Striving for perfection

Humans strive for perfection in so many ways; we want the perfect house, body, partner. A mental picture of how something should or could be gives us something to work towards. Yet we all know that perfection is impossible.

The word ‘perfect’ comes from Latin roots, meaning ‘completed’ or ‘finished’ (like the perfect tense). Perfection is impossible for the simple reason that life involves constant change.

A stunning sunset or a blooming lily can be perfect for a moment, but their very impermanence is part of their beauty. A talented photographer or artist might capture that beauty but it does not make them the perfect artist or photographer; their career keeps evolving.

Conscious or not, we usually have a mental picture of our ideal self and life. We work towards these, often without taking into account two important factors:

First, life is not finished until we die. Once we have created our ideal home, found our perfect job, reached our goal weight, life will soon feel meaningless and unsatisfactory unless we find something else to strive towards.

Second, our mental picture of perfection is not the only one possible. The world is filled with people aiming to be the perfect Christian, atheist, scientist, mystic, artist, investor, wise person, adventurer, fun-lover, athlete, laid-back person. Some people’s idea of perfection is the exact opposite of our own.

What this means for me is that I cannot judge myself or others for not having achieved a particular thing. Instead of setting a specific external goal and striving to achieve it, I am challenging myself to experience as many ways of being as possible. To understand different points of view and why people don’t understand each other. To try to broaden my own and other’s tolerance and peacefulness. And of course, to accept my own imperfections because, like everyone else, I am only doing my best.

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