The Courage to be Imperfect


I heard from many of you a few weeks back about my article entitled “The Belief That I’m not Enough.” Not surprisingly, the topic resonated with a lot of people and so I’d like to continue this theme by exploring ways we can conquer this self-damaging belief and create self-acceptance and confidence. I thought I’d start by republishing an article I wrote seven years ago entitled “The Courage to be Imperfect.” I want to encourage you to read the article (below) and do the exercise. Remember that change requires more than understanding. It takes action and doing. So here you go:

Self-acceptance is recognizing that “who I am is okay.” Many people, especially those who are conscientious and internally motivated, have an ideal in mind of who they are supposed to be or what an ideal person is like. Your list may include being intelligent, slim, kind, charming, trustworthy, friendly, young, courageous, frugal, exciting, well-groomed, cheerful, wise, a good conversationalist, witty, loving. The list can go on and on.

The problem occurs when we accept the belief that we must measure up to this idealized self in order to be a worthy human being. We then strive to become this person by attempting to be more or better or different. Inevitably, we fall short of our ideal.  As a result, we feel inadequate and guilty which only further increases our desire to attain this idealized self. And around and around we go, always striving yet never fully arriving.

The Cycle of Inadequacy

Idealized expectations → Strive to be more, better, different → Fall short of ideal → Feel guilty and inadequate 

And the cycle starts all over again. The culprit is not striving or improving. It is the harsh judgments that we inflict upon ourselves whenever we fail to measure up to our ideal. The cycle becomes a never-ending whirl that repeatedly sweeps us through doubts and guilt and unreasonable expectations and wasted effort, but fails to help us find inner peace and joy.

The way out of the cycle is the willingness, even courage to be imperfect. I love a quote by Warner Erhard:

If you could accept that you are not okay,

You could stop proving that you are okay.

And if you could stop proving that you are okay,

You could get it that it is okay to not be okay.

And, if you could get it that it is okay to not be okay,

You could get it that you’re okay just the way you are.

You’re okay,

Get it?

That thought has brought great peace to me.

It’s incredibly burdensome living from the belief that you have to be this idealized image in order to feel okay. You are far from perfect. You have plenty of faults and weaknesses.  So don’t withhold love from yourself until some magical, mystical moment when you finally arrive at perfection. It won’t happen in this lifetime.

Far more important is to come from a deep and abiding knowledge that it is good to be you and that you are okay in spite of your imperfections. This is, like so many aspects of self-esteem I’ve been writing about the last few weeks, a decision.

DECIDE! Make it a stand. Certainly it will be one you have to revisit and reinforce from time to time, but it is a far better place to come from than believing you will only measure up when you achieve some idealized image of who you “ought” to be.

Do you realize that you could not be any different at this moment than you are? You cannot rewind time. It is impossible to go back two years, or five days or even one second and make different choices. In reality, there is no such thing as “could have,” or “should have.”  From this moment forward, there is only one way you can be different, and that is by accepting who you are, self-perceived warts and all. Self-acceptance is your willingness to meet life the way it is right now and the way you are right now, and to do it by your own choice.

Here’s an exercise to embrace your imperfection. Complete each of the following sentences with five or six responses. Don’t take time to deliberate. Write down quickly what first comes to your mind.

An imperfection of mine…

Things at which I am mediocre…

Mistakes I have made in the past are…

You are not static. Some of these can change over time. But what won’t change is the fact that you’ll still be imperfect and make mistakes. So, how would it feel to accept all of the answers above as a part of who you are today? To know that they are okay because they are part of you?

Accept yourself! Love yourself! It takes courage. And, it’s a decision.


About Roger K. Allen
Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation and family development. His tools and methods have helped tens of thousands of people live happier and more effective lives. To learn more, visit www.rogerkallen.com>.

2 responses to “The Courage to be Imperfect”

  1. Steve says:

    Thanks Roger…really appreciated this!

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