I grew up obsessed with perfection. Somehow, I’d fostered the ill-conceived belief that there was some set standard we each could achieve and indefinitely hold throughout our lives. I strove for perfect grades in school, perfect conduct at home and a perfect body, at any cost. I hadn’t yet learned that perfection is a dream—but we humans must live in reality, and the two cannot coincide.
No matter the person or how on top of the world they might seem, beauty, success, popularity and the like are all still fleeting. Nothing in this life is a constant, the least of which being perfection. Many of us end up learning the hard way that striving for the impossible often has devastating effects. By embracing ourselves and others despite our imperfections, we find power in all that makes us unique.
Set Your Personal Rubric
No one but you can define you. Others can try, or you might even be in a situation where some or all of your personal power has been taken away; still, you are the only person in this whole world who fully understands your every gift and limitation. Every one of us is unique, and that’s what makes us each so special. Why gauge yourself using someone else’s rubric?
When we compare ourselves to others, or we use their definitions of perfection to base our personal worthiness, we impose unfair judgments. There is a quote that circulated for a while as a social media meme; it’s been credited to Einstein, although most historians agree the famous intellect likely never actually said it. Regardless of the source, it hits the nail on the head: “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Every one of us has at least one gift, something that sets us apart from everyone else, just like each of us comes into this world with a specific job to do. Part of living life is figuring out that job and how to apply our unique gifts to it. We simply cannot do what we’re meant to do here if we’re constantly looking to others to define us; our gifts and our jobs are meant for us alone to discover and grow. Idealistic goals and toxic norms can easily derail those efforts.
Forgive Others for Also Being Human
In the process of accepting ourselves as we are, it’s important also to accept others despite what we might view as flaws. We self-harm when we judge ourselves based on other people’s rubrics, but we also create just as many negative influences when we judge other people based on our personal standards. Just as we can’t base the value of a fish based on its ability to climb trees, we can’t deem others’ worthiness based on how they fit on our personal paths.
We do one another disservice when we judge, period. Even if all evidence points to wrongfulness on another’s part, unless we’ve been deputized by authorities to uphold our society’s local laws, it’s simply not our job to make any real assessments. Of course, it’s crucial that we involve law enforcement when we’re aware of someone doing something damaging or wrongful; however, it’s not our place to cast personal judgments along the way. We cannot see the greater scheme, and none of us really knows what is fated and what is random chance. Sometimes, in our narrow human views, we do get things wrong.
Sometimes, we make judgments we believe are moral and honorable, only to realize later that we were misinformed or simply incomplete in our knowledge. People have committed life-shattering atrocities in the name of what they believed was good and just. How many of us have never manufactured a single regret? Even good, honest people are capable of the evilest of deeds if they’re pushed just so; any action can look heroic if you frame it in the right way.
There’s a lot of wisdom to the Bible verse “Judge not lest ye be judged.” By embracing the imperfection in both ourselves and one another, we can more easily find balance, gratitude and acceptance on all fronts. Life is as short as it is precious. Why not make the most of the person you were born to be instead of wasting time worrying about everyone else is thinking? Be you. Be brave. Be perfectly imperfect.
Remember, no matter how many mistakes any of us makes, as long as we don’t let them derail us from our personal paths, we’re still on the right track. Embrace yours.