The Beauty In Imperfection

The commercial, and historical, to be fair, view of beauty revolves around perfection: symmetry, smoothness, balance and in the case of humans, youth. We’re drawn to it, it seems genetic. We  swoon at the beauty of Michelangelo’s David, the opening chords of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, the perfection of Einstein’s e=mc2 .

Beauty is found in imperfection as well, and I see it more as I grow older. I appreciate the beauty of what the Japanese call wabi-sabi: (via Wikipedia) “a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is ‘imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete'”. It’s the wonderful gray in an old dog’s muzzle, the fading of antique fabrics, the small scuffs in a wedding ring.

The Roman philosopher Marcus Aurelius remarked on imperfection as beauty (and edible). He wrote in The Meditations, “When bread is baked, some parts are split at the surface, and these… have a certain fashion contrary to the purpose of the baker’s art, are beautiful… and in a peculiar way excite a desire for eating.


Old, worn hands have a beauty and grace. Source.

These women who have had the “perfection” of youth rubbed away, are also lovely to me, in a non-traditional way. I want what’s in their eyes.


Georgia O’ Keefe. Source.


Lauren Hutton looks like she’s lived an engaging life.

And this bold woman, sharing the beauty of her after-cancer body:


Source here. This picture was difficult at first to take in. But the subject, Beth Whaanga, wanted it seen, and calls herself a “breast cancer preventer.”

Here’s a whole Pinterest board encouraging us to “be the beautiful messes that we are.”


My new favorite adjective. From here.

And if you enjoy an artist’s point of view, here’s Sally Nixon‘s delightful collection of “what women really look like” when no one’s looking:


“Not counting the calories of our food, and with impudence, we choose to make life easier by staying at home and just enjoying a little privacy. For even in our worst moments, even when no one sees us, we still are beautifully imperfect.”


Stay fabulous and revel in your beautiful “flaws”, xo,


Here’s some cool summer pieces to browse:

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  1. Hi PATTI. I believe that the beauty stays still in all ages. I love this post that cheer up seniors to be fresh and cheerful again. My mum is 62, I never let her without beauty. I noticed that hand is the first organ can be obviously seen with flaw. So, I have some hand creams for my mum every day as shown here Most always ignore hand cream but focus only body lotion or facial cream. By the way, I love your post, it would be very helpful for my mom. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Wonderful post. Wonderful images. And “flawsome” — a wonderful word. 🙂

  3. I also embrace the beauty of imperfection, love the patina of fine brass and the fine etched lines of a beautiful face. Still I do try it maintain my youthful skin, but that is consistent with good health care, which is mandatory for me.
    Loved the illustrations.

  4. Maybe a question we need to ask ourselves: what will we miss (in life) if we try to hide our imperfections from the world?

    • A wonderful question. What if Eleanor Roosevelt wouldn’t go out in public because her teeth were imperfect? xo

  5. Really good post – thanks for sharing this. Loved all the pictures. My hands are starting to look like those – I look down… oh my, those are my grandmother’s hands. Thanks for reminding us that young and smooth has it’s place as well as old and wrinkled.

  6. Love this, Patti. As usual, your words touched the place where I’m sitting in the world just now. A mantra that has recently taken up residence in my mind is: Embrace your humanity.

    The image from your Marcus Aurelius quote about bread fleshes this out for me. The cracks in the top of a bread boule are perfection, even though no one had any real hand in shaping them. They were created from the bread’s essence–from the process of the bread becoming what it was meant to be, thanks to heat and steam. They complete the bread and make it even more beautiful than bread without. In this way, I see the bread being just like real human beings. I just love this idea.


    • I like that quote too – it brings philosophy to a relatable level, the most basic food we share. xox

  7. Flawsome is my new favorite word.
    Why is wabi sabi so desirable in interior design yet not in women?
    I just went on a huge shopping trip with a buddy (it’s the soldes in France–insanity) and spent a LOT of time in dressing rooms. Such gloriously beautiful young women, all grimacing at the mirrors, disgusted with themselves. I wanted to shake them and tell them they would never be as beautiful as they are now. But of course, I just averted my eyes and said nothing. French dressing rooms are not like NYC dressing rooms, where everybody gives an (unsolicited) opinion.

    • Oh yes, I remember being in my 20’s and criticizing my body relentlessly. And it was so cute! Love your point about wabi-sabi: we have to bring it over to midlife women! xo

  8. Love this! In my younger years I was intimidated to at least try to look as good as I could. Now at 61 I’m free to say here I am world, THIS is me and I’m perfectly imperfect! I watched my sweet mom transition and I thought it was beautiful! A rose bloomed!

  9. Love this post and it already has improved my mood and well-being. Please keep sending us these very different ideas of what is beauty.

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