I spent my 20s chasing perfection, believing such a thing actually existed, never stopping to ask myself if what I sought was even possible or desirable, heading instead toward my idea of what someone else might deem ideal. I thought a perfect body, perfect relationship, perfect friendships, perfect diet, perfect wardrobe, perfect home, perfect grades would add up to happiness somehow.
I’ve learned a few things since then—namely, perfection doesn’t exist. And even if it did, it would not equate to happiness.
Also: Imperfection keeps things interesting.
When I celebrated my 30th birthday last August, I quietly mourned the end of my 20s and what I thought was my youth—as well as my best years. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
30 has been an amazing (and challenging and heartbreaking and transformative and paradigm-shifting) year for me. It’s been the year I finally abandoned my pursuit of perfection to embrace what’s already here, to learn how to love myself in spite of—and in some cases because of—my supposed faults and shortcomings.
This process has been really effing difficult.
And immensely liberating.
The myth of perfection holds us back from becoming who we’re meant to be—who we are already—and prevents us from taking certain risks or putting ourselves out there to offer our gifts to the world. It encourages us to intentionally stay small for fear we’ll fail or fall short by not being perfect.
When we do this, everyone loses.
I want to bust the perfection myth wide open, discredit it, crowd it out with the beauty and awesomeness (and sometimes hilarity) of imperfection.
The field of alternative medicine oftentimes perpetuates this myth, presenting a falsely flawless picture of what life is like for those of us who make our living in the world of acupuncture, yoga, herbal medicine, naturopathy, etc. It’s easy to assume that we’re all living ideal little lives with perfectly clean diets, never missing a day of exercise or meditation, immune to pessimism and anger, never overindulging on wine or chocolate or negativity, carrying on in a state of perpetual zen-like contentment.
I’m here to tell you this isn’t the case.
Not for me, at least.
Am I striving to feel more grounded and centered on a consistent basis? Of course. Do I endeavor to eat a mostly healthy diet of whole foods, keeping refined sugars and grains and alcohol and processed foods to a minimum? Absolutely. And do I exercise and meditate and actively cultivate positivity as often as I can? Definitely.
Do I always do all of these things perfectly? NO.
Sometimes I eat cupcakes, which are sometimes packed with gluten. (Gasp!) Sometimes I forgo yoga to drink wine with a friend, or skip a run to take a nap or watch an episode of bad TV. Sometimes I get frustrated or irrationally emotional or angry or SAD for no discernible reason. Sometimes I stay up too late dancing and drinking whiskey to blow off some steam. Sometimes I get lonely. Sometimes I cry. And sometimes anxiety gets the best of me.
I am not perfect, but I’m working towards better. Which is really all any of us can do in this life.
In a world filled with Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and countless other online networks of social interaction, it is easy to convince yourself that everyone else has achieved perfection—or, at the very least, that they’re all significantly farther along on that journey than you. Our lives look super shiny and pretty on the FB most of the time, filled with our best hair days and our most exciting adventures and our happiest moments and our biggest accomplishments.
But that’s just one (very tiny) piece of an otherwise gigantic—and intricate—puzzle.
My overall point is this: Perfection does not exist. So cut yourself some slack and realize how ridiculously awesome you are already.
Should you eat well and exercise (both body and mind) regularly and be mostly optimistic and practice gratitude and read and grow and make a positive impact on the world around you? Definitely.
But also relax and play and celebrate and laugh uncontrollably and cry uncontrollably and get angry and eat cupcakes and feel lonely and skip yoga to drink wine or lay in the park with a good (or so bad it’s good) book once in a while.
And don’t berate yourself for being imperfect. Imperfections make you amazing and unique and fascinating and freaking adorable. Your flaws are endearing and beautiful and so very, very HUMAN.
Part of me believes the perfection myth developed out of a silly little spelling error. I offer the following photograph of my very own beloved Sammy Poptart as evidence of said error:
See. Purrfection is real. Perfection is not.