The idea that perfection is attainable is the cruelest lie that any of us can sell ourselves. It pops up everywhere – in our relationships, our work, our creativity, our social presence, our homes, our parenting, our appearance and our very bodies themselves. We internalize this theory that we are not good enough unless we achieve a level of perfection that simply does not exist.
A lot of people will tell you this is Facebook’s fault, that social media has caused us to compare our hum drum days along side of everyone else’s Instagram reel of highlights. This is, of course merely a vehicle rather than the cause. This comparison culture is as old as humanity itself. Paintings, film, magazines, fashion and even literature lends itself easily toward creating that which is idealized and it is human nature to dream of being “ideal”.
Though, it is understandable, it is also a cage that we lock the door on for ourselves.
Perfection is a falsehood, all smoke and mirrors. But more importantly, perfection is a roadblock. Seeking perfection is the best way to build a wall between you and your goals. Comparison is not conducive to creativity. How many amazing stories were reduced to crumpled waste paper because the writer thought it was not as skilled as something that Bradbury would produce? How many songs go unsung because they don’t stand up to Dylan’s standards? How many people never step on a stage because they can’t measure up to Streep? How many people hide themselves away from the camera because they aren’t supermodel gorgeous?
I am not perfect and I will not chase after perfection.
I am capable and I will chase after “finished”.
The most amazing idea ever conceptualized is meaningless if it is left undone.
Aspiring toward perfection has only one outcome, paralyzation. If you are not going to finish something until it has reached perfection, it will remain forever unfinished. There is always something to improve upon. The trick is to do the best that you are capable of right now. By right now, I mean in this precise moment.
You aren’t in perfect shape? Celebrate the shape you are in now. Buy the bathing suit, run the 5K, take the picture. This version of you is fleeting, and this version of you is ENOUGH.
You aren’t the best writer/actor/dancer/athlete/designer etc etc ad infinitum? Do the work you are capable of doing right now. If it is something you love, just enjoy the doing of it. You don’t even have to show anyone else, YOU will know what you are capable of. Not to mention that actually doing something is the only way to get better at it.
Do you spend more time worrying about what kind of parent/spouse/partner/daughter/son/grandchild/friend/ally you are than you do actually participating in that role? Set aside your worry, lose yourself in the doing of it. Learn all you can. Be quiet and listen. Work on being kind. When you fall short, admit it and apologize and then do your best to do better. In every single one of these positions, what matters most is that you are trying.
I realize that none of this is particularly revolutionary. It is a pep talk and a reminder to myself and all of the people like me who will read these words. The inclination to compare ourselves to others is a strong one, and it is one that we all fall prey to at times. Working on transforming that energy in admiration for real people and critique for airbrushed falsehoods.
I would rather have a couple of “pretty good” books, paintings, photographs, sewing projects and finished races, than zero perfect ones. I would rather be actively engaged despite all of my flaws, than spend my time worrying over the quality of that engagement.
Back to work.