“This is our perfection: to find out our imperfections”
– St. Augustine (as paraphrased by Sr. Joan Chittister)
I was born a perfectionist.
One of my earliest memories of my perfectionism was the habit of making my bed every morning as a kid.
To be a kid who makes his bed is extraordinary in itself. But I took things to the next level. I would spend an inordinate amount of time fussing over every wrinkle and crease. It had to be perfect.
Ensuring my bed was perfectly made was a sign of something deeper. I started my day with perfection because I wanted my whole day, and life, to be perfect. To be predictable. To be safe.
I craved predictability because I was also a severe stutterer. My days were fraught with the fear of not knowing the next word that would cause my speech to sputter embarrassingly out of control. I craved safety because I was often teased by friends and family when I stuttered.
No matter how hard I tried to hide my imperfect speech, it wouldn’t cooperate. The more I fought, the worse it grew.
I was ashamed. I avoided speaking, and I had little self-confidence.
As I reached adolescence and early adulthood, it slowly dawned on me that the work of my life was not to stamp out all my imperfections but to let the imperfection itself become perfect.
One day, I simply decided to accept my speech, just as it was. I would not try to become fluent; I would just speak. Over time, something amazing happened. I became happier and more at peace with myself – and my stuttering became less severe.
I want the same for you too. So embrace the following five ways I learned to find perfection in imperfection:
1. Accept that you are imperfectly perfect
Yes, this sounds like an oxymoron, but I have found it to be true in my life. In my pursuit of perfection, I was expending my precious energy on an impossible goal and, ironically, worsening my situation.
Only after I exhausted myself trying to be perfect did I see the truth about the impossibility of the task. I realized then that my stuttering was part of me and that I was perfect just the way I was.
This revelation allowed me to focus my energy on the blessing in my life, such as just being able to communicate at all.
This revelation caused me to feel a powerful sense of relief and freedom that I applied to multiple areas of my life.
Feeling stuck in some area of your life due to an unrealistic view of yourself? How might seeing yourself as imperfectly perfect give you the breakthrough you need?
2. Open yourself to the risk of exposure
Some of the most painful memories of being a severe stutterer involved the merciless teasing by schoolmates, the pitiful looks from strangers and acquaintances, and the demands of family and friends to “just stop stuttering.”
I began to shut down. I thought that by keeping silent, I could make all my problems go away. But I knew instinctively that I would only be harming myself.
The day I decided to speak up, I risked exposing myself to even more ridicule that seemed too painful to endure. Instead of being ridiculed to death, I felt more empowered each time I exposed myself as a stutterer.
Over time, the unexpected began to happen — I stopped internalizing the looks and comments of others. I no longer saw them as a reflection of myself. I took the words of Eleanor Roosevelt to heart — “ No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” This alone was worth the risk of exposure.
Think about the worst thing that can happen by exposing your flaws? Is it survivable? Is it worth the risk? Might it lead to a deeper level of intimacy with others?
3. Allow your imperfections to change you for the better
Seeing how our imperfections can make us better people is hard because we don’t face them openly and honestly. We are great at seeing the downsides, but not the upsides.
What golden opportunities for personal growth and wisdom are lurking within your so-called imperfections?
My stuttering helped me become an efficient communicator in unexpected ways. I learned to develop my listening skills. I also became good at developing my thoughts before speaking and became a keen observer of non-verbal cues.
When I did speak, my thoughts were clear, succinct, and added to my discussions in meaningful ways.
Even though I speak with much less effort now, I still listen more and pay attention to the non-verbal aspects of communication.
4. Let your imperfections be an inspiration to others
You’re probably struggling with this idea. But think back to the last time you heard an inspiring story. The main character most likely did not have a perfect life.
By accepting my stuttering, I have been able to do things I previously thought were impossible. I have done a number of public speaking events, some in front of large audiences. Speaking in front of large crowds is never easy, even for fluent speakers. Sometimes I struggle, but I don’t let it stop me from accepting opportunities to speak in public.
My story has inspired other stutterers, and people struggling to overcome personal difficulties, to face these difficulties head on.
Don’t be afraid to tell your story. You never know who you will inspire or who’s life you might change.
5. Remember that the journey is lifelong
Even with all the progress I have made in my life, I still sometimes struggle with accepting my speech difficulties.
On some days, my stutter worsens due to tiredness, stress, or anxiety. Sometimes self-doubt creeps back in. On these days, I recommit to my decision to not let imperfection silence me. I continue to speak up, even on days when I don’t feel like it.
You may feel this way too from time to time, but know that it’s a part of the journey. Recommit to your principles and plans. Enlist the help of friends. Believe in yourself.
Be transformed by your imperfections
Don’t let your imperfections hold you back.
Don’t let them be the reasons why you cannot accomplish your goals and dreams.
Accept them. Use them. Let them transform you and others for the better.
The world needs you – just the way you are.
Photo by Christian
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30 thoughts on “Five Ways to Find Perfection in Your Imperfections”
Sometimes we have to stop looking at the media to remember the truth about ourselves. Our culture aims for perfection, when actually it never really exists except in our minds. “be yourself, everyone else is taken.” Don’t know where that quote is from but it is appropriate.
So true Karen…..and thank you for sharing that beautiful quote….it’s often attributed to Oscar Wilde.
Hi Cylon, thanks for your beautiful reminder about the importance of embracing ourselves, flaws and all. Only then can the result be greater than the sum of the parts. Then we can really be powerful!
Cylon, what a beautifully written, inspiring article. Using so-called imperfections as an opportunity for personal growth. Gold. That is my take-away from this piece. Thanks for sharing.
Cylon, Great post. I like the world needs you just as you are. True!
Wonderfully heart-warming story Cylon and I can very much relate! Although I didn’t have stutter when I was a kid, every time I had to speak in front of class I felt immense anxiety and the words coming out of my mouth would often be garbled and my voice quavering. That stamped my path for a long time to come that I was in some way inadequate and took me a lot of time and effort to eradicate this belief and to lead a ‘normal’ life. Like you, I’m also taking the public speaking route as an antidote to my previous fear of speaking in front of others! Thanks for sharing :)
All the best to you,
Thank you Andrea :) I’ve heard it said that public speaking is the number one fear people have. So neat we can face our fears together!
Another great post Cylon. You are a gifted writer and point number 4 really resonated. Often times, people are afraid to share their stories and their imperfections because of the fear of judgment. It is so true. The beauty of imperfection and allowing yourself to share your stories is, it can bring people together. When you change your perspective, and stop worrying about what others will like you, try thinking your imperfections may be the solution to someone’s problem. Or as you’d say an “inspiration to others” :)
Thank you so much Theresa :) We forget that we’re not the only ones struggling with imperfections. It’s so true that, as soon as we open up, bridges are built and relationships are deepened.
Thank you Cylon, for your beautifully written piece. What you wrote really resonated with me. I’m a perfectionist too. I often stop myself from doing something because of the fear of not being perfect. I really need to accept myself just the way I am. When I do, I notice that I’m much more accepting of others too.
I’m signing up for your updates! :)
So true Cherryl. Perfectionism is in essence a form of fear – a very powerful one. Thank you for sharing that and for signing up for my updates :)
Thanks for sharing your story Cylon!
When I read about how you made your bed every morning, I was reminded of my mother. She was a perfectionist and the beds were always wrinkle free and the stripes perfectly aligned.
It took quite a while for me to learn about being perfectly imperfect, and even longer before I could begin to embrace it.
Thanks for the reminder!
Well done Cylon. I could feel your relief as you let go of trying for the impossible. Accepting ourselves, flaws and all is truly the way to peace and contentment and a happier life.
Thank you for a heartwarming and honest post. Loved it.
Thank you for sharing your story Cylon. I have found that one benefit of your own imperfections is that you develop compassion for others and their imperfections. You don’t see it when you’re young and going through the pain, but you appreciate it later in life caring for others. I am guessing by your story you have found that to be true too.
Touching piece, no doubt. Reminded me of my own speech impediment when I was a kid. Although it was nothing as tough as a stutter, but to me it was the end of the world – I spoke too softly and weakly. Which lead to me never getting my message heard. Slowly I learned to build a more confident voice, which lead to me being more confident.
It’s still an ongoing process! But thanks, Cylon!
Awesome Jay. Keep fighting the good fight :)
Hey Cylon – lovely post – it’s really boring being perfect anyway (so I’ve been told). being imperfect is much more interesting – and fun!
You inspired me today, Ceylon. Thank you.
Wow, thank you for opening up and sharing Cylon. Truly moving and definitely inspiring!
Oops, sorry for my typo Cylon!
No problem Linda :)…..I’m so glad the post inspired you!
This is a post we all can relate to. Everyone is different, but without exception, we all have imperfections. It it’s sad that some people can be so critical toward others. We need more love and compassion in this world. I believe accepting ourselves first is the only way we can accept others. As I mentioned, we all have flaws. Mine may not be obvious at the first meeting, but I’m sure my husband could do a decent write up about them. lol
I need to find a new word for inspiring! Cylon, this post is truly moving. You’ve managed to couple tangible, powerful strategies with the inspiration of dealing what you felt was your greatest imperfection. I’m in awe that you have found the courage and resolve to move on to public speaking. You’ve summed up my exact turning point with “I stopped internalizing the looks and comments of others. I no longer saw them as a reflection of myself.” That says it exactly. Thanks Cylon.
Thank you for sharing your story, Cylon. I am a recovering perfectionist, and I find it so hard to view my imperfections positively. However, when I consider it from this point of view, it feels a little less frightening…something I could work toward!
Thank you for sharing that story. Some of us have difficult journeys, but yours was especially challenging. And I like your refreshing viewpoint about embracing our imperfections and accepting ourselves so others may also accept us.
I see this article was judge one of the BEST of summer 2015. CONGRATULATIONS You writing has a great voice. Well done.
Thank you very much! It’s these difficult journeys that help us grow the most.
I think congratulations are in order for you too! What a wonderfully epic post you wrote!
Have just discovered that this article is a winner on Jon Morrow’s SBO. Not at all surprised, it is excellent and moving. (Don’t forget King George VI used to stutter and he helped to win WWII – not bad for someone who wasn’t perfect).
Just wanted to say well done. So glad you have been recognised but then your posts always lift me up.
Thanks so much :) I really appreciate your support!
Haha…I was the first person in the theater when the King’s Speech came out….the movie inspired me greatly…..even after I’d already done much of the internal work described in this post.
This isn’t nearly the same, but some of us were exchanging opinions on the ‘genericizing’ that Hollywood does. (I made up that word.) I was talking about The Astronaut Wives Club and how the show made them all look exactly alike, when in reality they look very different, and as a consequence, much more interesting.
Wonderful post! And congrats on winning the SBO contest!
Great article. Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story.