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You don’t have to be perfect

You don’t have to be perfect!

My previous blog looked at our tendency towards perfectionism and quoted the words of Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem”. I often tell my clients the following old story as a way of echoing the same message – you don’t have to be perfect and  in fact it is precisely our imperfections that not only make us human and real but actually in many ways, make us better people. Small cracks in an otherwise perfect façade are what makes us who we are.

The Cracked Pot – why perfection is over-rated!

In a small cottage long ago lived a woman called Sarah. Sarah’s cottage had no running water so she collected what she needed in 2 earthenware pots form a stream at the bottom of the garden. She had to make this trip several times a day.  One of the pots had a small crack in it and while the other pot was perfect and always managed to deliver a full portion of water from the stream to her cottage, the cracked pot would always arrive half full.

This happened over several years and of course the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfections and felt miserable that it was only able to accomplish half of what it had been made for.

So one day, feeling what it perceived was a total failure on its part, the cracked pot finally got up the courage to speak to Sarah by the stream saying “I am ashamed of myself and would like to apologise to you”.

Why, asked Sarah. What are you ashamed of?

Well for a long time I have been able to deliver only half of my load because of this crack in my side which causes water to leak out all the way back to the cottage. On account of my flaw you have to do all of this work and you don’t even get the full value from your efforts, the cracked pot said.

 Sarah smiled and said “As we return now to the cottage I want you to take notice of all the  beautiful flowers lying along the path. Indeed as they travelled back along the path the cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful flowers along the path and it made him feel a little bit happier. But once they got back to the cottage he noticed that once again he’s lost half his load and so once again he got a bit tearful and expressed his feelings to Sarah.

Sarah replied “did you happen to notice that the beautiful flowers were growing on your side of the path but not on the bother pots side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw and I took full advantage of it. I planted flower seeds along your side of the path and every day while walking back from the stream you’ve managed to water them for me. I’ve been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my table. Without you being exactly the way you are I wouldn’t have had that beauty to brighten up my cottage.

So… the message is…you don’t have to be perfect, because actually it is your faults that make you who are – and that’s absolutely fine!

 Need some help and support?

If you would like to talk over an issue that is troubling you and you would like to talk it over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.

Book a counselling session today!

See also Self Esteem and Perfectionism, Are you a perfectionist?, What is Shame?