I try to have few regrets in life, but a glaring one I have is not going to visit my niece when she lived in Japan. She lived and worked there for years and married a Japanese man but they now live in the U.S. so I’ve somewhat missed my chance. Fingers crossed I can someday travel with them when they go visit his family.
In the meantime, I’ll remain a bit intrigued by Japanese culture and since I’m also a bit OCD, what better culture to be fascinated with then one that is known for being precise, polite, and proper? Take their food for instance.
In Japan, food is immaculately prepared and packaged because it must not only taste good, it must look good. Think of sushi and how stunning each little roll is and how beautiful it is plated when presented right. So perfect must food be in Japan that there is a $90 million industry devoted to replica food and those “good enough to eat” dishes one sees in a market or restaurant are often actually artificial food. Weird, right, but as a tourist faced with menus you can’t read, eating out can be a challenge in Japan. Through the magic of life-like food samples though, ordering can be as easy as pointing to what you want.
As with anything, there is also a downside. Food products with even the smallest defects are often thrown out. But, in a society not big on being wasteful or careless, this is changing. In recent years, “wakeari” products have gained popularity. Wakeari means “there is a reason” in Japanese and these imperfect food items are now being used “for a reason” rather then tossed. Wakeari can also describe someone who is not perfect, which got me thinking, isn’t perfect overrated?
I’m raising my hand because I just got back from the orthodontist as I’m considering Invisalign. I’ve had perfect teeth (seriously and never had braces) my whole life but in recent years they have started to shift, especially my two front teeth. I’ve become very self-conscious of them and find myself not wanting to smile big. I know, great, but did you know one out of four people in orthodontic treatment are adults? Again, great.
So, after two of my closest friends bit the Invisalign bullet, I thought I’d give it look. Each doctor told me doing so is not purely cosmetic because at the rate I’m going, implants are nearly a guarantee at some point. After two consultations I’m still deciding if it’s something I really want to invest in in search of perfect teeth.
Perfection is not easily attained by any stretch of the matter. Tom Brady lost a Super Bowl this year. Jennifer Aniston has relationship woes. Oprah struggles with her weight. The so-called perfect presidential candidate lost. Not only is it hard to be perfect, it’s impossible. No one is perfect. Okay, maybe Mary Poppins but even she’s not real. Try as you may to be the perfect parent, perfect friend, or perfect worker, you will ultimately fail. You can also try to have the perfect body and face, but at what expense, both figuratively and financially? But Carla, what about all those perfect people we see on TV and on social media? Trust me, they are not perfect either. Case in point:
Make-up, glam squads, and cosmetic surgery can do wonders, but when all is said and done it’s all really not the real you or them. Fake lips and boobs? People know it. Tons of make-up? It’s for sure covering tons of flaws. Instead, why can’t we strive to accept our imperfections and know that even though we are imperfect, we are loved?
The Perfect Storm
Perfectionism is described as a combination of excessively high personal standards and overly harsh self-criticism, both of which can lead to psychological difficulties. Perfectionists are often coveted in the workplace, but truth be told, unrealistic expectations of yourself and others may occasionally lead to success, but may also result in high levels of stress, substance abuse, and self-doubt. Perfection and satisfaction rarely go hand-in-hand. Finding the balance is the key. Yes, work hard, have goals, and strive to be the best, just make sure those goals are tangible, realistic, and constructive.
In his “The Case Against Perfection” article in The Atlantic and subsequent book, Harvard’s Michael Sandel examines genetic engineering. His concern is that being able to “control” nature coupled with our incessant urge to improve our lot in life may ultimately lead to trouble. He specifically names issues like steroids in sports and choosing a baby’s sex along with other enhancements he says “diminish our human dignity.” Along these paths, our notions of good and bad change, as does our idea of perfection. We stop celebrating nature and instead want to mess with it.
If you find yourself striving for perfection, you are not alone, especially if you’re in a younger age group. A recent study by the University of Bath and York St John University analyzed data from more than 40,000 British, Canadian and American university students from 1989 to 2017 and found that the obsession with perfection amongst this age group has risen more 30 per cent over the last 30 years. I’m looking at you Millennials. These young adults are also 33 percent more likely to believe their environment is excessively demanding and that others judge them harshly. Of no coincidence is the fact that these are those who have grown up in the social media age so it should come as no surprise that their imposing of unrealistic standards on those around them and evaluating others critically has increased by 16 per cent.
Finding the Perfect Balance
As the fabulous movie “Finding Your Feet” asked, “How do you expect to take control of your life when you’re so obsessed with the lives of others? It’s time to step back and say “Yay me, imperfections and all.”
How about we focus more on what’s inside then what’s outside? We’ve all heard the saying that a pretty face can’t hide an ugly heart so why don’t we believe that? How about we strive for progress not perfection? Scruples not scalpels and principles not pretty? News flash: perfect people aren’t real and real people aren’t perfect.
I know, it’s hard though. But think about it, how many of your friends and family do you really and truly consider “perfect?” Probably not a whole lot but my guess is you love them just the same. And you admire and respect them. That perhaps is the key: respect. We all need to do a better job of respecting ourselves while accepting ourselves because once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you. Not bullies, not social media sites, not anyone.
Do you have a specific talent or gift that gives you joy and that you enjoy sharing with others? Those are the things that, even though you might not do perfectly, make you perfectly awesome and imperfectly amazing. You can also step back and take a look at your life. What is it made up of that you hoped and prayed for previously? When and what is enough enough and what are you really looking for? If it’s perfection, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
I know of what I write. My name is Carla and I’m a perfectionist. I want to be the perfect writer and want the perfect teeth again. I also want the perfect house and to be the perfect wife and mother. I’m open to you helping me load the dishwasher but odds are I’ll rearrange the entire thing before pressing that “start” button. At the same time, I’m accepting. I accept that my life isn’t perfect but it’s blessed. I also accept that I’ll never be a size 2 but am currently in the process of losing weight and I love my yoga class. As with possible teeth straightening, I do this all for me and not to be perfect, but to feel good, to feel healthier, and to feel better. I’m well aware that I am far from perfect and that none of what I do will make me perfect, but they will improve me in all the right ways while making me healthy, balanced, flexible, confident, and centered. As long as I’m not an old lady who is stiff, can’t physically do things, and have dentures, I’ll be happy and satisfied. I might even say, “that’s perfect!”
So let’s all step back and evaluate our expectations and realize that even though we are all flawed…and I mean we’re all flawed…we are still beautiful and worthy. Perfect, right?