Image by Debbie Digioia
Perfect — what a seductive word it is. And what a lie it represents. And what pain it causes. I wish I had a dollar for every time a client says, “Well, my eating isn’t perfect, but…” or “It’s not a perfect relationship, but…” Tell me, why must anything be perfect? Why would we expect it to be? Is it really possible that it could be, or is perfection, most of the time, for most of us, made of hope and wishes? Consider what you your life would be like if you’d never heard the word or the concept. A lot better, I’d wager.
I was asking a client how her relatively new relationship was going with her boyfriend and she said, “It’s not perfect, but we’re doing okay.” If she hadn’t looked a bit chagrined, I might have let the comment pass, because she was acknowledging that things were going fine enough. It was that look of disappointment on her face, a kind of apology born of regret, that got to me. And I realized that she was actually measuring her flesh and blood relationship with another human being against some ideal she had. Saying her situation wasn’t perfect seemed like an admission of fault or defect.
If we measure every aspect of our lives against some perfect ideal, we’ll be pretty bummed out nearly all the time. Considering that humans are imperfect beings, how can we expect anything that we’re involved in — baking a cake, parenting a child, giving a speech, taking a vacation — to be 100%? Whenever humans are involved, we need to toss out the concept of flawless and get real. And real means flaws, faults, and defects. Real means good enough, compromise and the best we can do at any given time.
If you dump Dennis because he doesn’t pick up after himself, you might end up with Larry who can’t pass up a TV football game or Fred who has some funky bathroom habits. If your friend Jenny non-chalantly passes up desserts when you could eat yours and hers without batting an eyelash and you view her as a perfect eater, you may be ignoring the fact that she hardly ever eats vegetables and has had a thing going with diet soda for decades.
Bulletin: There is no perfect eater out there, no perfect husband or wife, mother or father, teacher or politician, spiritual leader or child. If you’re expecting perfection, you will always be disappointed. Better to compare yourself to other flawed beings and, better yet, to shoot for doing better than you did before. That’s as good as it’s going to get, folks. Forget perfect. Everything in life has its pros and cons: neighbors, living quarters, climates, universities, jobs, appliances, best friends, restaurants, body types, pets, political systems, and lifestyles. If you’d only stop measuring everything against perfection, you might find that things in your life are actually going quite well and that you’re doing far better than you thought you were.