I’ll admit to struggling with this, but man, this is a powerful realization: imperfection is better than perfection.
Maybe it’s our upbringing, looking up to a perfect god or the ideal man of politics or business or some fancy celebrity. Maybe it’s the self-help explosion of the last century or so. Maybe it’s always been there, but idealizing the self is both simultaneously one of the key driving forces of humanity and one of its worst progenitors of personality disorders and psychological trauma.
Let me explain and before we start, I am no guru. I am, like all of us, imperfect. I do not have answers, just some evaluations based on experience and some logic. If you feel you can become a “perfect” person, or that some other person in your life or throughout history has been that person (i.e., the Buddha or Jesus), I’m sure you have your reasons. I wish you the best.
For the record, it is good to have some sense where you want to go. It’s cool to kick back and relax as well, though I suspect that’s better in short durations than long. Letting life take you where it will without your input isn’t usually a lasting strategy for success, fulfillment or happiness. I’m not saying you need to be an A-type, hyper-focused workaholic who meticulously controls every aspect of their life (which also has its downsides in not being able to enjoy a whim or embrace a moment of joy while it’s happening, because it wasn’t planned).
I am saying the only way to improve is to be conscious of what’s happening around us and guide it however we feel will bring the maximum state of bliss. Sometimes, that means letting go and just enjoying the moment. It might mean dropping all your obligations and going to live in the woods on homegrown food, weed and a steady diet of casual lovers.
It might mean buckling down hard for a decade to launch that thing you’ve been dreaming about or sculpting the world you’ve been dreaming of your whole life.
The focus on perfection is like having an extremely obscure, impossible to find, favourite dish and insisting that only that dish can sustain you. You had it once as a kid and you don’t remember where or how it was made exactly, but you’ll know it when you see it, you’re pretty sure. Other people start giving input and you’re all, “no, that’s not it”, but after a while, it’s “yeah, maybe” and then things get a little muddled and suddenly, your perfect dish isn’t looking like the perfect dish you really wanted, but someone else’s approximation.
Still, you search the whole world over, passing up opportunities for sustenance over and over again, because only this one very specific thing can satisfy that urge and allow you to rest.
Two problems with that scenario: first, you’re likely to starve to death before you ever find it, if you can even remember what it was. Secondly, assuming you do find it, the actual thing you were looking for originally, what happens once you’ve eaten it and it’s gone?
Perfection can occur in a fleeting moment. Even if you figure out the recipe and how to create it on repeat, it’s like any other repetitive pleasure. It soon become rote. Its availability causes it to become commonplace and boring. You start to take it for granted.
Only you’re locked in: this is your perfection. Soon, I imagine, you’ll begin to resent having the same meal over and over again. You’ll learn to hate the stagnation of your perfection.
Imperfection is like looking for your perfect dish, but understanding you still have to eat along the way. You try a few things, here and there, and soon, you’ve found a few other things you like maybe almost as much as the perfect dish (or even more perhaps).
By the time you find it, you can have it, but you’re not starving. You’re content because you’ve been able to sample all this other stuff, and your experience is much expanded. You may even find your perfect dish is no longer your perfection, but that’s okay, because it’s still pretty good.
And there’s lots of good dishes. No regret. No resentment. Just expansion.
Insisting only one way can satisfy us blinds us to the possibilities of life. Like the guy or girl who will only be with someone who meets 100% of their criteria, you’re betting on slim chance to save you from your abject loneliness.
What if, on the way to finding Mr. or Mrs. 100%, you had some fun with a few 90%ers or 70%ers or even a few 50%ers for a fling?
That doesn’t preclude finding the right one. Plus, people change, they grow, they learn from one another. Yesterday’s 80%er might be tomorrow’s 95%er if you can open up about what you want.
Imperfection gives us somewhere to go. It opens up the whole experience by letting us be more open to suggestion and growth and experience. Perfection is far too demanding and almost impossible to attain. If a state of happiness is dependent on that, or if the value of our self-worth were based solely on where we were in relation to perfection, I imagine most of us are somewhere around “hand me the Valium”.
If self-worth and happiness are subject to understanding that we are where we are and we’re embracing that imperfection and using it to get better or more experienced, then the equation is much simpler. We don’t have to worry about where we are in relation to some artificial limit, but just where we are and how do we improve that.
Perfection is a limit.
Eternal imperfection is limitless. The only sin is stagnation.
And perfection is stagnation of the highest order.