The Beauty of Imperfection

A Tangibly Uncommon essay by Jon Bell

I've been thinking about the beauty of imperfection.

Whether it's not wanting to appear foolish in a social situation, or fretting about how we're doing in school or at work, or even something as small as admitting fault, we're reluctant to admit our own imperfections.

Whereas the first thing they teach 3D artists is how to uglify, rust, dirty, and beat up their models so they look more real. It takes lots of effort, but it helps the work feel at home in the real world, where nothing is perfect.

The same goes for movie star PR. They teach celebrities to “humanize” their experiences to be more likable to people. It’s hard to relate to someone who appears perfect. We talk about “pedestals” versus being “down to earth”. We talk about people who are “distant” and people who are “close”.

I'm fascinated by this. We're suspicious of things that seem too self-important, too flawless, too close to the sun, yet we strive to make ourselves appear to be. We gravitate towards things that feel more human, intimate, and authentic, yet resist exposing ourselves in that way.

I think it's why there’s such a response to things that are one-of-a-kind, limited edition, one night only, not recorded, popped-up, handwritten, hand-made, or done with a human’s erring hands. Behind the imperfection we can feel the humanity of who created it. And we implicitly understand how hard, how challenging, how beautiful and wondrous it is to share something imperfect and real.

This package you hold in your hand is perfect in its own way. It was lovingly, carefully brought into the world by the Uncommon community, but because it was done by hand, no two are exactly alike. As beautiful as it is, it's made all the more lovely by its imperfections.

But it goes deeper than aesthetics. We aren't merely a mailing list of people that like hand-crafted things. We're a group who are trying to make something authentic, which can mean sharing in a way that's not entirely comfortable. But that's where the magic of this community comes from, the earnest and authentic way we share.

One of the greatest compliments people pay their friends is to say "Around them, I can be my true self". Uncommon can be that for us, if we keep finding the courage to be imperfect with each other. It can be uncomfortable and hard to explain. But it's real. It's true. And it's undoubtedly uncommon.