There’s quite a thin and rather blurred line between “wanting to do something well” and “wanting to do something perfectly”. It’s interesting how much value society places on perfectionism – the perfect husband, he perfect wife, the perfect child, the perfect family the perfect student, the perfect teacher and so on. While it’s all well and good to strive to be ideal, at the same time are we deluding ourselves into believing that being perfect is possible?
In my experience, this quest for perfectionism has more thorns than roses. Take for example the child who does not have a place among the top five ranks, who is slightly on the mischievous side and will not clean the toy room until told numerous times. Sound pretty normal? Or perhaps the husband who does not always inform when he’s coming home late and has trouble remembering anniversaries. Again, quite common place and perhaps even stereotypical. However the point I am attempting to elucidate is that we continue to complain and wish the other would just be…a little more perfect! Oh, how much easier life would be if that were so! What’s worse is that we sometimes do not spare ourselves from these idealistic expectations and then become extremely harsh and critical towards ourselves. I need to be that perfect size zero, I need to work flawlessly to get that promotion, I’m no good unless I score the top marks, and so on, leading to a relentless almost punishment of ourselves when we fail our own standards…because it would be unrealistic to perform ‘perfectly’ every time.
In the process, we are never satisfied, neither with ourselves, nor with our loved ones. Frustration grows and we become stressed, further lowering our chances of ever reaching that most-wanted ideal. Relationships become strained and tempers flare. Sound familiar? If yes, unfortunately, you my friend are heading down that road to trouble.
Why do we strive so much for perfection? I have spent quite a lot of time mulling over this question, and what struck me is that as human beings, we seem to want control. Control over our partner, our subordinates, our friends, our children and even ourselves. If everyone follows a perfect rhythm and routine, behaves perfectly, then plans can be carried out like clockwork, eliminating uncertainty from our lives. Sounds amazing right? We would always be prepared, plans would go, well, according to plan and we would be happy…or so we think! The quest for perfect control rarely leads to happiness, for the simple reason that we are striving for the impossible! Life by its nature can never be a hundred percent certain and predictable, and if we could so carefully plan and control our future, well I would start to doubt if we were humans! A wise man once said, ‘To err is human…’ which is true.
The beauty of being human lies not in perfection, but in the moments of today. Precious moments making your child laugh, stolen glances at your partner, being there for a friend in need, assisting an elderly individual, petting an animal, strewn across the bed of life – these are what constitute happiness along the journey, not the ‘perfect’ end that may or may not exist at the very end. How does that even matter now? So let go, accept life wherever and whoever you are, as the beautiful gift given to you. Be content and grateful for what you have and the people who fill your life, along with their faults (you might end up sleeping better!). Allow yourself to experience some uncertainty, some spontaneity, some ‘life’! This is not to say you must not work hard at a steady job, or work towards a promotion. By all means do so, but enjoy the journey and process, because trust me, if ever you do achieve your perfect ending, it might be too late to experience true happiness!
PS: When a reader pointed out to me that there is a typo in the first paragraph, I could not help but think, ‘How apt!’