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  • Susan Belangee

To Dare to Have the Courage to be Imperfect

This phrase and similar versions are part of our vernacular. But do you know who originated the idea? It's certainly not anyone currently alive even thought they might claim ownership of the phrase. The amazing woman pictured at right is Sofie Lazarsfeld; she is credited as being the first person to speak on this topic back in 1925 at the Second International Congress of Individual Psychology. She studied in Vienna with Alfred Adler and wrote several books pertaining to marriage and relationships between men and women. You can read more about her here.

I would have loved to have known her. Her picture gives to me the impression of a no-nonsense, intelligent, outspoken woman who was not afraid to speak up or speak out. I resemble that so perhaps that is why I am drawn to learn more about her. I just ordered two of her books from a rare books dealer - the first is Woman's Experience of the Male and the second is Rhythm of Life: A Guide to Sexual Harmony for Women. (Intriguing titles, aren't they? I'm sure more blog posts will be written about them in the future.)

What guts she had to be writing on such topics back in the 1920s and '30s. At a time when men were seen as superior in all facets of life, save motherhood, she dared to to talk about the sexual health of women and how marriages succeed when there is an egalitarian nature to the partnership. Even more important, I think, is this idea about daring to have courage to be imperfect. It takes guts to admit mistakes, to show your flaws, to talk about how you have messed up at various times in your life. The funny thing is we know that we all have made mistakes, but yet it's rare to talk about them openly. Why is that?

So many possible explanations come to mind, especially for women. I loved the speech that America Ferrera's character gave in the hit movie Barbie. The standards that are established these days are different now than when Sofie was alive and writing, but somehow I'm guessing it hasn't really changed too much. If she was talking about needing courage to be imperfect back in 1925, boy is it an act of bravery now! (I'll readily acknowledge that men struggle with this also, and I'll even go so far as to say the standards of allowable emotional expression for men could be just as stifling at times. Alfred Adler had a lot to say about this, but that's for another post.)

I consider myself a recovering perfectionist; and yes, there is the occasional relapse. Every day presents moments to dare to have the courage to be imperfect, to stand up and say "Yes I screwed that up!" What makes it easier for me is to tell myself "There goes another human moment; I'm only human." (Wasn't that a hit song recently?). Imagine how different life would be if we all dared to have this courage.

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