A long time ago, I think I must have been 9 years old, I overheard someone describing a piece of music. “It’s not beautiful,” she said in a tone that made it clear this was not a compliment. “It’s perfect, but it has no heart. So perfect, yes, just not beautiful.”
For some reason, this stuck with me, and I think about it all these years later. That a piece of music (or anything or anyone) can seem perfect, but lack something that makes it fall short of beautiful. That there are important differences between perfection and true beauty that make striving for perfection not worth it.
Beauty is layered in meaning and intriguing, the way someone’s crooked smile or weird ideas make them attractive and interesting. Or the way we can’t stop staring at an abstract painting in vivid but mismatched colors and misaligned textures. Beauty is boundless confidence in a person whose physical attributes would never get them a magazine cover. It’s the sexy, fashion-forward outfit rocked by someone you’d expect to see in sweats and flats. Or ocean-deep humility in someone so insanely talented that they could rightly brag about their accomplishments for days but would never dream of it.
For all these reasons, real beauty is in the unexpected, and less (even far less) than perfect can be incredibly beautiful.
This means the less perfect we are, the more mistakes we make, the more beautiful we become. The more interesting, the more complex. It means that we are more beautiful with time and experience. We gather strength, grow in character, and earn wisdom through every mistake, every should have said.
We have to remember this in tough situations that don’t go well. The less perfect we are, the better we’re getting: smarter, stronger, and more beautiful through every experience.