General ramblings

Embracing the imperfections

I wrote a little bit in my last post about the fact that none of us is perfect. We are all imperfect, and it is those very imperfections that make us who we are, that make us human. They add the spice to life, and allow us to learn and grow.

I am pretty good at embracing the imperfections in my ‘things’.
Ten months into a year of not buying any clothes, I have very few items in my wardrobe that haven’t been mended or adapted to keep them going a bit longer. I actively embrace the rips and tears in my jeans, as it gives me another chance to practice my sashiko stitching, or try out a new type of patch.
I love how mending my things weaves stories and memories into them, and subtly changes them into something different. Something with a history, something with a story to tell.

So now I need to start applying that very same thought process to me.
To embrace my mistakes as another chance to try something new, a chance to learn and to grow.
To really stop and appreciate how my imperfections and my failures are part of my story, and are subtly changing me, forcing me to look again, to reconsider, to try again. They are my story.

Why does it feel so different? Why can I so easily accept the imperfections, the defects, in my things, and see it as an opportunity to practice a skill, or to change something for the better, but in myself these same challenges feel like catastrophic failings?

I know I’m not alone in feeling like this. In feeling like I am constantly not ‘good enough’. In focussing on the things I have done wrong far more than the things I have done right.
In focussing on the end result, rather than the journey and the process.

I may well be overthinking the whole thing, but I do wonder how much our modern, consumer society contributes to this?
We are all constantly bombarded with ads that tell us we need the latest thing new x, y, or z to make us happy. That our lives are somehow lacking, incomplete, without All The Things. If something breaks, we replace it. We no longer live with those imperfections or attempt to make them  better. We just ditch them and move on to something newer. Something perfect.
As a society, we no longer treasure our things, and repair them, and really really commit to them and love them.
And maybe that reflects on how we see ourselves too.

Social media has made everything so much more visual. There is this emphasis on style and appearances, possibly at times over substance. It is so much easier to photoshop our lives, to airbrush out the bits that we don’t want people to see, and to only show the edited highlights, the bright and shiny bits.
And when we see other people’s edited highlights, those curated moments, we look around at our own lives, at the dirty washing piled up in the corner, and the pile of job rejections, and the bags under our eyes, and that is all we see. It not only makes it hard to see the good bits, it makes it hard to see that the bad bits can also be the good bits. The bad bits are the bits that teach us things, are the things that make us stronger, and allow us to grow. But we never see anyone else’s bad bits. They are hidden behind the gloss of social media, or behind the front that we present to the world because of this perception that we all seem to have that our imperfections somehow make us vulnerable, and somehow ‘less’ and should be hidden away.

Wabi-sabi is a concept that I have only just stumbled across (previously I think I confused it with wasabi, which is not the same thing at all) and according to Wikipedia is a  “Japanese world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is ‘imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete'”.
I am totally on board with that.
We can all be beautiful, and perfect, precisely because of our imperfections, and our feelings that we are somehow ‘not enough’ or incomplete.

We all need to be kinder to ourselves, and more open with each other.
I think especially online, it can be so easy to just show the end result, the finished product. And not the blood, sweat and tears, the excruciating paralysing indecision and the agony of the mistakes made. We don’t see that. We don’t talk about that. And because we don’t see it and we don’t talk about it, other people (OK, me) assume that it’s been easy. That it just happened. I see the finished, perfect, shiny thing, and I assume that it’s only me who struggles, who can’t move forwards because of the overwhelming fear of failing. And that fear paralyses me, and stops me moving forwards and growing, and making mistakes.

It’s time to embrace the imperfections, the journey, the detours along the way. It’s time to stop focussing on the end result, and instead concentrate on what the process can teach me, how it can help me grow, even (and this is radical thinking here) how much fun it might be.

Does anyone have any tips for helping to do this?
It all sounds fabulous in my head, but old habits die hard, and I suspect that this journey of embracing my imperfections, of wabi-sabi, might be a case of two steps forwards and one steps back. But that’s OK. In fact, it seems only proper that this particular journey should be an imperfect one.

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  • Reply Nadya July 15, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    As someone who has long struggled with feelings of “not being enough”, I found your post so powerful. It is truly exhausting to always feel like I am lacking and to always feel like I am swimming up stream. It would be so much easier, if like you said, I embraced my imperfections and accepted myself for me (a very tired looking working mama to a toddler- I don’t look so fashionable, my home is not at all like a magazine, my skin does not glow, and I am not always so perky). I think I would like to make “wabisabi” my life mantra.

    • Reply Jen July 19, 2016 at 12:49 pm

      I think we all should Nadya! It sounds like you are doing a brilliant job. Just having a toddler is exhausting enough on it’s own, without throwing work into the mix too. You are enough. xx

  • Reply glutenfreeness July 11, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    Hello again, your post made me smile as it’s full of so many truths. In my day job, I am an Occupational Therapist. Amongst the many conceptual models for my profession there is a Japanese one called the Kawa Model and we use it to interpret a client’s journey through life to help them move forwards, inspire of any road blocks (or rocks in this case, whatever those my be). I thought you might be interested to read about it, I will do my best to try and explain it more if needed. But I think it might strike a chord with you.

    • Reply Jen July 12, 2016 at 11:15 am

      Thanks for sharing this Lizz – I love the idea of the life flow, and the ease of the flow or otherwise representing our life. It’s a really simple analogy, as the best ones usually are!

  • Reply Julie July 11, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    Hi, Jen!
    Thanks for this post. It was really comforting to read as I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and struggling with the “never enough” guilt too. I love social media to connect with like minded people, to get ideas, tips, and tricks, and to just feel like I belong to some sort of community since I can’t seem to find or connect with like minded people in real life. (They must exsist, though!! ????) And then, I despise social media. The way some people have an infinite amount of energy, time, money to do absolutely *everything*…it can make what I do and accomplish seems so…insignificant, trite, less in some way. And I know deep down that it’s none of those things…that my journey is not a competition, that it’s mine and I’m doing what I can to better myself, my family, and hopefully better the world too. I’m sure I’m rambling, but thank you again for your post. It’s given me a feeling that someone gets what I’m struggling wih, and it’s always a good feeling to know that you’re not alone. ????????✌

    • Reply Jen July 11, 2016 at 7:10 pm

      You are right Julie, it can be so helpful to know that we aren’t alone. That we aren’t the only ones trying, and struggling, and trying some more. I hear what you say about your love hate relationship with social media, and I am the same. However on balance, I think the things that I gain, like this wonderful community, and the connections that I make, outweigh the ‘comparisonitis’ that it provokes!

  • Reply Tass July 10, 2016 at 11:03 am

    In our media-driven, materialistic world, ‘perfect’ has become synonymous with beautiful, desirable, obtainable (if you’re rich enough). So if something or someone is imperfect, the media view has traditionally been very harsh.

    I think it’s wise to look to nature for some guidance here. Who wrote the rules to say that wonky veg is worthless? Well, it certainly wasn’t mother nature! When you look at the natural world, it’s filled with quirkiness and a beauty that makes you gasp.

    And who decided that buying something that’s been mass produced (with sweat labour) is with better than the individual homemade approach?

    I don’t have enough time to make everything myself (too busy earning the money to pay the mortgage!?!) but I enjoy making & mending stuff and connecting with the beautiful world around me.

    I’m with you Jen!

    • Reply Jen July 11, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      Thanks Tass! And yes, you are right, we need to look to nature to see the real beauty in the flaws 🙂

  • Reply Treading My Own Path July 9, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    I loved this post Jen! I definitely think the media holds a lot of responsibility for this idea that we need new and perfect=better. We see so many adverts telling us that this is the case, and even though we know it isn’t true it can be hard to ignore. As if anything or anyone is ever perfect anyway! If we could embrace our perfections, I really think we’d all be so much happier : )

    • Reply Jen July 11, 2016 at 1:15 pm

      Thanks Lindsay! I genuinely believe this too, but need to keep reminding myself!

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