Opinion: Celebrate imperfect journeys

Less-than-perfect states of existence help us push the boundaries of progress and create a better society

Published Date – 3 March 2024, 11:59 PM

Opinion: Celebrate imperfect journeys

By Viiveck Verma

If we think of life as a story where we inhabit the role of the protagonist, it is not unlikely to want a perfect trajectory. Being a winsome child, intelligent teenager, successful student and diligent professional leading a harmonious personal life at different stages of our journey might constitute it for many of us. Yet, not only is such a journey difficult to imagine but also impossible to plan and execute. Our journeys in life, for the most part, follow uneven tracks: have ups and downs on social and personal levels. In such cases, taking the word “perfection” too literally can be oppressive and harmful to our well-being. It is time that we took imperfections in our stride and celebrated our resurgences, our resilience and our learning through walking on uneven paths.

The importance of celebrating our imperfect journeys is frequently overshadowed in a world where perfect results and quick success are the norm. However, we experience development, resiliency and important life lessons through these flaws. Let us look at this in some detail.

Elusive Concept

Perfection is a vague, elusive concept which refers to certain summits of excellence where finding faults becomes an impossibility. Yet, such a phenomenon can only occur when we limit our understanding of it to a certain context, for nothing can be faultless universally. For example, all students passing an exam with excellent scores in a particular class can be an encouraging perfect statistic.

However, if all students everywhere passed all exams with flying colours, one might be suspicious of the sanctity of the examination process instead of being delighted. Not only is such a perfect phenomenon impossible to achieve but also undesirable, for it might tell us that the exam is not meant to be taken seriously. It is in fact, the imperfectness and lack of universal applicability of phenomena which keep the human conversation alive and committed to achieving bigger and better things.

When we shift the focus from a feverish urgency to be perfect to a general acceptance of the inevitability of imperfection, we enable ourselves to undergo intellectual and spiritual empowerment. It takes wisdom to understand that not only is equating imperfection to failure a biased outlook but also that without being imperfect at something, we would not know what areas to work on. Without imperfection, there would be no space for perseverance, sincerity, tenacity, resilience or distinction for that matter.

Flaws and Failures

Think about Vincent van Gogh, whose paintings were viewed as flawed and unconventional during his lifetime but are now regarded as masterpieces. The standards of society initially disapproved of his iconic painting style, which was characterised by wavy brushstrokes and vibrant colours. His art was distinctive and timeless because of these flaws, though. His journey celebrates imperfection as a source of innovation and creativity despite his struggles with mental health and rejections of his artistic endeavours.

Consider Colonel Harland Sanders, KFC’s original founder who experienced a string of failures and rejections. Despite his failures along the way, he continued to work toward perfecting his renowned fried chicken recipe. The importance of accepting flaws and failures as chances for development and refinement is best illustrated by this story.

Going beyond these illustrious stories, imperfections also remain a crucial element of our personal lives. Inaccuracies, lapses in judgement and gaps in communication might be unpleasant but as opportunities to rework behaviour, they frequently deepen connections in relationships. The beauty of accepting flaws and imperfections is emphasised by the Japanese philosophy of ‘kintsugi,’ which involves repairing damaged pottery with gold lacquer. Similar to this, accepting the flaws in relationships encourages empathy, understanding and a stronger connection. Finally, acknowledging our flaws in life is a testament to our development, fortitude, and the beauty that can be found there.

Imperfections, therefore, are more like nuances than blemishes. Trials and challenges abound on imperfect journeys, necessitating fortitude and adaptability. When faced with challenges, our fortitude shines, enabling us to face life’s challenges head-on and come out on top. Progress can be hampered by perfection, a sought-after but elusive standard. In our careers, relationships and personal endeavours, we frequently strive for perfection while failing to recognise that the richness of life lies in its flaws. Importantly, imperfection provides the necessary friction for things to become meaningful for us, for anything attained through struggle becomes all the more valuable.

Imperfections Motivate

Furthermore, not being perfect challenges the status quo, prompting individuals and societies to seek better solutions instead of being confined to an inert state. When faced with imperfections or limitations, people are motivated and exhorted to find alternative approaches or improvements. In the same regard, innovation crucially thrives on imperfection as it sparks creativity and the drive to create something better than what is available in the present. Imperfections disrupt homogenisation and routines and enable adaptation. Whether in personal growth or business strategies, imperfections demand flexibility and adaptability. Adapting to imperfections cultivates the ability to think on one’s feet, be open to change and adjust whenever necessary to new circumstances effectively.

Finally, imperfection fosters humility by acknowledging that perfection is unattainable. This recognition cultivates empathy towards others’ imperfections, creating a more compassionate and understanding society. Accepting imperfections in ourselves makes us more empathetic toward the less-than-perfect parts of others. This drives social cohesion to the point where solidarities can be imagined and alliances can be forged. For example, when some students happen to struggle at school, instead of labelling them bad for not being perfect, a teacher can help them better by taking a closer look at the situation, accepting the flaws to be routine and focusing on what can be done about them instead of short-circuiting the conversation through decrying imperfect academic performance.

Therefore, recognising the beauty in development, the resilience built through adversity and the strength in vulnerability is what it means to celebrate imperfect journeys. It is an acceptance of who we are and the understanding that perfection, when taken too literally, is a delusion which takes us nowhere. By celebrating our less-than-perfect states of existence, we are able to love ourselves better, push the boundaries of progress and create a better society in the process.


Viiveck Verma is Founder & CEO, Upsurge Global, Advisor & Adjunct Professor, EThames College, and Strategic Advisor and Venture Partner, SilverNeedle Ventures