love’, you are ‘loved’ on the bases of who someone what’s you to be or for what you do. Nobody is perfect nor should we ever be expected to be. We can be lovable as we are.

Only when we strip ourselves of conditions of worth and find self-acceptance can we be free from the shackles of perfectionism