“He who has abilities to conceive perfection will not easily be content without it; and, since perfection cannot be reached, will lose the opportunity of doing well in the vain hope of unattainable excellence.” -Robert Johnson
A few years ago I was at the beach for the weekend, and as usual, came prepared with a cold bag full of provisions from Whole Foods- a habit for which I am continually mocked by my extended family. But that’s okay, if I had not brought my organic bacon that morning, I wouldn’t have learned a very important lesson on how the media has us fooled into believing “perfection is reality.”
I had unpacked my bag and laid out all the ingredients to start cooking our traditional Sunday brunch, when my cousin picked up my nitrate- free bacon, scrunched up her face, and inspected it up close. She wanted to know why it looked “so disgusting,” not “nice and bright pink”, and as she put it “pig colored” like hers. At first I thought she was joking, but then as we got into a whole conversation about how mine didn’t have added red coloring and preservatives, I realized that she actually thought bacon came out of the pig and looked like it does in the Oscar Meyer package! It’s not her fault, though, I’m sure 90% of America thinks the same thing.
Because the media leads us to believe everything appears “perfect” all the time, we are shocked when we come in contact with anything containing the smallest little defect: a bruised apple, a home that looks lived in, or god forbid- an actress with a wrinkle or drop of cellulite. We have all become so far removed from “reality” because we are deceived by the technology that creates photo-ready food, perfectly proportioned models, and singers who would otherwise make dogs howl sound like Pavarotti. Again, not our fault completely, those marketers are very crafty! But just glancing at the web headlines five minutes after poor Fergie’s performance at the Superbowl was enough to prove how out of touch we’ve become. Do people really think she sings like she sounds on their over produced songs? Well, I suppose they do, considering how much crap she got for hitting a few clams… it’s a shame because if she lip-synched people would have given her a hard time too. I say good for her and her realistic performance!
The real problem arises when we would rather eat bacon made of crap but looks “pretty,” or our daughters are starving themselves because they believe they have to look like a model on a magazine cover who may have been technically altered, or is quite likely abusing her body to stay unnaturally thin.
Every commercial we see on TV tells us that we aren’t good enough, skinny enough, rich enough, smart enough- BUT, if we have their product, then we will be “perfect”- happy, rich, and skinny! When we can’t make things perfect, then there must be something wrong with us….. or so they want us to believe.
For me, the thing that really strikes a nerve are the “celebrity” trainers who sell us their plans to attain a “perfect” body- what does that mean anyway? We are all born with a genetic make-up that may or may not coincide with our dreams of being a certain size. Too often we are lead to believe that if we follow a certain program we will lose 5 lbs in a week…. and then if it doesn’t happen, we feel like a loser.
Unfortunately. these programs aren’t as magical as they appear, and more often than not, set us up for failure. If you happen to look inside a certain trainer’s book and read what she tells you to do in order to have a “teeny-tiny” body like her, it is quite un-realistic: working out for two hours a day, eating a half a cup of fruit for breakfast, no carbs for weeks…
Because we’re constantly bombarded with ads for quick fix diet plans and pills, we’re fooled into thinking we don’t have to do the work. We want a quick fix for everything-no carb, fat free, “drink this bad-tasting potion and get skinny”- nobody wants to eat healthy and exercise, we want it all-NOW. It’s important to find the “middle way,” like the Buddha said. A mindset where we are interested in eating healthy and exercising, but not obsessed with it. I know, because I have been there.
There was a time in my twenties while working at MTV, when I would wake up and go to the gym for 2 hours before work, then run around on set all day without eating, before going home exhausted to eat a yogurt for dinner. I played that extreme where trying to be “perfect” was getting in the way of leading a “normal” life- both mentally and physically; luckily I figured out soon enough that living that way was no way to “live,” so I try to strike a balance.
According to psychologist, D. E. Hamacheck, just as we have good fats and bad fats, we can have positive perfectionism and negative perfectionism. Dr. Hamacheck defines normal perfectionism as “striving for reasonable and realistic standards that lead to a sense of self-satisfaction and enhanced self-esteem,” whereas “neurotic perfectionism is a tendency to strive for excessively high standards and is motivated by fears of failure and concern about disappointing others.”
The problem is, the “idea” of perfect is constantly changing, so how do we keep up? By keeping the constant within us unchanging- that constant being happiness. Reason being? If we are already happy on the inside, then no number on the scale, or perfect relationship, or perfect job makes a difference. Happiness is a choice, and the only way we get happy is by choosing to be… and by choosing to be happy on the inside, then we aren’t affected by things on the outside.
So if we’re 5 lbs heavier, or 5lbs lighter it doesn’t make a difference. If our face is sagging, or we just got it lifted- it doesn’t matter. If you just won the lottery, or sold your soul to Madoff- still happy…..Yoga philosophy tells us we’re already “perfect” within- nothing else needed.
Make a conscious choice to get happy right now, and notice the next thing that might take a stab at that happiness….. did someone cut you in line, did your child leave his clothes on the floor again- friend blow you off for dinner? Now think about whether you want to let these things get in the way of that “happy mindset.”
Situations are neutral- it’s our reaction to them that makes them good or bad……so the next time you’re trying on clothes in a dressing room with crappy lighting, don’t lament your ________ (insert nagging body part here)….. instead take a second to look at yourself in the mirror, and be happy for your strong body that may have gotten you through a spin class this morning or gave birth to your kids- in reality, create your own “perfection.”
I think you’re all “perfect” just the way you are! Hope to see you on the mat soon…
WANT TO DITCH THE PERFECTION MENTALITY? GET MY FREE GUIDE WITH MY 3 PERSONAL TOOLS I USE EACH DAY HERE.