When I was 12, I read the book The Giver by Lois Lowry. A sort of Brave New World for the tween set, it is about a confined society in which everything is Just So all the time. A society that has been converted to sameness – a plan that has eradicated pain and strife. Everyone is identical. No one feels, no one judges, no one is flawed. No experience, no emotion, no hunger for life.
Perfection? It’s a hoax.The allure of being perfect is the greatest con, the greatest scheme ever devised. Forget about the Photoshop, the glossy pages, the television even. Perfection is a stagnant ideal and a consummation of all we find unsatisfactory. It’s an artifice to fool ourselves into believing that there is an excuse or that we’re failing. They are perfect, that is perfection is internalized and morphs into I am not perfect. This is not perfection.
Perfection is a pile of you-know-what from both ends of the spectrum, no matter how you look at it. We live in a world where the sweetest apples are discarded for a touch of brown, where we inject plastic into the lines we’ve earned from reading novels late into the night, where we over-sterilize and under-appreciate.
Then there are the others; those people who seem to be constantly extolled for their beauty, their wisdom, their achievements. Their existence is idolized, their lives an exercise in perfection maintenance. And that…that is a huge burden to carry. It’s immense, unreasonable pressure to stay at a certain age, look, job and caliber indefinitely. Because what if we don’t? What happens when we falter – or maybe just aren’t astonishingly mind-blowing every single second? Will we still be loved?
The word “perfect” has haunted me my entire life. When I was in middle school, I would be called perfect as a taunt. I did not have braces, I liked to color-coordinate, I got good grades. My awkward stage was pretty non-existent. Sounds great, huh? Yeah. Not really. Being teased about being “perfect” gave me a complex and a pressure unlike anything I’d ever known. I felt detached and alone. I felt I could not be myself; God forbid I spoke out of turn or mismatched a sock. There was an immense discomfort in knowing I was looked at as someone who had everything together. Who was “perfect”.
And then the taunts turned into praise and I just didn’t know what to do with it. Some would have rebelled. But no – I didn’t want to rebel. I just wanted to relate. So I downplayed my assets and kept them locked away. At the root of it, I feared loss. I wanted to guarantee love, and wanted to be normal. Please let me be normal, I’d silently beg. Do not love me for my light, because it sometimes gets dark in here and I can’t bear the loss when you realize that.
Perfection is conditional love. It’s an invisible benchmark and a thick glass ceiling. It’s the expectation and the idealization of the absolutely monotonous. It’s a lonely one-dimensioned load of… you can fill in the blank.
I am wary of perfection. The ones who make it their life’s mission to be perfect, I’m onto them. There is something deeper there, there is something hiding and some voice inside that once told them that the only way to be is to be flawless.
But you know who I do find fascinating? Smart people. Quick people. Funny – no, hilarious – people. The people who are absolutely flawless in their quirks and nuances and extremes, who aren’t afraid to mismatch their socks or disagree with the world. These beautiful souls, who are extremely and unquestionably themselves? Those are the people I love, and the people we are all ultimately drawn to in the long run. Not the ones who homogenize their lives to be Just So. Because let’s get real: this is not sameness. This is life. In all its extremities and nuances.
Be on purpose. Be extreme! Whatever you are and whoever you are, be extremely you. At the end of the day, what else is there left? Find those tiny details and idiosyncrasies, and use them to support and enhance the extreme you-ness of YOU. It isn’t about the jarring highs or lows of “perfection.” It is about being unquestionably yourself. Forget about the hoax, forget about utopia. There is no better person to be, no better place to live, than Oh-So-On-Purpose.