I think I’d describe myself as a recovering perfectionist, as for as long as I can remember I wanted to be perfect.
I’d read articles as a teenager about what celebrities like Jennifer Aniston ate and drank to try and copy what they did and become perfect. Obviously Jen was my icon as I watched Friends on repeat for years.
Similarly at school I didn’t think B’s were good enough when I could get A’s and then at GCSE I didn’t think A’s were good enough when I could get A*s.
I didn’t want to be almost perfect, I wanted to be perfect. The main problem was that I genuinely believed perfection existed and that I was falling short by not achieving it.
In my view, the version of perfection that society fixates on is an outward thing, it’s achieving something to be like someone, look like someone or to be the best amongst other people.
What I’ve come to realise is that perfection doesn’t exist (obviously) but that we all have and aspire to a vision for our ideal self.
It’s not perfection but its an ideal version of ourselves where we’ve accomplished what we’re hoping to achieve, we’re living by our values and living a life that we think is pretty great, which makes us feel pretty great about ourselves.
It leans into the ‘when I’m’ mentally. When I’m slim I’ll be happy or When I’m in a relationship I’ll feel more secure or When I’m being paid to do what I love I’ll feel successful. This mentally suggest there is an end point to this pursuit or goal of perfection, when really the bar keeps rising as a result and you still feel unfulfilled. It’s never achievable.
The likelihood is that even if you achieve those goals and achieve the idea of perfection, you won’t achieve the feeling you were aiming for as a result.
In fact you could probably achieve that feeling now of happiness, security, confidence, pride – whatever it may be – in your reality in this moment. As the outward idea of society’s version of perfection does not equal inner peace, confidence or your ideal you, kind of perfection.
Now (funnily enough) I’m attracted to imperfection.
I’m a story-teller (no shock there) and the best part of every story is overcoming the struggle right? It’s having a hardship or an unexpected turn and being able to get through it. Character is attractive, not perfection. It makes you brighter and inspirational, but the whole point of the journey was that it was born out of imperfection or let’s be honest, your humanity.
I love behind the scenes access into actors lives whether that’s on social media or press tours or outtakes from their latest film. In some ways it’s more interesting than their work, which can seem pretty perfect if they absolutely nail a role or line.
But again, I’m not perfect and I am a recovering perfectionist, or simply a human. I slip up still after twenty-three years of learning and figuring this out. A glance at myself in the mirror or at a photograph and can lead me to spiral into a line of negative self talk about my appearance because I perceive myself to be imperfect compared to society’s outward idea of perfection.
Yet another issue is that society’s view of perfection changes throughout time. The perfect female body and women’s life has been warped and woven into something new every decade.
My battle with society’s idea of perfection occurs on quite a surface level in the grand scheme of things. Yes, I was a slightly curvier woman trying to lose her hips and lean out, but equally society’s idea of perfection for decades has been white, abled body women and men. That additional conflict is something that I haven’t been subjected to due to my white privilege and having an able body. I will never fully understand how complicated that is, because I’m a white woman with an able body.
I’m glad that especially on Instagram – and in some brand’s marketing now – that models are diverse, that female CEO’s exist and are diverse. I want to see rolls, curves, hips, short models, tall models, models in wheelchairs, bodies and minds of all kinds doing amazing things.
Do I still think Jennifer Aniston is an absolute goddess? Of course.
I think that about 80% of people in Hollywood are absolutely stunning. But I view them as people, so perfect versions of their imperfect selves.
I now know and believe that those brief moments of celebrities looking perfect that I’d aspire to as a teenager were due to a team of make-up artists, chefs, trainers, designers that got them ready for that photoshoot or awards ceremony.
Jennifer even addressed this herself when she joined Instagram. So next time you’re feeling imperfect or comparing yourself to society’s idea of perfection, reflect on what it is you actually want to achieve. Is it a certain feeling, is it something that you feel pressured to be but have no interest in being?
I aspired to get straight A*s at GCSE and I didn’t achieve that. Does it bother me? God no, I haven’t thought about it. It doesn’t reflect who I am or what I’m capable of and I don’t think I even wanted it for myself, it was just an ideal that was pushed onto me.
Doing your best, and being the best version of your imperfect self is perfect.
Are you a recovering perfectionist?
Need some self-help books to kickstart this process? Find my recommendations here.