Perfectionism does not make for a perfect lifestyle

Photo by Casey Gomez

After years of perfectionism, I can say with confidence “perfect” does not exist.

I did not realize it, but for most of my life, I have had this idea that I have got to constantly present the best possible version of myself. This included academics, outward appearance, and personal interactions. In other words, exceptional grades, model hair and skin, and always being polite. It wasn’t that I could not leave the house if I was not looking and feeling my best, but rather that I would feel bad if I wasn’t. I would feel guilty for not presenting the “perfect” version of myself.

This seems crazy, looking back. Of course you cannot be perfect all the time. But it wasn’t until I stepped back and had the realization that perfection does not exist that I truly felt free. If I am not pushing myself to constantly be perfect, then I can
just be me.

I assume my sense of perfection came from the media. From movies and TV to magazines and the Internet, we are surrounded with images of celebrities with perfect bodies doing perfect things. Contrary to what these snapshots would have you believe, no one looks or acts like that all the time. Especially with Photoshop and lighting and professionals, you cannot trust what you see and you cannot take it at face value.

Surrounded by these images, it can be hard to realize that the media is not a realistic portrayal of people. If I wanted to see what a true role model looked like, I was going to need to look closer to home.

I found people are beautifully flawed. They have bad days. They get acne. They tell jokes that no one laughs at and they give up sometimes. I looked at my friends and family and I did not see perfect people. They are not even “perfect in my eyes.” They are kind of messed up. Even the people closest to me have their own special shortcomings.  And that is exactly what makes them so great.

If you are saying something is perfect, you are putting it up on an unattainably high pedestal. I stopped seeing the comment that something was perfect as a compliment. Instead it became a harsh dig. You should not measure yourself (or anything else for that matter) on how it stacks up on the unquantifiable scale of perfection.

The definition of perfect, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.” That does not actually sound like a good thing to me — it sounds fake. And why be fake when instead you can be yourself? Destroying the idea of perfection was one of the best things I could have done for myself.

When you are striving to be perfect, you are essentially aiming for the impossible. And as in my case, killing yourself to get there. So let yourself be messy and have bad days. You are human. Your flaws are what make you you.