Perfectionism. The state of being perfect. In part one of this series on perfectionism, I referred to two definitions of perfectionism: 1) that perfection involves being disappointed in any aspect of our lives that is not exactly as we’d wish, vs. 2) a religious belief that moral or spiritual perfection exists within this human life. So which is it? Are we imperfect beings living imperfect lives, with the quest for perfection a crazy-making path? Or are we and our lives perfect already, just as we are? Makes my brain fuzzy, so I’m infusing a little philosophy into this blog today as I briefly explore the concepts underneath definition #2.
Not having much schooling in philosophy and/or Eastern religion, the idea that perfection already exists in the universe has been slow to dawn on me. Eons of writers, from Buddhists to Christians to atheist scientists, have expounded upon the idea that the universe represents perfection already, especially the perfection of nature. American author Alice Walker asserted “in nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” Likewise, Walt Whitman exclaimed about the perfection of the universe, saying “All the things of the universe are perfect miracles, each as profound as any.” German mathemetician and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz wrote that God (substitute higher power or source, if you wish) created the universe from infinite choices, saying “the actual world, as the result of all these claims, must be the most perfect possible.” Even fellow psychologist Wayne Dyer, Ph.D., much later to the table but inspired by the Tao Te Ching, writes “Everything is perfect in the universe – even your desire to improve it.”
These collective views suggest that the universe– and by definition, this includes it’s inhabitants and the progression of their lives– is already perfect. We can embrace this perfection, trusting that the overall plan of the universe is much bigger than our individual minds can comprehend. Who says our meager human brains have a handle on how things should be? In the words of Caroline Myss, “human logic is not divine logic.” At times, believing that “everything happens for a reason” and that all in our world is working out perfectly, the way it is meant to be, can open us up to feeling the boundless possibilities within ourselves. We are already perfect, even in human-scale imperfections.
Perhaps the distinction is big picture, world-view perfection, versus concrete Martha Stewartesque, perfectly-folded-napkins-on-the-exquisitely-dressed-holiday-table perfection. This philosophy says that we can take comfort and affirm our value in our implicit rightness of being and doing. The belief that, at any one moment, we are all doing the best that we can–flaws and all– has infused my entire practice of psychology. Even while it’s hard to apply sometimes in my own life. Remembering this in your daily life can be life-affirming: we’re all perfect, just as is.