I recently had the pleasure of moderating a “TED talks” viewing and group discussion at a local café. After watching Sir Ken Robinson speak about creativity in the public school system and Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability, the discussion had adopted an overall theme of “embracing imperfection.” The idea was that in order to achieve creativity, worthiness, and love, individuals must be willing to accept imperfections and embrace vulnerability no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
Apart from being extremely difficult and terrifying to accept, we have been taught that imperfection is wrong; just look at the prefix’s definition.
Worse, we look lazy if we acknowledge what is wrong, understand how to fix it, yet still do nothing about it. Many believe that following all the rules society demands keeps your “attractive” and “perfect” position in society intact. What sort of myth is that? Going off the beaten path or parading your imperfections can be seen as deviant. However, not only does deviance serve the vital role of social cohesion by illustrating what is acceptable or desirable, it challenges them. In a way, the challenge itself validates the norm. It’s a symbiotic relationship where one needs the other to survive. How are we to know what we value as a society if we do not test the boundaries?
As artists in one form or another, we must go out and explore any limit by constantly living on the edge of acceptance waiting, with our imperfections, for others to join us. Only later to leave the newly established group in search of a new frontier. Why do we do this? I am not really sure, but “because I can” seems to be a good enough answer as of now. In a certain theoretical mindset, those that can, have a responsibility to do so. My brother recently said, “We have a responsibility to our ability,” which struck me as not only poetic but right on the money. We have to be willing to challenge norms, accept and parade our imperfections, and make the best mistakes possible. What better way to live and pay homage to life, than to test the system itself? Disorient then find out where boundary exploration is needed most and then deliver further disorientation. Rinse and then repeat.
Creativity and vulnerability, regardless of how we or society view them, both stem from the idea of imperfection and the acceptance of error. Mistakes are the common thread between the two. The important question is, how do we create a system that values and encourages making the best mistakes possible? Note, we are not talking about silly mistakes like forgetting to pay a bill on time, we are talking about the great mistakes. The ones where we learn from putting ourselves out there and being knocked down a few times. I believe we need a better reward system for the entrepreneurial spirit. Why reward how well we can play by the rules, when all we really want is innovation? Innovation is messy and full of mistakes after all, embrace it.
They Say It’s Our Imperfections That Make Us Beautiful
So in some ways, life is one giant art piece. As an artist, what are you trying to communicate with your day to day actions, with your “art?” As Sir Ken Robinson said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong then you will never come up with anything original at all.” I think that sums up the arguement perfectly. We have to be ready and willing to accept our errors and our imperfections in our relationships, work, and any other facet of our lives. Rules are tested guidelines that make sense in most cases but should always be questioned. Questioning them only strengthens the belief after all. Be willing to be vulnerable and make those errors. Apart from doing society a favor by pushing the boundaries and keeping norms in check, this acceptance of imperfection is liberating. Liberate yourself and see where that takes you. After all, as Brenè Brown summed up, “though vulnerability is associated with shame, isolation, and fear, it appears to also be the birthplace of creativity, hope, joy, happiness, worthiness, belonging, and strength.” We must be willing to come as we are, have the courage to wear our scars proudly, and let go of any mental models that inadvertently hold us back from fulfilling our true potential and self actualization. Have the courage to embrace imperfection.