Perfection vs. Reality

Perfect. According to the first entry at dictionary.com, there are 15 definitions of the word “perfect” used as an adjective. (Doesn’t that just scream imperfection?) Here are a few:

  • conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type: a perfect sphere; a perfect gentleman.
  • excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement: There is no perfect legal code. The proportions of this temple are almost perfect.
  • entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings: a perfect apple; the perfect crime.
  • accurate, exact, or correct in every detail: a perfect copy.

Society today puts such pressure on us to live life without mistakes, and to fill certain molds. For example, many view today’s models as being “perfectly” proportioned, while for the majority of us, we will never, ever attain even close to that image. Perfection, or near-perfection, is also expected in the workplace. As competitive as the job market is today, pressure to maintain a perfect performance is insurmountable. Perfection is expected in many households as their children move through the school ranks. (Doesn’t every other car have a “my child was on the honor roll” bumper sticker?)

There needs to be a balance between “trying” and “perfection.” I’ve been told to remove the word “try” from my vocabulary, as it includes a built in excuse for failure. In my opinion, trying is good enough – as long as it is giving your full effort to whatever it is you are doing… working your hardest and striving to achieve the best possible outcome or product. What’s so wrong with that?  It’s so contradictory to the pat phrase: “You did your best and that’s all anyone can ask.”

Accuracy and perfection are two vastly different things. It’s one thing to be accurate, for example in telling a story, and another to be perfect. Who decides what is perfect? The story teller? If that’s the case, there’s always a way to improve. The listener? As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So perfect to one is imperfect to another. 

Practice makes perfect. No, actually, it doesn’t. Practice doesn’t guarantee anything except that you’ve worked at whatever it is you are doing. Hopefully practice does bring improvement. (Ever heard the “definition” of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.) I am practicing writing, but it doesn’t make me perfect. It may make me better, but I don’t think anyone’s writing is ever really perfect to all people.

Some may argue that if we don’t aspire to perfection, we will not achieve to our fullest potential. I argue: Why strive for the impossible, only to be guaranteed to fail?

Don’t get me wrong. Failure is perfectly acceptable, provided we learn from our mistakes. Already in the life of this young blog there are a few posts I would like to go back and edit. I’m not saying it’s necessarily a failure on my part, though I did fail to be perfect. However, it’s really not a failure if I didn’t WANT to be perfect in the first place, now is it?

Mistakes make us real. Guess that means I’m really real.

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