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Exploring Imperfection: The Willingness to Accept Things As They Are

10 May 2022 | Written by By Lynelle Suan

Retirement can be the most fulfilling phase of your life. It is a colourful season that offers you various opportunities to engage in your hobbies, or to try new activities that light you up. 

However, if you take your retirement years too seriously — as if it is another job that requires you to perform “perfectly” — then perfectionism could be your enemy that’s trying to remove pleasure and diminish the joy in your day-to-day life. 

In fact, various studies show that perfectionism is a risk factor for both depression and anxiety. And according to this BBC article, trying to be perfect is exhausting.

This is why it’s important to explore and befriend perfection’s opposite — imperfection. Because if perfection diminishes your joy, then imperfection can help you create more joy in your life.

But before we get into exploring imperfection, let’s take a minute to see what perfectionism actually looks like.


What Perfectionism Looks Like

If you are a writer, you could be rewriting the same sentence over and over again, trying to find the group of words that fit “perfectly” together. 

If you love to sing, you might be compelled to practice a song for hours and hours on end until you get a perfect score in the karaoke. 

Or maybe you’re fond of dancing, and you feel frustrated every time you miss a step because you want to do everything right.

These are only a few examples of perfectionism in action. We could go on and on, but you already get the point. 

Perfectionism is a supervillain of living a joyful and fulfilling life. Because even if the activities you engage in are meant to be fun, perfectionism can turn it into an unpleasant experience because it keeps you stuck and hinders you from finding joy in the process.  

In other words, perfectionism is a killjoy.


How to Let Go of Perfectionism

The first step towards “befriending” imperfection is letting go of perfectionism. If perfectionism has been bothering you for a long time, this might not be easy. But it is possible and worth it. 

Letting go of perfectionism starts with getting rid of unreasonable goals — such as mastering all the dance steps during your first Zumba dance class, achieving the “perfect” form in Tai Chi right away, or writing a novel that would win a Nobel prize in the next six months.

There’s nothing wrong with having those goals. But if they diminish your joy, then it might be best to let them go.

And because perfectionism can keep you stuck in one place for a long time, it’s important to discover when to stop and move forward — even if things aren’t as perfect as you want it to be. 

You can do this by setting a boundary for yourself. 

For example, if you want to write a poem, you can choose to give yourself a maximum of an hour to do it. Then after that one hour is up, you stop writing, and you get up from your seat to take a walk or make yourself a cup of tea.

Meaning, you won’t be sticking around to criticise or rewrite the poem you just wrote. 

It probably won’t be the best poem in the whole world. But what matters most is that you enjoyed writing it, you feel good about it, and doing it sparked joy within your soul.



What Imperfection Looks Like

Once you start to let go of perfectionism, you will notice that you’ll feel lighter because you’re putting less pressure on yourself. 

You will enjoy immersing yourself in fun activities no matter what the outcome is, and you will be able to play around with your hobbies without judgement — just like how you probably did it when you were a child.

After all, perfectionism is something that we learn over the years. 

So, unlearning it would also be like going back to the child that you once were. Or to be more accurate, it’s like unleashing your inner child that has always been inside of you. 

That is a good thing, because it allows you to breathe in joy from whatever you’re doing, and find pleasure even in the littlest things. 


The Joy in Embracing Imperfection

Perfection can feel suffocating and frustrating, but imperfection can be fulfilling and liberating. 

Because at the end of the day, making mistakes is a natural part of life. Perfection makes us beat ourselves up for every mistake that we make, but imperfection tells us that it’s okay.

Embracing imperfection is rejoicing in the fact that we are human. 

We get to have fun in the process despite any bumps that may come along the way, and we accept both the smooth surfaces and rough edges of life — because it is what it is. 

When you learn to fully embrace imperfection, you can sing like a bird and dance like nobody’s watching. You can release criticisms and toxic comparisons, and you can feel more connected with yourself and with the people around you.

This empowers you to choose peace, pleasure, and fun. 


You Deserve to Have a Blast!

You have already worked so hard for decades before you retired. So, do your best to not let perfectionism ruin the joy of your retirement. 

You deserve to enjoy this season, you deserve to explore what lights you up, and you deserve to have a blast!

One thing that you’d want to keep in mind is that being joyful is better than being perfect.

Things are perfectly imperfect, and accepting that fact gives you the permission to enjoy the process rather than fixating on the outcome.

After all, trying to make things perfect can only be a waste of your time and energy.

In the absence of perfectionism, you can create unforgettable moments with people you love, delight in entertaining activities even if you’ve never done them before, and have fun creatively expressing yourself (like dancing, singing, or writing) to your heart’s desire.

In other words, when you say goodbye to perfectionism and explore imperfection, you are letting your retirement years be the most fulfilling time of your life. 

Did Lynelle’s article resonate with you? We’d love to read your thoughts and reflections in the comments…share your best imperfectly perfect response!

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