The Relief of Imperfection

8 Oct

This week, I had the following conversation with a friend:

Me:  Somewhere, buried deep, there is a nice side to Liz.
Him: I think I have yet to see your mean side.
Me: You’ve seen it.  (Then I outlined plenty of examples. )
Him: Well, in that case, I think you’re probably the nicest person I know.

Hmm.  The truth is that none of us is always nice.  Some of us would like to pretend to be perfect: flawless skin, immaculate style, clean house, perfect grades, highly ambitious, clever and sympathetic and caring.  And some of us (including me) err on the side of reminding people just how bad we are.  It’s pride either way.

We either want people to think better of us than we are – so they’ll like us or be jealous of us or think we’re someone worth knowing.  Or we want people to think worse of us than we are – so they’ll never expect a lot from us and be disappointed, so that our good moments will appear even better (maybe saintly?) in comparison.

We all have a hard time being vulnerable and stating the truth – this is me.  Sometimes this, sometimes that.  A splash of this, a dose of that.  We’re worried about comparisons, about those little phrases “too ____” or “not as ____ as ____.”

Personal integrity, it seems to me, calls for owning the whole of one’s experiences – the painful as well as the joyous, the shameful as well as the praiseworthy, the shadows as well as the light, the limitations as well as the possibilities.  – Donald McDullough, The Consolations of Imperfection

Perfectionism is the belief that if we do everything to a certain (impossible) standard, that we will attain blissful happiness. And things will always go our way.  And everyone will adore us for it.  And our lives will finally make sense.

Yes, the fruit of perfectionism are many!  There’s exhaustion.  And constant striving.  And never-ending comparisons.  And guilt.  And pride.  And frustration.  And “next time.” And “usually I am more ____” which may be the truth or it may be an excuse or a lie.

Finding those who are okay with imperfections is a relief.  My soul relaxes.  The shields and deflectors and bullet-proof vests come off.  Vulnerability breeds honesty and honesty leads to trust. And if someone trusts you, they are more likely to be vulnerable and honest and true. The catch is that someone has to go first.  Someone has to expose themselves to the likelihood that others will see their flaws and retreat in horror.

It’s really not that bad.  I mean, it’s kinda like when Darth Vader finally takes off his mask and you get a good look at mottled-sunless-oxygenless-skin.  It’s not pretty.  Kinda horrific.  But after a quick gasp of breath, your mind no longer focuses on appearances.  Because there’s other stuff happening below the shallow surface.  Flawed people have depth. And experiences. And personal integrity.

Even Darth Vader.  (Right?  Maybe?  Sorta?)
Even me.
Even you.
What a relief, huh?


2 Responses to “The Relief of Imperfection”

  1. Joan C. Webb October 11, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

    Hi Liz!
    Greetings from Arizona. I just stumbled onto your blog and read your good post, The Relief of Imperfection. I smiled, because I so identify. For several reasons. One: I’m a recovering perfectionist. Two: I wrote a book titled The Relief of Imperfection. 🙂 Three: You included one of my favorite quotes from Donald McDullough in The Consolations of Imperfection.

    I love your line: Flawed people have depth. And experiences. And personal integrity. … What a relief, huh?

    Yes, indeed. Glad I found you here. I feel a connection already.

    Relief-blessings to you,
    Joan C. Webb

    • ezelie October 26, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

      Hi Joan,

      Thank you for stopping by! Now I want to read your book. I love the subject matter and I also love good quotes. I may be wrong but I am guessing you’re a Christian as well?

      God bless you!

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