If I could rewrite just one saying that we repeat to ourselves, our loved ones, and our colleagues..without thinking it would be ‘practice makes perfect’.
The reason? Quite simply because both science and art tells us that the very opposite is true.
Researchers have found our brain is drawn to imperfection. We instinctively see it as more authentic, more trustworthy- and ultimately, more appealing.
“Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen
It’s the same for objects of beauty too. In Japan, the art of Kintsugi involves taking beautiful broken ceramics and remaking them by piecing together the individual parts with powdered gold. The flaws enhance the art.
Not only is imperfection more interesting and beautiful to us, perfection is bad for our health. According to Brene Brown, perfectionism is often an attempt to shield ourselves from the pain of judgement and shame. We constantly seek confirmation that we are ‘enough’.
And, many psychologists believe perfection to be on the rise as a new generation grows up in the spotlight of social media, where life itself is curated to feel polished at all times.
‘It’s something that cuts across everything, in terms of psychological problems,” says Sarah Egan, a senior research fellow at the Curtin University in Perth who specialises in perfectionism, eating disorders and anxiety. "There aren’t that many other things that do that.’
So, if striving for perfection is stripping your midlife of joy, here are a few tips from experts that may help you unpick perfection and practice progress:
Recognise that feelings of ‘overwhelm’ during menopause are legitimate: I use the word ‘legitimate’ consciously. In midlife, we often find ourselves stretched beyond capacity. Yet, rather than recognise that external factors are too much for anyone to carry, we question ourselves, our own abilities and our value. We need to stop viewing overwhelm as a weakness. It can help to step back and write down what you can control and what you can’t. One of our favourite coaches, Henny Flynn encourages her clients to do this by drawing a circle. In the circle place all the things that worry you that you can address. Next, outside the circle, simply write down all the stuff you can’t. Then, the process of prioritisation and progress can begin.
- Remember if everything is important, nothing is important: Related to the above can be the belief that everything has to be perfect. Our rational mind knows that everything exists on a scale. The trouble is, letting go requires trust. And that can be hard, particularly when we may already be feeling like our bodies and minds are letting us down. It may also require embracing vulnerability, when we’re already feeling raw.
But, researchers, including Brown, highlight that vulnerability is our superpower. In addition, letting go a little - whether delegating, asking for help, or sharing our fears - often enables others to step and shine too.
Measure progress not perfection: This subtle mindset shift can be helpful on two levels; firstly it encourages us to break down big insurmountable projects that have to be ‘just so’, into small bite-sized chunks of deliverables. - which increases our chance of success and of managing procrastination - which is often the perfectionist’s bedfellow! Secondly, it allows us to see how far we’ve come and to celebrate.
- Capture the view those you trust have of you: My mother created a jar of love long before it became recognised as a valuable self help tool. And, when struggling or feeling less than perfect, would dip into it to find a message from someone who loved her and saw her value clearly.
It’s such a great tool for when you’re feeling less than perfect. Like a chocolate tin, where every wrapper contains the best treat!
So, as we head into a bank holiday weekend in the uk, repeat after me ‘practice IS perfect’. And you’re fabulous because of your golden flaws.
With love Rebekah and the MPowder team.