How to Embrace Imperfection (From a Real Life Perfectionist)

imperfection. black illustrated hands with flowers growing out of them on neutral background.
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Accepting imperfection? Embracing imperfection? But how?

Recovery is filled with imperfection. You know that saying, “two steps forward, one step back?” Recovery is more akin to “one step forward, spin 278°, take 3 steps back, find yourself upside down… Where was I going again?”

No matter how linear and predictable we wish recovery would be, it’s a unique adventure for each person. It can be messy and uncertain. Some variables that factor into the recovery process include cognitive restructuring, emotional work, medical complications, societal expectations, logistics, and resources.

No one’s recovery looks exactly the same.

Comparing your process to others’ is like comparing an apple to a donkey. Both are organic things, yet very different. (Try not to eat a donkey, though. Even though they’re cute really cute. But I digress!)

Trial + error = growth

Letting yourself experiment with trial and error means that an error could, and frequently does, take place. And that’s okay. Because this promotes growth.

Learning how to fail and move forward allows us to develop a sense of resilience.

Spoiler alert: the resilience is already there, it’s just quiet sometimes. Humans have become the dominant species on earth because we are so adaptable. And we can learn to foster this innate ability.

But I know what fear of failure feels like. I used to avoid failure at all costs.

My perfectionism forbade me from attempting things that would help me grow emotionally, socially, academically, and professionally. I feared I wasn’t resilient enough to withstand the imagined consequences.

Imperfection is a risky business

But finally, I started letting myself take occasional, appropriate risks. That led to more risk-taking as I realized failing wasn’t going to kill me.

I allowed myself to be vulnerable with outside support like my treatment team and reliable friends and family. I tried new activities I had no experience in and often landed on my face figuratively and literally. Imperfections abounded.

Trying and failing yields exponentially more results than never trying to begin with.

My sense of identity grew with each attempt. And fail I did. Imperfections showed themselves. And fail I do. I even fail at embracing failure within my own recovery. Taking that information and moving forward is the important, albeit messy, part. I am accepting the imperfection.

Really, I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% comfortable with failing. I strive to find the solution that best works for me in a given scenario. To do that, I have to know what does not work. The only way to find out what doesn’t work is to fail.

Perfectly imperfect

So, warrior – nothing is perfect.

No process is perfect.

Life would be robotic and ascetic if it were. Humans are imperfect creatures. Through our unique flaws and strengths, we derive identity and purpose.

So when you slip or find yourself 278° around, remember to be kind and curious. Be that explorer on the hero’s journey.

Lord of the Rings would be a very boring series if Frodo did everything perfectly.

This is your adventure, your one-of-a-kind story. Imperfection and all.

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  1. Because of our remarkable capacity to adjust to new circumstances, humans have risen to become the most successful species on earth. And we are able to acquire the skills necessary to develop this innate capability.

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