Last year, my word of the year was balance, but as I reread the blog post, I realized it was leaning more towards this year’s word: Imperfection. My description of balance was to find a middle ground rather than shooting for the extremes. I can eat the cupcake, skip the workout, scroll the threads, all in moderation. Perfection is an extreme and often defined by others who are only to happy to sell you their workbook, workout, or video series that will lead you to your “best” life, a code word for perfect.
I started my year exploring imperfection with the January meditation challenge from Ten Percent Happier. I moved from there to a couple podcasts that also emphasized being good with screwing up. Elizabeth Daly’s How to Fail podcast featured Dawn French, a beloved British comedian, whose new book focuses on all her screw ups. It is aptly titled The Twat Files. If you are familiar with French, it is probably via The Vicar of Dibley, her British comedy series that shows up on PBS now and then.
Dan Harris and Amy Edmondson explored the power of failure on an episode of the Ten Percent Happier podcast. I think failure is a bit different from imperfection, more extreme, but I suppose for some people any deviation from their image of perfection represents failure at some level. And knowing that we may not reach that image can also keep us from even trying.
While I was considering imperfection as a potential positive value, I was also in the midst of watching the Australian Open Tennis Championships and the United States Figure Skating Championships, both reminders of the value we place on perfection. In both events, the favorites–those who had gotten closer to perfection than others in the past–struggled, making mistakes, losing their composure, not performing up to expectations. I felt sorry for them as theren really is no room for imperfection in their lives.
I am under no such dark cloud of expectations other than those I might put on myself. So, this year, I resolve to embrace imperfection, to allow myself to learn and explore and create with no expectations of perfection, knowing that, as Austin Kleon suggests, bad art is good, too.