I spent yesterday at some extra training as a herbalist, which threw up a couple of particularly interesting questions about what causes our patients’ problems to begin with. So many times it comes back down to boundaries, to not having a strong enough sense of self to withstand the constant barrage of outside opinions and thoughts and the constant pressure to talk, act, think, feel differently. And that got me to thinking about some things, perhaps particularly about our constant search for perfection, and how that search shapes and defines us. For me, as a herbalist, I have come across so many people who seek constant approval from other people – family, demanding parents, loved ones, and on a much wider level, approval from the world in general. The only problem is that the approval is never enough because they can never meet the ridiculously high standards that they set themselves. They can never be ‘perfect’ by their standards.
What exactly is this nebulous perfection, though? You can’t touch it or taste it or feel it because it is constantly, tantalisingly out of reach. It’s the Holy Grail we strive for, the goal posts that constantly move, our reason to keep pushing ourselves and the reason why we pick ourselves up when we fall. The only problem is, who exactly is it that defines perfection? Do we do it? Do our parents teach us it? What about society, the images we are constantly fed through the media? We are constantly bombarded with the images of ‘perfect’ humanity, no wrinkles, never aging, flawless skin, perfect hair and nails, spotless clothes, ideal bodies and immaculate lives, with money, cars, possessions, holidays, designer clothes. This isn’t perfection, to my mind – this is plastic. It is, however, subversive, deep seated, and almost subliminal in its message that this is what we should strive for. We should always seek to be slimmer, fitter, younger, richer, more successful, but again, who exactly is it that defines success, that personifies perfection? Why do we always set ourselves such unreachable goals? Plastic is not beautiful. A perfect, immaculate, unchaotic life is not perfection either. The point I am trying to make here is that life is messy. It is chaotic, and it is beautiful in all its imperfection, all its mess. Perfection is different for each and every one of us, and it is the journey that is so important, not the destination.
Personally speaking, I have been trying to lose weight for the last two years – I just cannot seem to drop below 13 stone 7ibs, though, probably because my heart just isn’t in the whole weight loss, get uber fit thing. Why is this? Because of one thing. I always feel as if I ‘ought to’ be slimmer and fitter in order to fit the ‘ideal’ perception of beauty. So I set myself up with a constant vicious cycle of sudden, crash diet, cut back on all my food intake, exercise like mad, then get on the scales, and regardless of what the results are, I end up right back where I started because I undermine myself. It is a constant vicious cycle. So now it’s time to stop. My body deserves healthy food because it is inherently worthwhile. It does what I want it to do. I can walk as long as I want, rarely get ill, and am robust and healthy. So why do I keep trying to cram myself into someone else’s idea of perfection?
From now on, I am going to try and refocus my idea of perfection to something more achievable, with more relevance to me and my life. From now on, I am going to take things one day at a time, and try and live each day well. No more looking at what society thinks I should be doing, what the media thinks my goals should be, not even what my parents, friends and loved ones think I should be doing. Instead, I shall try and go to bed every night with a smile on my face, feeling good about myself and what I have achieved that day. Even if that’s just listening to myself and realising I need to take a day off and rest. Being content in myself, in my boundaries, who I am and what I want from life – that, for me, is perfection. Not trying to recreate the latest look from some glossy magazine. Or going on the latest flashy holiday. Or owning a smart car, and having a huge bank balance. Perfection is in living life one day at a time, living in the moment and not trying to live up to someone else’s ideals.