An obsession with perfection can destroy our lives. It leaves us unable to accept our own mistakes, unable to accept other people’s mistakes, and unable to accept those unfortunate events that happen in life. Richard Carlson discusses “making peace with imperfection” in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. This is extremely useful advice to prevent us from amplifying a small mistake. There is a common and vicious cycle in life: It begins when we do or say something wrong, and then instead of simply acknowledging the mistake and moving on, we enter a state of excessive guilt and despair. We berate ourselves at length for having failed yet again. Alternatively, we may refuse to acknowledge that we even made a mistake, thus entering a state of denial and defensiveness, perhaps even blaming someone else. Neither of these states are useful for correcting the mistake, nor will they stop it from happening again. Like gambling to recover our previous losses, we only make our situation worse.
The fact is, we will make mistakes, and often we will make the same mistakes time and time again. This is OK! We must be patient with ourselves. We must calmly see what led us to make the mistake, and simply try to avoid it in the future. It does not matter how many times we repeat this process.
Making peace with imperfection extends to others as well. We must not expect those around us to be perfect, particularly our close friends or partners. To expect perfection from others is unreasonable, particularly given our own lack of perfection. Furthermore, life is imperfect. Things will go wrong. It may rain on our picnic. We may get sick on vacation. We must learn to accept such things. The world is imperfect, we are imperfect, but that does not mean that all is lost, and it need not stop us from being happy.