You Don’t Have to Be Perfect

a blue wall with a crack in it
Image by geir tønnessen / CC BY

“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.”

-Sam Keen

*

“So this is going to sound a little weird, Page,” he said.

“Perfect,” I said.

“I love it when there’s something wrong with the girls I date, with how they look.”

“By something wrong you mean…?”

“Some kind of imperfection,” he said. “A scar… a mole… stretch marks…  this one girl had uneven ears.”

“Interesting.”

“I’ll meet a girl, and it’s not until I find that one thing, that curiosity, that feature, that I really get into them, you know.”

I remembered suddenly that he had told me once he found me attractive. “And what about me? What would my flaw be?”

He smiled. “What’s the fun in telling you that?”

*

I used to obsess about being perfect. Every mistake I’d make would cause me agony. My shortcomings haunted me. If I weren’t perfect, I ran the risk of getting replaced. I was obsessed with it, even when monogamous. They could stumble onto this magical upgrade while committed to me. Me 2.0, the stable release. At that point, they’d face a dilemma. Suffer chained to me, sacrificing what they really wanted in nobly staying faithful. Or they’d act on it — cheating or up and leaving. I wasn’t sure which was worse.

As a polyamorous person, I’d think of it when my lovers would go on dates. They’d meet someone perfect, and I’d be a thing of the past, one of those vacuum tube monstrosities that takes up an entire building.

It was a terrible mental place to live in. I was at constant war with my flaws.

Slowly, surely, I crept towards truce.

I started giving myself permission to be just okay at things.

As Richard Carlson writes:

I’ve yet to meet an absolute perfectionist whose life was filled with inner peace. The need for perfection and the desire for inner tranquility conflict with each other. Whenever we are attached to having something a certain way, better than it already is, we are, almost by definition, engaged in a losing battle. Rather than being content and grateful for what we have, we are focused on what’s wrong with something and our need to fix it. When we are zeroed in on what’s wrong, it implies that we are dissatisfied, discontent.

Whether it’s related to ourselves – a disorganized closet, a scratch on the car, an imperfect accomplishment, a few pounds we would like to lose – or someone else’s ‘imperfections’ – the way someone looks, behaves, or lives their life – the very act on focusing on imperfection pulls us away from our goal of being kind and gentle. This strategy has nothing to do with ceasing to do your very best but with being overly attached and focused on what’s wrong with life. It’s about realizing that while there’s always a better way to do something, this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy and appreciate the way things already are.

The solution here is to catch yourself when you fall into the habit of insisting that things should be other than they are. Gently remind yourself that life is okay the way it is, right now. In the absence of your judgment, everything would be fine. As you begin to eliminate your need for perfection in all areas of your life, you’ll begin to discover the perfection in life itself.

perfect

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I will be a perfect whatever I am. I will be me.

 

 

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