Beauty in Imperfection
“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
There is so much unheralded beauty found in imperfection, especially in our work. The best ideas, innovations and breakthroughs are often clouded in chaos, character flaws, and murky personnel issues. When we are imperfect, creativity can take root, unbounded by the strict lines and limitations that often surround us. Working alongside our deficiencies, we are vulnerable, humble, and open to learning.
Part of not being a slave to perfectionism includes recognizing the culture of your workplace, and the expectations that abound. Perhaps your office has high standards of perfection, and little tolerance for risk or failure. In those types of situations, it’s hard to make a case for instinct, creative thought and innovation, which can be key resources in any job. Or maybe you are encouraged to try new things, but in trying, to fail quickly so you can move on to a new attempt at success.
While there may not be glamour in the quirkiness of others, in mistakes, and in taking risks that fail, there is so much opportunity that arises. The irony is that we often try to shed our mistakes like bad habits, before examining how they can be a gift to us. By overtly trying to control these parts of our self, we repress our humanity, and also stifle our ability to connect with our co-workers who oftentimes are also trying to navigate their way along a similar path.
A few months ago, I attended a networking breakfast. Many attendees were new mothers, lamenting their lack of sleep and resulting lack of clear-mindedness. They were bleary-eyed, forgetful and completely honest about their challenges. The dialogue was so refreshing, and their candor gave the rest of us the chance to share how tired, stressed and strained we were. After having a soft place to land, and supportive colleagues who were brave enough to share their own difficulties, we were able to level the playing field and focus on supporting and helping each other. It was one of the best working breakfasts I’ve had.
This is a lesson I’m continuing to learn: perfect isn’t always better. As I reflect on my work and my career growth, I’m surprised by the lack of transparency I provide regarding my own pitfalls and mistakes. Rather than reaching out for help or guidance, I tend to plow through work, and sometimes stumble along the way, frustrated by my own shortcomings. Attempting perfectionism is a hindrance to my own personal development, but also to those around me who may be struggling with similar challenges. Instead of just focusing on perfecting our work, I think perfecting our humanity, and authenticity would bring us much further in our efforts for success.
Authenticity breeds success, and we are most successful when we are our best selves. Reflecting on the biggest accomplishments in my career is typically coupled with acknowledging the difficulties that surrounded those wins. What made these accomplishments so significant were the obstacles and the limitations I was presented with – either through my own shortcomings, or through the parameters of the work. Driving through these issues, while bumping up against red tape, inter-office politics and my own inadequacies, made my success so much sweeter.