Seeking Perfection Leads to Imperfection

Perfection simply means this – “I cannot have any faults”. And why? Usually, because of our self-image. We do not want to be seen as faulty people. The key here is that we do not want to be seen by others.

Usually all self-images are paradoxically – other oriented. We want a good self-image so that we stand out among our peer group. And so we embark on a long, arduous voyage to better our self-image. We acquire good careers, money, fame, social media posts, go on exotic holidays and so on. Not because we are truly fascinated by any of these, but rather because we seem to grow in the eyes of others when we acquire this. Wanting a perfect image, makes us seek perfection at all costs. This entails a constant struggle to arrange life according to the way we see fit. Unfortunately, this is setting up a recipe for disaster. Though this, we are condemned to a life of dissatisfaction.

When we want to be seen as perfect people, imperfections are not tolerated. This means all those subtle feelings within us – self doubt, helplessness, loneliness and so on, do not have a place in our lives. These feelings must be fought and banished at all cost. Such expectations, creates a schism between what we feel right now and how we should feel. The need to be perfect causes us to reject our feelings and therefore ourselves. The more we run away from accepting these not-so-nice feelings, the more they build up within us. It gets to a point where we find ourselves angry, irritated for no reason at all. Small things trigger us. We feel tired, lost, rudderless and without a sense of home and inner tranquility. We may be very efficient at work. Others may praise us. And yet, all that feels empty. We feel we are an imposter in the King’s clothes. We come home at the end of the day and we feel vacuous. Empty. We are lost.

We need to drop the need to make ourselves perfect, and to be seen as perfect people. We must rather embark on the journey of acceptance. Acceptance, which starts with understanding that as a human we feel the entire palette of emotions – good, bad, ugly and the unmentionable. In fact, we did not choose these emotions. They are, quite simply – just there. And they ebb and flow with time. And when a dark cloud comes, there is not much you can do other than let the thunderstorm pass. We slowly begin to bring loving acceptance to these feelings. Then, we stop projecting a false image of ourselves on the world. We are as we are – naked and yet whole. When we do this, we begin to see other people as they are. And realize that all of humanity is one imperfect species – learning as we go along – never quite sure what is right and what is wrong. The false veneer of perfection gradually falls away.

And then, true learning begins. True discovery begins. We are no longer defending any self image. And we begin on the path of excellence. We learn about ourselves. We pick a vocation of our choice and embark on it with a child-like attitude of curiosity. Over time, true mastery of the vocation comes about as inner excellence and not as outer perfection. This is the only possibility of finding meaning and some joy in this otherwise frail and confusing life.

A red moon rises over downtown Denver in the background. 2022.

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