The Chase For Perfection (And Why It Doesn’t Work)


There is no other person who can replace you in your life, in the arena you’ve been called to. If you leave your place in the line, it will remain empty. No one else can be who you are meant to be. You are the hero in your story. ~ John Eldredge

I’ve been chasing. Playing catch and seek. I had to achieve. I wanted to win. I was striving to become something.

The answer was, I was already it. I am already perfect. We’re not supposed to say that, right? Because somewhere along the line someone told us it was arrogant and that it was more attractive to be humble. We learned to diminish our shine.

Because we’re taught to think we’re not “perfect”.

And what is perfectionism after all? Our science-backed theories and lists, articles on “5 ways to find the perfect man” or “how to have 6-pack abs in 4 weeks” are clever distractions. They are something we use to make sense of the world. Here is the perfect body, the perfect job, the perfect life… By a societal standard.

This is a good grade (and you should want that grade), and success is when you get the answers right. Grades that put more value on behaving properly, following specific rules, and steadfast memorization.

This is what you are “supposed” to be.

So we wind up chasing in our careers, in our relationships, in our appearance. We put on make-up, get surgeries, get divorced, enlist another fad diet, run to the next job… Yet, what are we running to? More importantly, what are we running from?

It seems the hardest person to sit in a room with is ourselves. We judge, ridicule, and critique. We yearn and say that “someday…”, “when I…”, and “if only…”

But I am perfect. My self-growth journey has finally brought me this understanding: What I need is within me. This is about owning my skin, showing my swag, acknowledging my unique talents and gifts, embracing every part of me. And for those things I find unfavorable? Shedding what doesn’t serve me, not so I can aspire to be like others I put on a pedestal, but so that I can more deeply be me.

My relentless pursuit of personal growth… The next event, the next relationship, the next blog post or book I read… It admirably looked like my hunger to become better. But really, I was running.

I was running from myself, to be someone I thought was better. To be someone I thought people would like more, to get the validation I desperately craved. As a poor Korean kid growing up in an all-Caucasian community, I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be invited to sit at the cool lunch table, to be picked for volleyball, to get invited to birthday parties, to be asked to the dance.

I learned, as we all do, that others inviting us in meant I was worth something. I learned validation was external.

And now I know that validation is something I must give myself.

I am enough.

Because no one else looks through my set of eyes, lives my exact existence, is privy to the thoughts in my head, feels the sensation of my skin, endures my rolodex of emotions. This is my experience. I look into a mirror reflected with something no one else can or will ever see shining back. And I have this chance to go through life with this liberating perspective and to treat myself in a loving way.

It’s time to shift.

That doesn’t mean my personal growth journey ends here, it just means I walk forward with a new curiosity to learn, awareness to shed the parts that don’t serve me (even if they did serve a purpose at some point), and a love and appreciation for myself.

I think about what feels right, what pleases me, how I can contribute, and whom I can share it with. Not who I’m supposed to be, what I thought I’d do, and comparison with others in a journey that isn’t mine.

Finding My Truth.
I finally understand what “finding my truth” means. Finding your truth is about finding what is really you… Outside of what others think and say, and outside of what you think others want you to think and say. Standing in your own skin. And yes, I have questions, uncertainty, mistakes, and scars. I’m afraid of making the wrong decisions, I get angry, I can be unreasonable. These are aspects of me, components that combined make a complex, dynamic, ever-flowing soul.

We can confuse “finding your truth” to mean having all your shit together and fully knowing and completely understanding yourself. I don’t understand or yet even know all the parts of myself, but it’s a hell of an exploration that I’m fully enjoying. Your truth is ultimately realizing that you harness the answers and immeasurable power, but no longer a race for “perfection”. Acceptance stops being dependent on what’s outside, instead loving yourself from the inside out. Abundance comes from within. When we are truly abundant, we have overflowing love to gift others.

As I make this shift, I’m forgiving and patient. You see, if you set out to golf and expect to instantly be Tiger Woods, you’ll probably give up in the early trials. Transformations and shifts are usually a step-by-step and sometimes faltering process. Working through deeply seeded beliefs or old habits is a checkered journey. I catch myself daily with the wrong self-talk, a petty thought, an aspiration for fame. This is nothing to be ashamed of… It’s part of a deeply ingrained belief system. I can learn to work with and through it.

Because every seemingly wrong turn or misstep is simply texture in my story. All part of the perfection that crafts me.

And really, when you get up close to anyone’s life, you’ll see a wrinkle, a scar, hear a complaint, see them tug at their shirt in insecurity. So what is this mirage we’re all chasing and why are we killing ourselves running after it?

This isn’t a your-mother-told-you-you’re-perfect-just-the-way-you-are lecture. This is knowledge that liberates you from the daily reprimand you give yourself for not being skinny/tall/pretty/smart enough. This is a prod to ask yourself: What is that thing you’re chasing? What happens when you get it? And what happens after? And what happens if you never get that?

What is this experience we’re living for? How can we be in our bodies daily infused with joy, love, inspiration, fulfillment, and euphoria? I find that to be the most intriguing pursuit.

We wait for tragedies to remind us life is short and to live each moment. When we do, we realize the pursuit of perfection was purely vanity that feels void and hollow.

So strive. Drive. Work. Push. But do it because the process of doing it feels good. Reaching something you worked for exhilarates you and the journey was worth each felt step. Not for perfection and not to “become something”or become someone.

Because you already are.

You are perfection.

image – Shutterstock

This post originally appeared at Jean On Tap.