Friday, February 26, 2010

The Addiction to Perfection


The oldest definition of "perfection", fairly precise and distinguishing the shades of the concept, goes back to Aristotle. In Book Delta of the Metaphysics, he distinguishes three meanings of the term, or rather three shades of one meaning, but in any case three different concepts. That is perfect:

1. which is complete — which contains all the requisite parts;
2. which is so good that nothing of the kind could be better;
3. which has attained its purpose.

The appreciation of beauty whether it is in art, music, nature, poetry or any other medium is something that comes naturally to most of us. Beauty is by its very nature harmonious, a balance of components which are pleasing to the eye, ears, or soul. Beauty is also subjective and is "in the eye of the beholder" and is subject to cultural definitions which can distort how we perceive beauty, demanding perfection.

Within our social and cultural arenas we learn from the time we are quite young to look outside ourselves in order to define what is beautiful, "perfect", and we begin to internalize those external representations and compare ourselves. Such comparisons can only lead to frustration, failed expectations, fear, and loss of self orientation, focused instead on an external beau ideal , the concept of perfection. 

Striving ever faithfully toward perfection, we work harder, look better, type faster, have more, in order to meet the illusive need for being perfect. Why?  Because we are taught from infancy that we are not "ok" the way we are. When we cry we are shushed, when we are hungry we are fed in order to keep us quiet, when we are expressive we are generally "too loud". Of course these are examples and not always the case; still, I think you understand my point here. Everything and everyone is subjected to demands of perfection which we may not even be aware of. 

How do we break free of the addiction to perfection? We practice self acceptance. We look to ourselves rather than to the outside, beginning to understand that we are perfect "as is". We will continue to evolve, warts and all, fears and doubts, positives and negatives, and that evolution in and of itself, is perfection.

*excerpted from Wikipedia

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