The Beauty of Imperfection

This article is dedicated to all the women in the world. May you celebrate what makes you unique and perfectly imperfect so that you embrace all parts of yourself and share that with us.  We want to know and love the real you.  Note:  I spoke in Portland, OR recently on this topic and I wore a dress to heal this story.

From left - Jennifer, Byron, James and Sherold
From left – Jennifer, Byron, James and Sherold

When I was in the eighth grade, a few boys starting teasing me that my legs were skinny. That year they also started saying that I was a carpenter’s dream – flat as a board.

Then in ninth grade my sister’s boyfriend nicknamed me Twiggy, after the famous skinny fashion model Twiggy.

It was when they gave me the record “Skinny Legs and All” that I became a believer – something was wrong with my legs. The song says, “Who wants a woman with skinny legs?” Basically, no one wants a woman with skinny legs.  I started hiding my legs and did not wear skirts or dresses except on rare occasions for the next 40 plus years.

I bet you can think back to a time when you were teased about your body or something you did or said. If you felt ashamed and vulnerable about it – that’s most likely when you began to hide out in some way. Shame thrives on secrecy. When you hide or don’t talk about the thing you are ashamed about, the shame grows. There is a saying – what you resist persists.

Brene Brown, author and researcher who has studied shame, vulnerability and courage says the way out of shame and secrecy is to tell a trusted person who will listen and not give advice.

Make Peace With Your Imperfections

How to you heal from wanting to be different than you are?  Stop trying to be or look perfect! When you focus on your imperfections – you hear the voice of your judge or inner critic that tells you, “I’m not good enough” or “Who do you think you are?” This is a Universal thought that we all have at one time or another.  Your inner critic is trying to protect you, but in reality it keeps you playing small and feeling bad.

When you hide something about yourself you are ashamed of, you don’t shine and you don’t feel like you are worthy or good enough. Yet when you show up authentically as who you are and you embrace what makes you vulnerable, what’s amazing is this makes you beautiful in a way that you want to connect with you.

What stories are you telling about your life? Do they cause you to suffer (feel bad about yourself)?

How do you criticize your body? Remember your body is innocent; your little self (ego) is the part of you that attacks your body.

What imperfection(s) are you hiding?

If you have been living out the story, as I did by subconsciously internalizing that something was wrong with my legs, then you are playing small and hiding. The way out of this cycle is for you to acknowledge how it has shaped your behavior and understand why, then decide to change it and live the opposite while taking action. This is transformation.

Your stories become beliefs and your beliefs drive your behavior giving you the result you have today in your life today.

Question the story that you told yourself. If it causes you to suffer emotionally, find out if it is true. If you need help, call the Byron Katie Helpline, which is free and work with a trained facilitator to do The Work.

When you question what you believed as I did, you will find peace and freedom.

When you can stop trying to be perfect and let go of what other people think, own your story, decide to become good enough, Brene Brown says this gives you access to love and belonging.

When you spend a lifetime avoiding and hiding yourself from parts of your life that don’t fit your vision of perfection or who you think you should be – you are not owning your story – you are living outside of it.

Courage requires us to be willing to let go of caring what other people think.

“Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid, courage means you don’t let fear stop you,” said Bethany Hamilton, the surfer who lost her arm when a shark attacked her.

lauren huttonLauren Hutton acted with courage when modeling agents told her that she needed to fix the gap between her teeth to be a model. She refused and went on to be on the cover of Vogue magazine a record 41 times.

“You have to be able to grow up. Our wrinkles are our medals of the passage of life. They are what you have been through and who you want to be. I don’t think I will ever cut my face, because once I cut it, I’ll never know where I’ve been.” Lauren Hutton

Lauren didn’t let that stop her and she went on to be a top supermodel because she embraced her imperfections. Today at age 70, she is in a Lucky Brand Clothing campaign still as beautiful as ever — without plastic surgery.

“I want them [women] not to be ashamed of who they are when they’re in bed. Society has told us to be ashamed … The really important [thing] is that women understand not to listen to a 2,000-year-old patriarchal society,” said Hutton.

Marc Jacobs, a fashion designer said, “I don’t love Photoshop; I like imperfection. It doesn’t mean ugly. I love a girl with a gap between her teeth, versus perfect white veneers. Perfection is just… boring. Perfect is what’s natural or real; that is beauty.

Our beauty is made up of all parts of us – the imperfections inside and outside. Our body age and our task is to embrace our body because it is innocent and understand that you are beautiful in your own way. Find your own beauty in what makes you unique and imperfect.

I invite you to embrace the Wabi-Sabi philosophy of beauty. Wabi-Sabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Wabi-Sabi is the beauty in imperfection – to celebrate our imperfections. I believe it is an important mindset we all need to embrace as we age. What makes us beautiful is the character, the depth we have both inside and outside.

Leonard Koren, author of Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers said, “Wabisabi is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, the antithesis of our classical Western notion of beauty as something perfect, enduring, and monumental.”

Wabi-sabi reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet—that our bodies are in the process of returning to dust. Nature’s cycles of growth, decay, and erosion are embodied in frayed edges, rust, or wrinkles and liver spots. Through Wabi-Sabi, we can learn to embrace both the magnificence and the challenges found in these marks of passing time.

When you think you should not age you are fighting against reality and you lose only 100 percent of the time. If you embrace your age and share your wisdom, you are practicing COURAGE.

Deb Merskin, associate professor of Communication at University of Oregon with a focus on mass media and society said, “Certainly the pressure to conform to an unrealistic ideal of beauty is there. The emphasis on youth keeps older women buying products in hopes of avoiding what becomes, for us, a social death knell especially “visible signs of aging” as one advertiser puts it. Marketing youth works in two directions: older women are seeking the magical elixir of youth and young women who are growing up and into the market that want to “defy it” (another slogan) – so are trained in a kind of fear-sell that says you have to do all these things while you are young so you don’t end up old. Which is of course, is inevitable. Is this the kind of thing you are thinking about it and needing?”

Wabi-Sabi is embracing our authentic self –Wabi-Sabi is a mindset you are perfectly unique exactly as you are. It is stripping away the ego and living from your higher Self – your Soul – the part of you that never ages that is uniquely you.

You are beautiful. Now I invite all of you to let your freak flag fly!

As always I want to hear from you.  What story have you told yourself about your imperfection?  How have you worked with shame and vulnerability?  If you like this article, please share it on social media or with your friends.

  1. Thank you; this really made me have a realization after reading your story. I have always hated my legs and while I would love to wear dresses, always feel too embarrassed that my legs are too fat. I haven’t worn a dress since I got married. I am extremely self conscience and never really thought about challenging it. I guess the question is: how do you get over it? What if it’s partially true? I’m not as thin as I was before I had my kids…. I feel like I am always waiting for the day I lose weight, but I can’t seem to get there.

    1. Rachel thank you for reaching out. I wore a dress for the first time in public two weeks ago to give this talk to 175 people! Now I am certainly not Twiggy yet I love my legs just the way they are and I have sadness/compassion for hiding my legs all these years because of a story that was simply not true!

      So you cut out the middleman (waiting) and find a dress that you like and is comfortable and you wear it. Start out where you are now. Here’s what I know to be true: over all the years I have not like having pictures taken because I was not thin enough or something was not “perfect.” I look back now now and see how great I looked and how I looked good in those photos. Stop waiting and start living. Be courageous. If you wait, it might not ever happen. Search Oprah’s site for how to dress for your type of figure then see what kind of clothes or dresses they recommend. Or simply ask that question on Google. I would love to hear from you if you do this. I’m cheering you on! Email me at Go do it!

  2. I was very moved by this post. The “body” and “beauty” part is indeed important, but what you said about shame can be applied to so many precious parts of life. Many times I have missed opportunities and open doors because I was afraid intensely joyful experiences would “reveal” my deepest fear. As if the best was to be “paid” by the awakening of the worst ( I sound like a sci fi movie maker here ! ) It felt “safer” and less painful to play small. Thank you for your words, they explain to me things I have never quite put in words.

  3. Absolute Jasmine – that you so much! I think we all can relate to playing it safe and therefore playing small because we were afraid we would be shamed or ridiculed. I am glad this helped you.

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