Do you remember the first time you heard the word ‘perfection’? Growing up, it felt like a word that my parents would use to put my siblings and me down or encourage us to compete with each other. I can remember my mother telling us at different times, “Why can’t you cook rice as perfect as your brother does, or why can’t you get perfect grades on your math exams?” Of course, this is when I learned the skill of rolling my eyes as soon as my mother would turn her back and my brother would laugh out loud. She always knew that I had done something but couldn’t prove it because when she glanced back at me, I would be sitting perfectly still looking like an angel.
Throughout my years of adolescence, it was assumed that the term perfection was a negative term meaning that I would never be good enough if I didn’t obtain the idea of being perfect at everything. Those are the times that I had to learn how to sit, walk, eat, which fork to use, and dance perfectly to gain the acceptance and approval of others. Little did I know, at the time, that many groups of people would never approve of me, simply because of the color of my skin. My parents drilled into our heads, day, and night, that each of us had to work thrice as hard to be accepted or as good as someone who barely passed their exams in school. At the time I didn’t understand any of it and believed that everyone was equal and the same. What a rude awakening when I discovered the truth.
When talking to people from all over the world about perfection, the stories are all very similar. No matter how hard you may strive to be perfect or to try to fit into a new society or community, there is a strong possibility that you will never be accepted by everyone. Friends that grew up in other cultures or countries struggled to lose their beautiful, native accent, they changed their style, moved to better neighborhoods, and even drove upscale automobiles to show their perfection. The hardest lesson in life was learning that no matter how perfect we can be, we may never be fully accepted. Often without warning, we may become the competition.
As I matured and began my career in the field of Advertising, it became apparent to me that the goal of most advertising was designed to remind all of us of what we need to achieve to be perfect. Looking at some of the most popular magazines reminds us of our imperfections. Just glance through any magazine and you may leave it to look at yourself in the mirror to see what can be improved. It doesn’t matter what your gender may be the message is the same for all of us. If you have ever been to a fashion show you may remember that most, if not all the models look like they hadn’t eaten in years. Magazines grab our attention and make us think, can I look like that if I do this or that? Ones that come to mind immediately include Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, Essence, InStyle, Grazia, Marie Claire, Allure, and so many others. Men are not ignored, many magazines are targeting their looks, physique, and fashion styles that include GQ, Men’s Health, Man of Many, Hombre, Swagger, The Man, Esquire, and many more.
What happens to our young children when they are pushed from home to join a society of mean children that often turn into adult bullies? Children are teased for a variety of reasons. They are teased if they are too chubby, too skinny, too tall for their age, too short, for having red or ginger hair, big feet or small feet, different shades of eye colors, having an accent, or even having a different skin color from most of the children. How would you prepare your children for this type of ridicule? Many adults that I have met today have never gotten over the teasing from school classmates early in their lives. Many are the most beautiful and talented people, but they tend to cling to the negative voices from many decades ago. I still question why parents teach their children that they must be perfect at everything. I often hear parents today telling their young daughters that if they are perfect, they will get the best husband. They tell boys that if they are tough, brave, and good looking they will get a beautiful wife and live happily ever after. Being the type of person that observes everything around me, the look on the children’s faces is confusion. Many have no idea what a wife or husband is at all, so they usually will smile and continue playing with their toy.
The biggest scam that probably affects all of us is convincing us all that we can look younger than we did yesterday by using a line of cosmetics that can take away the bags under our eyes or the wrinkles on our forehead. Why do we work so hard to convince ourselves that we may wake up looking like Sleeping Beauty if we spread the youth creme all over our faces before going to bed? Deep down inside, we all know that it’s not true. I know that I will never look the way I did when I was 20, 30, 40, or even 50 years old. Some cosmetics may be good for the skin, but don’t expect Glinda, the good witch from the Wizard of Oz to wave her magic wand to take you back to being young again. I wonder how much money women spend on makeup to impress someone. One of my younger friends shared with me that she never takes her makeup off because she doesn’t want her partner to see her without looking perfect. There is that word again. Why do we care so much what a stranger think about the way we look or even care about their judgment?
For me, the best part about getting older is being able to not give a fuck what a stranger may think about me. Aging is incredible. Unless someone is paying me to look a certain way, their opinions simply fall at the bottom of used cat litter or underneath dog poop. Now, what my true friends think makes a lot of difference. True friends never hold back and will blurt out, that color looks horrible on you, take it off and let’s go shopping so I can buy you one that I saw the other day that you will love. Or you need to do something with your hair, was it cut by a blind person? Then the laughter starts and continues for hours. I learned that with true friends I am perfect looking when I roll out of bed with a hangover, partied all night, or put on two different socks or shoes.
Perfectionism is often defined as the need to be or appear to be perfect, or even to believe that it’s possible to achieve perfection. In my opinion, being perfect is the ability to accept yourself the way you are today, tomorrow, and forever. We are all perfect the way we are no matter what someone else may believe. I like watching people stare at others making assumptions about how the person may look or if they have a disability they may not understand. Instead of stopping and asking a question, they almost frown because they don’t understand what it is. I get the biggest rush when they catch me starring at them the way they are starring at the person walking towards them. I never turn away from them because I want them to see what their facial expression looked like because I always copy the exact same expression and show it to them. It always delivers joy and happiness to my mind, body, and soul to return the favor. No one is perfect, we are simply who we are, ourselves.