there is advice on how to achieve perfection. Advertisements insist that they can give us the perfect skin or the perfect body. Self-help books and blogs claim that they have the secret for helping us achieve a perfect marriage or land the perfect job. Perfection appears to be easily obtained until we turn on the news or open our web browser. Immediately, we are bombarded by stories about earthquakes and forest fires. We see emails begging us to help feed the hungry or donate to charities that help sick children. The front pages of newspapers and magazines are covered in stories of murder and war. We are forcibly reminded that our world is far from perfect.
Reconciling the seemingly endless recipes for perfection with the blatant imperfection of the world around us is as difficult as it is exhausting. So, what is the best way to find perfection in an imperfect world? Stop looking for it. Despite what all the beauty-bloggers and relationship guides say, perfection does not exist in this world. Everything, and everyone, is imperfect.
Recognizing that true perfection does not exist on earth enables us to stop seeing our lives as lacking. When we believe that we can achieve the perfect marriage, land the perfect job or diet our way to the perfect body, we are uncomfortably aware of how far away we are from perfection. Instead of being thankful for our healthy body, we focus on how our skin is more wrinkled than the skin of the woman in the magazine. Instead of enjoying our happy marriage, we remember how irritating it is when our husband forgets to take out the trash. All we can see is what is “wrong” with our lives. Once we accept that perfection in unreachable our stress levels decrease considerably. We no longer look in the mirror and long for the perfect skin we saw in a magazine. We stop wondering why our marriage is not perfect. We stop wasting our time and energy chasing after an impossible ideal. We stop being disappointed when we fail to reach perfection. We stop stressing over how far we are from our perfect job or how long it will take for us to achieve our perfect appearance.
When we let go of our belief in worldly perfection, we are able to change our outlook on life from a mindset of scarcity to a mindset of success. Rather than worrying about what is “wrong” with our lives we refocus on what is right. We remember how happy we are in our marriage or how lucky we are to be healthy. Since we are no longer plagued by the sense that we can always “do better,” we become more grateful for the good things in our lives. We are more patient with our families and gentler with ourselves. We stop getting aggravated when our children aren’t perfect and leave negative self-talk behind.
Letting go of our belief in perfection also allows us to be more forgiving. We stop expecting people to have perfect manners or be perfectly kind. We remember that our children are not perfect and so find more patience to deal with teenage moodiness or the tantrums of the terrible twos. We are less frustrated at the friend who forgot to mention he was not coming to dinner because we bear in mind that everyone makes mistakes. We also become more forgiving of ourselves. We stop beating ourselves up when we forget to call our sister back and don’t spend all day kicking ourselves for eating that donut in the morning. We understand that we aren’t perfect. We stop panicking about our imperfections because we remember that no one else is perfect either.
Despite how much the acceptance of imperfection eases our minds, leaving the ideal of earthly perfection behind isn’t easy especially when we are confronted with the illusion of it at every turn. Airbrushed photos in magazines and carefully coiffed models on TV trick our eyes into believing we are seeing an actress who has perfect hair or a model who has perfect teeth. Photoshop is not just used by professional photographers anymore, either. Image editing software is readily available to the general public and is used in everything from wedding photos to Facebook posts. Most smartphones have basic photo altering capabilities and some social media apps such as SnapChat and Instagram come with the ability to edit pictures before they are posted.
“Perfect” pictures are not the only illusions of perfection that appear on social media with regularity. Every day, thousands of people post about the best parts of their lives and leave out the daily irritations. Proud parents post beatific pictures of their babies but leave the long sleepless nights unmentioned. Teenagers tweet about how their friend is prom queen but leave out the fact that she was teased about her date. Everything is cast in the best light possible and every story told through the most flattering lens available. To an outsider, that person’s life looks perfect. It makes us want to have a life just as perfect, but we have to remind ourselves that nothing is perfect in this world.
If we continue to chase perfection, we will always fall short. When we accept the inherent imperfections of this world, we begin to find the beauty in that imperfection. We remember that it is our imperfections that give us character and make us unique. We remember how boring the world would be if everyone were perfect and thus exactly the same. We remember that imperfections give us opportunity to grow. If we were perfect to start with, there would be no way for us to improve. We would never change. We would be frozen in time and static. It is our imperfections that enable us to mature. It is our imperfections that enable us to come together and form relationships. If every puzzle piece were a perfect square, the puzzle would always fall apart. The same is true for people. We are bound together by the little ways we are imperfect.
Stephanie Hertzenberg is a writer and editor at Beliefnet. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary where she majored in Religious Studies and minored in Creative Writing. She maintains an avid interest in health, history and science.