“Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it.” ~ Salvador Dali
I have come to realize that our imagination is masterful at picturing perfection.
Let’s say we imagine a vacation we dream of taking. In our minds, we picture it will be enjoyable and never dull. The weather? Naturally, it will cooperate. The trip will be a memorable adventure and nothing will veer off course. We will return rested and refreshed, feeling lighter and more luminous.
The vacation will be the best thing we could ever hope for. It will be perfect!
We do this when we imagine other things too: a dream job, a potential relationship, a new home… We may consider the possible pitfalls, but more often than not we will dream up this fantastic version of what’s coming.
But picturing perfection can be dangerous. It can put excess or unnecessary pressure on us. This can cause stress and anxiety creating a negative effect on our overall health, wellness and happiness.
Of course there is a difference in striving for perfection. It’s natural to want to do something the best way we possibly can—whether that’s at our jobs or in our relationships. Desiring things to be perfect means we try to stay organized, take care of ourselves, and commit to the people and things we love.
The danger comes when we expect perfection.
If we always set the expectation that things will be perfect, we will be horribly disappointed when they are not. (Spoiler alert: most of the time things won’t be perfect.)
If we keep wishing for things to be better than they are, we may not take the time to also appreciate the present moment or the people in our lives.
If we put pressure on ourselves to always say and do the right thing or to do a perfect job every day, we will feel like failures when even something minor goes wrong.
Here’s the thing. Things will go wrong. In fact, we need them to. That is how we grow. That is how we learn.
If things always went along perfectly, there would be no reason to push ourselves to try something new or to think differently. We would likely stay in the same place—physically and mentally—for our entire lives, avoiding any type of significant change.
It’s hard not to desire perfection. It’s hard because when we look around—on television, on social media, or to the neighbors next door—we think other people’s lives are perfect. We think their relationships are joyous, their kids are cherubs, their jobs are amazing and they have no problems.
We really believe this.
Of course, not all of that can be true and deep down we know that. Yet, we continually compare our lives and set a standard based on our perception of something that simply doesn’t exist.
Comparing our lives to others is one of the unhealthiest habits we can cultivate.
Now I’m not suggesting to throw all effort out the door. I’m not saying to stop trying or to settle for things that are subpar. Not at all. What I am recommending is giving yourself permission not to be perfect all the time or to expect that everyone and everything else will be too.
Setting more realistic expectations—for yourself and others—will be one of the most comforting and life altering shifts that will positively change the way you feel and how you live.
Give yourself permission to know that sometimes we must accept things as they are. Yes, strive for better. Work every day to be the best version of yourself whatever you are doing, but not in a way that feels forced or inauthentic. You don’t want to become a robotic or fake version of you. Eventually you’ll feel depleted, drained, and diminished.
Don’t work so hard towards perfection that you miss all the tiny imperfections that make life unique, memorable and rich with experience.
“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” ~ Leonard Cohen
It’s those imperfections that shape who we are and who we will become. It’s those imperfections that help navigate our journey, pushing us forward in new directions.
Once you let go of perfection and embrace the imperfections, your heart will feel lighter. You’ll find being your most genuine self and living in an honest, realistic way will energize you from your core.
The next time you are hoping for or picturing perfection, remember that though perfect sounds ideal, sometimes a little less than perfect is much better.
What are ways you can focus on a healthier and more realistic vision starting today?
Angie Sarhan received her M.F.A in Creative Non-Fiction from Emerson College. She currently teaches college writing. When she’s not teaching, she enjoys traveling, cooking and writing—especially her inspirational, positivity-packed, sometimes humorous, always lighthearted blog. For more inspiration, you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.