Imperfection…. a good thing?

I recently mentioned to my dear friend Rachael in Australia that I didn’t feel capable of doing everything that I wanted/needed to do to which she replied:  ‘Be kind to your self and try to lower your expectations just a little’.  Later in the week someone else said practically the same thing ‘Don’t be so hard on yourself’ followed by the same advice from my mother.  Hmmm, I think that I’ve been pretty down this past week 😦

Perfectionism:  Now I can’t possibly consider myself a true perfectionist – because I’m not good enough for that! – but I do think that I have a tendency to set the bar high.


I admit that I used to think that perfectionism was rather a positive trait but I began to suspect otherwise quite a while ago and have been trying to focus on and enjoy the process of doing things rather than the product/end result  I had also  purchased a book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ by Brene Brown earlier this year – but not being good enough I hadn’t picked it up….until this week.

It was timely as I was beating myself up about so many things – about not speaking even basic Mandarin (not even close), not arranging for my biannual hair cut, not finishing my studies on time, not keeping up with world news, comparing myself to the large proportion of highly motivated and energetic expatriates living here …….blah blah blah (‘shenma shenma’ in Chinese)

I’d already seen Brene talk here:  and I loved her style.  Her book (what I’ve read so far) was equally insightful.

She confirmed my suspicion that perfectionism was harmful and can lead to depression, anxiety, addiction and *life-paralysis.

* = all those opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect.

I’m pretty sure that I can learn a thing or two here about avoiding  a pattern of ‘life paralysis’ because here in China things seem to be done rather quickly…..and rarely perfectly…. but by golly they do get done!  For example, we had some book shelves installed recently in the living room: they are not straight nor well placed, but boy were they installed quickly!

Another example of just getting the job done.

Another example of just getting the job done – imperfectly.


Brene actually has the topic of perfectionism under the heading of ‘Self-Compassion’ and talks about the importance of positive self-talk:  “Exploring our fears and changing our self-talk are two critical steps in overcoming perfectionism”


So my 2 positive mantras for the coming weeks just might be:

– ‘Progress and not Perfection’ is the goal

– ‘Be where I am and not where I think I should be’

…….and god forbid if ever I should I forget them, I’ll be compassionate and forgive myself :)…………..maybe.


ps. My friend Juliette  sent me this after reading this post: “Did you know, …. , in native american weaving tradition, it is customary for one to make a point of having imperfections in one’s basket, as only great spirit can be the perfection of creation”


5 comments on “Imperfection…. a good thing?

  1. Drew says:

    Amen, sister! Good advice for us all. For the record, from where I sit, it sure seems like you accomplish a lot, and often.

  2. Joanne says:

    Darling Jen, you are my hero! Don’t you realise that very few people would have the courage to move countries, several times, with small children and really make an effort to embrace the culture as you have? Having small children is challenging enough as it is, I have been reduced to tears this week just trying to finish painting the back room in time for christmas with small children running around. I am in awe of you and would hope that you could reflect and congratulate yourself for you many inspiring achievements. I so look forward to your posts on this blog, I settle myself down with a cup of tea and am transported to another world!! If you set the bar higher than you can achieve what hope is there for the rest of us??!!
    Love you lots and miss you.
    Jo xx

  3. johnshess says:

    You definitely can afford to cut yourself some slack, Jenni ! And if the whole perfectionism thing is getting you down, well, Hanoi is only two hours away, and the Vietnamese, even more than the Chinese, are masters of unselfconscious imperfectionism. . . xx

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