What is perfection?
By Ava Green, Assistant Features Editor
There is an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry wakes up in the middle of the night, writes down a joke and then falls right back asleep. He spends the next day trying to read his own handwriting and figure out what his joke said. Something very similar happened to me recently. I have a section in my Notes app where I write down things that I do not want to forget. I never jot down anything super serious, though. For example, my favorite entries are “photoshop bear with human teeth” and “loud ASMR that keeps you awake.” Half of the time, I forget what I write in there, so I really surprised myself when I opened my notes and saw that I wrote, “When you reject the idea of perfection, you are accepting a lack of imperfection.” I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I wrote this. It wasn’t until I came back to campus after break that I understood why I needed to remember this quote.
For some reason, I had an extremely difficult transition out of winter break and into the new semester. I won’t bore you all with the details, but let’s just say that homesickness is very real and I am very guilty of comparing myself to others. It can be really hard to see other people thriving and having fun while you’re crying over how much you miss your mom. It’s quite the contrast! How could you blame me for doing that, though? In an age of social media, it's normal for people to only post the best parts of their lives — you pick the most flattering pictures and the most memorable moments, and that’s what you show the world. Feelings of inferiority stem from these unrealistic, perfect posts; again, I am guilty of this. It is extremely difficult to train your mind to remember that — in the words of the “Wizards of Waverly Place” theme song — “everything is not as it seems.” No person has it all figured out. No person is perfect.
After a few days of letting myself wallow in the longing to drop all of my responsibilities and go back home, I decided to make a few changes in my personal life. I knew that the changes had to start with my mindset. The idea of perfection, or a lack thereof, has been following me around for a while. I have “progress not perfection” written on my whiteboard, a quote that I stole from my favorite at-home workout video. That thought has kept me going for some time now: the best that you can do will never be perfect, but it will always be more than enough. I still feel envious of people who I think are better off than I am, but I remind myself constantly that even baby steps are steps. That idea not only keeps me motivated, but is a baby step in itself — a step towards the mindset that if you strive for perfection, you will exhaust yourself trying to get to a place that does not exist.
Today in my philosophy class, my professor brought up the idea of “perfection.” Once he said the word, I decided it was no longer a coincidence that this thought has been popping up all around me. He said that there is always a flaw, and that “‘perfection’ is not found in this world.” I thought about all of the people that I put on a pedestal and wished I could be like when my eerily vague entry into my notes app clicked in my head. If you decide that there is no way to ever be perfect, then you can let go of all the things that make you imperfect. The idea of imperfection is based on the idea of perfection; so if perfection does not exist, then your imperfections do not either. Instead, we come to accept that we are all flawed, which I think has less negative implications than the word “imperfect.” Without perfection, our flaws do not make us imperfect: they just make us normal.
After my professor's brief but impactful bit about perfection, I got a text asking me if I knew what I wanted to write about this week. Obviously, I didn't answer right away since I was in class, but I knew instantly that I wanted to get my thoughts out about being perfect. My brain could not contain the developments I was making in my personal life about letting go of the feelings of comparison. My hope and purpose here is not just to ramble about my own discoveries and feelings: I truly hope that this reaches the right person. Even if one person can make sense of my nonsensical ideas and long-winded storytelling to find meaning or inspiration in my words, then I will feel accomplished — in my own perfectly imperfect way.