Inside: I Embrace imperfection because it allows me to truly live – wholeheartedly, freely, and open to joyful possibility. I’m done waiting for perfect.
A full, beautiful, meaningful life is a messy one. This isn’t a mark of character or doing life poorly. It’s simply part of being human in a messy world.
For much of my life, I looked ahead to the future, planning in detail, dreaming of the day I’d have life all figured out, I’d feel good in my skin and assured of my place in the world, and all my needs would be met abundantly.
I also spent a lot of time worrying about the next hard phone call, the next scary or hard thing that laid in wait around the bend. I didn’t feel strong or brave or particularly well-equipped for life in this noisy, unpredictable, hurting world.
In both cases, I deferred happiness or the joy of today, needing, wanting, judging, waiting for my ideal picture of a good life to materialize. This was reinforced by romantic comedies that made me question the strength of my own marriage, books or programs centring on weight loss, home decorating shows or magazines that left me wanting more or better or even homeschooling books that portrayed an image of what a strong family “should” look like.
Fortunately, I realized that real life is messy. To be human is messy. To love is messy. I woke up to the truth that I was going to miss out on my whole life unhappy, feeling less than, trying to measure up and keep up, or wishing my simple life away by wanting to skip over the hard bits, if I didn’t make a significant change, and quickly. I got rid of TV, stopped reading home decorating or lifestyle magazines, and established better boundaries all around so that I could be present to my one real life.
Amazingly, in learning to tune out the noise, tune in to my actual life, and in challenging the idea that life is supposed to resemble some fairy tale myth of pure bliss, I realized I was already living inside my dream.
Life was nowhere close to perfect but I started to understand that I didn’t require perfect. I didn’t need to BE perfect.
There is no perfect, of course. We all know this logically. But there is plenty that is beautifully imperfect and worthwhile.
I’m done waiting for perfect. I want to live grateful, happy, and excited about life today. Not because it feels easy or always comfortable, but simply because this ordinary day is an incredible gift and I don’t want to miss it.
I made the life-changing decision to stop waiting for someday and dive headlong into the very imperfect but wonderful life in front of me. And it was good. Stretching but good.
It occurred to me that what I had been doing, in deferring happiness for one distant day in the future, was outsourcing my wellbeing and sense of agency. Essentially I had believed that my purpose, wholeness or joy lived somewhere outside of myself and therefore, could be rocked at any moment.
And it’s true, of course, that external circumstances impact our wellbeing. But they are not the only source of happiness, fulfillment, or wholeness. I had a tremendous amount of work ahead of me, so many lovely and heart-wrenching life experiences ahead that would draw me deeper into this truth, but a seed had been planted and quickly began to sprout and bring greater freedom to me personally and to my home.
Perfectionism, loving order, wanting people to keep their word, seeking out the rules to play by, trying to be good and “get it right” – none of this is bad. Any trait or belief taken too far can tip us into pain or dysfunction. But being purposeful, principled, and having perfectionist tendencies can also be tied to our gifting. It is tied to mine and I like who I am.
When we say yes to growth and more fully becoming our most integrated and healthiest self, we learn how to walk in our strengths and stay awake to our shadow.
I want to acknowledge that one of the reasons I tried so hard to order my world with precision was that I was a highly sensitive soul who cared deeply. I wanted to be good, responsible, and to love my family well. Another important reason is that it helped me feel safer.
From a young age, I’d lived with anxiety and low-grade depression though I didn’t have words for it then nor support to guide me through (only in my 30’s was I able to name it). I couldn’t control my mom getting cancer when I was 23 or prevent her death 10 years later. I couldn’t control my dad’s many heart attacks, the time his organs were shutting down and we were told to come immediately to say goodbye, nor take away his suffering and death from cancer. I couldn’t fix my daughter’s seizures when she was little or alleviate the heartache and injustice in the world any more than I could fix life for my own son when I walked him home through the final months of his short life.
There was (and is) so much that terrified me that I did not have power to control.
What I could try to control was keeping everything in its place, constantly learning to be a good mom and wife, staying up late to prepare lesson plans or otherwise sacrificing sleep for productivity, or even what I did and did not eat. I’m not suggesting this was healthy (it wasn’t at all) but I can compassionately acknowledge WHY I struggled with perfectionism.
I share this to point out that perfectionism comes in many shapes and sizes and also for many reasons. It can be a coping mechanism that meets a need until we’re ready and willing to loosen our grip, embrace imperfection, and make peace with all the tumultuous, glorious, messiness of life.
Embracing imperfection allows me to truly live – wholeheartedly, freely, and open to joyful possibility.
10 OF THE ARTICLES I’VE WRITTEN to help you embrace imperfection and make peace with the messiness of life
Embrace Imperfection or Real Life Will Never Be Enough
Our real, messy lives will be “never enough” until we embrace imperfection and accept that we are not in control of it all. Read the full post here.
Life is Messy: Stop Looking for Perfect and Embrace What Is
It all goes by so fast. And if we spend it waiting for someday to be happy, we will miss the incredible gift we have been handed. Read the full post here.
My Simple, Imperfect Life is More Than Enough
I can love myself with all my mess and struggle precisely as I am. I alone get to decide that this simple, imperfect life of mine is more than enough. Read the full post here.
On Building a Right-Sized Life: I Choose Simple Over Easy
Building a right-sized life helps us walk out each day on purpose. My right-sized life includes soulful simplicity. Yours can too. Read the full post here.
One of the Biggest Struggles of My Life
One of my biggest struggles has been accepting that no matter how much we care or love or how hard we work, we can’t control everyone and everything. Read the full post here.
Why It’s Time to Stop Waiting for Everything to Be Okay
Stop waiting for easy or perfect – life is messy but you are strong and brave enough to walk through each challenge or imperfect circumstance you face. Read the full post here.
Simple Living Tips for the Stressed Out or Recovering Perfectionist
Simple living tips for the stressed out, worn down, or recovering perfectionist so you can just do you and offer the work you love imperfectly and joyfully. Read the full post here.
Why You Need to Stop Trying to Be Perfect and Choose Good Enough
When we admit that we are not perfect, that we do not have to be, when we choose to love ourselves as we are, healing begins. Read the full post here.
The Joy and Delight of an Unbalanced Life
Living an unbalanced life means embracing ebb and flow and the delightful truth that building a joyful life does not require perfection. Read the full post here.
Here’s to the Late Bloomers: Find Your Way in Your Time
You haven’t missed the boat. If you’re one of the many late bloomers, it’s not too late. You can reinvent yourself and build a life you love. Read the full post here.
Making Space Mini-Course – $40 USD
As we move through each season of life, we can make space to begin again or write a new story or a new chapter for our lives. When we acknowledge that life is messy, imperfect, and sometimes crushing but that our story isn’t done yet and we can keep writing, we’re more able to access the curiosity and bravery required to forge ahead through uncertainty.
Purposeful Printable Pack – $14 USD
A set of worksheets I personally use and which will help you identify and live aligned with your highest values and priorities – or otherwise corral all the messiness of life into a semblance of order.
I hope you’ll enjoy my conversation with Heidi Barr. We chatted about tiny intentional practices as a way of navigating uncertainty and showing up with courage through the storms of life – an important part of choosing to embrace imperfection in life.
Melissa Coleman of The Faux Martha and I chat about choosing to embrace imperfection to open up to creativity – trusting ourselves, making space for creativity, and making every day beautiful in the middle of the messy.