I often talk to people about the pressure for perfection. I experience it every day in the landscape of my own mind. It’s in all of us, we see it all around us. It’s in the stories we are told as children, it’s in the pictures that we see around us, it’s so ingrained in our community that it eventually becomes a powerful voice in the stories we tell ourselves. It becomes deeply entrenched in the narrative of our own minds.
It’s not just the standard ideal of perfection either, it’s not just the 2.5 kids and the designer jeans and the SUV and the house in the suburbs – I see this push for perfection in my clients, in my friends, in my own circles (in myself) and whilst the ideals may be different the weight of the pressure is the same. There are different kinds of ‘perfect’ that so many of us are striving for. There is the perfect hippy, the perfect eco warrior, the perfect academic, the perfect parent, the perfect minimalist, the perfect nature lover, the perfect woman, the perfect teacher/manager/social worker/insert job description here. Each of these ideals are different but there are two main thing that all of these have in common – firstly, that you are not ‘good enough’ the way you are right now, and secondly, the assumption that perfection is achievable in the first place.
It is the whole idea that you aren’t good enough right now exactly the way you are, is what pushes us to lose touch with that glorious moment of life that you are actually living right now but you can’t see because you are so focussed on what you don’t have (or what you did wrong). This push for perfection is killing joy in our every day lives. It’s poisoning us. It was created by marketing companies and fairytales and it does nothing to serve us.
This, of course, isn’t to say that we shouldn’t strive to be better. That’s what growing up and getting older and being a human being is all about, isn’t it? Learning, doing the best with the information we have, striving to learn more, being open and flexible to change and learning to be able to admit when we are wrong and laugh at our mistakes (because we all make them). This process of growth and change and transformation is one of the most beautiful parts of life, it’s not about becoming perfect, it’s a natural course of growth that happens when we are open to the experiences that life has to offer. When we allow ourselves to be put in situations where we could get hurt, where we could make mistakes, where it could all turn horribly pear-shaped… it’s scary… but it also opens us up to the world.
Instead of waiting until we are ‘perfect’ to be happy, or feel complete, or feel like we have achieved something – maybe instead we can just do the thing that makes us most human. maybe we can all just embrace the fact that we are practising in public. We are never finished products, as artists our work is never finished, as parents our job is never done, as friends the landscape is always changing. If we continue to live under the assumption that if a thing is not perfect it doesn’t offer great value to the world then we are setting ourselves up for great failure (and great disappointment).
I’m practising every day. Practising being kinder to myself. Practising being more open minded. Practicing at being more sustainable. Practising being more responsible in my over-consumption of both the planet and my own emotions. I’m a practising parent, a practising gardener, a practising coordinator, a practising manager and a practising advocate to young mothers. I’m a practising activist, a practising writer and photographer, a practising humanist.
I fuck up every single day at all of the above.
And it’s ok.
Most days, I get a little bit better at at least one of the things I’m practising. But some days I completely and utterly fail at at least three of the things on the list, often more… because I’m human.
Practising doesn’t make perfect, but it keeps me right where I want to be – a human being, living in the real world.