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Abstraction, Georgia O’Keeffe

What is perfection? And who obtains it? And who would want to obtain perfection in a world of imperfections? The self-critical voice that points out each ‘failure’ or fault in a being creates anxiety (through worrying about how not to fail or make a mistake) and depression (through the ‘awareness’ of inevitable failures and faults in the past).

Carl Rogers, founder of person-centered psychotherapy theory, posited, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” So, just how do you accept yourself just as you are? With lots of work – self-discovery and other-discovery, self-exploration and empowerment with guidance or counseling, getting curious about the human condition . . . The list could go on.

In Japan, artists practice ‘Kintsugi,” in which they repair broken pottery using lacquer mixed with precious metals. In this way, they aggrandize the break or damage as they feel it is crucial to the ‘nature’ of the piece. This art flows from philosophical underpinnings of wabi-sabi (embracing imperfections) and mushin (acceptance of change and practicing non-attachment to outcomes).

Thich Nhat Hahn (well-published Buddhist monk) words the concept as “No mud, no lotus.” Without mud, there would be no lotus – a most beautiful flower. In the same way, without our pain, imperfections, and failings, we cannot reach our true potential.

To be truly authentic, we must embrace our darkness or shadow side along with our lightness. If you are trying to deny your faults rather than holding space for them, you will not be able to see them clearly. Only through acceptance do you have a clear view. From this vantage point, you may decide that your failings and faults are gifts that have helped you to grow. Your perspective may change, rather than your ‘fault.’

The shadow and the light are both necessary for existence. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Shadow is the means by which bodies display their form. The forms of bodies could not be understood in detail but for shadow.”

Perhaps it is so for the mind as well. Perhaps our minds could not be understood in detail without our shadows and imperfections. Self-compassion, accepting ourselves as we are with lovingkindness, is the way to peace. Through mindful attention, this compassion can be directed toward the self. Liberation from feelings of anxiety or depression is certainly a goal worthy of accepting the human imperfections of your authentic self.