I’ve asked this question to thousands of students over the past several years, and as you can probably imagine, a large majority of hands go up. Although I’ve never asked a room full of adults, I’d expect a similar response.
Why is this? Why are so many people navigating the roads of life with a fixed mindset of “I’m not enough?”
While I certainly wouldn’t suggest that a singular answer to this question exists, I do think a lot of it is rooted in a toxic race to perfection. Sadly, many of us, especially pre-teens and teens, have fallen prey to an increasingly prevalent myth that unless you are perfect, you are destined for mediocrity at best.
Thankfully, a sure-fire strategy for destroying deeply ingrained beliefs (i.e. “I’m not enough”) exists. It happens to be the foundation of everything I teach as part of my Lenses of Leadership program. It’s called perspective, or what I often refer to as a new lens on life.
Here’s a new lens I invite you to try on – My imperfections are perfect.
Perhaps the following story will help you to embrace this unique new lens.
A water-bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on opposite ends of a pole that he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other was perfect. The latter always delivered a full portion of water at the end of a long walk from the stream to the master’s house. The cracked pot arrived only half-full. Every day for a full two years, the water-bearer delivered only one and a half pots of water.
The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, because it fulfilled magnificently the purpose for which it had been made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection, miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
After the second year of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, the unhappy pot spoke to the water-bearer one day by the stream.
“I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you,” the pot said.
“Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”
“I have been able, for the past two years, to deliver only half my load, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all this work and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.
The water-bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion, he said, “As we return to the mater’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” Indeed, as they went up the hill, the cracked pot took notice of the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the path, bright in the sun’s glow, and the sight cheered it up a bit.
But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad that it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.
The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, not on the other pot’s side? That is because I have always known about your flaw, and I have taken advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day, as we have walked back from the stream, you have watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have had this beauty to grace his house.
You see, each of us has our own unique flaws or imperfections. We’re all cracked pots. However, as is the case with the cracked pot in this story, God is using our imperfections to glorify the beauty of His kingdom. Believe it or not, your imperfections are often your gifts.
Are you willing to trust that your flaws are part of your unique contribution to the world?