August 2018

Perfection is an illusion

By: Yasmin Winther Simonsen
Projects Abroad Volunteer

Perfection is an illusion. Deep down we all know it. So why do we still try to achiev, what is unachievable? Why do we starve for perfection, when in fact, it is not possible to be perfect?

Perfection is an illusion. Deep down we all know it. So why do we still try to achiev, what is unachievable? Why do we starve for perfection, when in fact, it is not possible to be perfect?

I know why I do. It is about what other people think when they see me. If I did not care about other people's opinions, I would not spend so much time working out to get the perfect body. I would not spend hours in front of the mirror every day, doing my hair and makeup and find the perfect outfit. I would not have days where I starved myself because my stomach was a little bloated. I know that the people who matter to me, my family, and my friends like me just the way I am. So why is that not enough? Why do I still have this longing to become perfect?

Today, young girls suffer from the ever-changing beauty ideals and the desperate drive for perfection. They suffer from low self-esteem, depression, and eating disorders. A study by the company Dove Self-esteem Project shows that 47% of young girls are held back by low self-esteem.

When people attempt to match up to their ideal image of perfection, they end up harming themselves and tend to create a toxic mindset, which lowers their self-esteem.

"Nothing in this world is perfect. Everything and everyone has flaws and you are no different from anyone else"

To get to the bottom of this whole obsession about perfection, I conducted a survey and asked a group of people different questions about perfection.

When asked if they themselves want to be perfect and why, answers like this comes up: "I want to be flawless. I have always strived for perfection, but as I got older I found out that it is simply not an option," or, "Yes, I want to fit in, have the perfect hair, the perfect body. It is easier to be skinny than fat."

80% of the respondents say that they do not see themselves as perfect. Even though some of the answers to why they are not perfect are "Nobody is perfect," answers like this also include, "Because I weigh 40 kilograms too much," or "Because I mess up at least once a day. I am not good at saying how I feel. I cannot even put the comma right. The list of why I am as far from perfect as possible is very long."

Research from dosomething.org shows that 7 out of 10 girls believe that they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school, and relationships with friends and family members. The same research shows that about 20% of teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood; among high school students, 44% of females and 15% of males are attempting to lose weight.

When asked why they think so many people strive for perfection, two types of answers are the most common: because of social media and because we compare ourselves with other people.

"We always see perfect people in the magazines and on social media like Instagram," or "Because we think other people are perfect, because of what they post on social media. You never post pictures when you have a bad day."

The irony is that we forget that even the so-called "perfect bodies" in the magazines and on social media are far from perfect. Through extreme make-up, lighting, tan, and Photoshop, imperfect people are made to look perfect.

So why do we buy into this idea of perfection? Why do we think that the people we see in the magazines and on social media are perfect and living the perfect life? Or, if we just look like them, we will become perfect too?

The beauty ideals change all the time and we change along with them. Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy, Kim Kardashian. Who is going to be the next "perfect woman" we will strive to be? What will the next "perfect body" or "perfect life" look like? Will it fit with our bodies and our lives? Probably not, and that should be okay. We should be able to accept that what we see as perfect changes like the weather, and we should not change with it.

Maybe the reason why we buy this idea of perfection and the right way to look and act is because we want to fit in. No one wants to feel different or alone or wrong, and by striving for perfection and this ideal society has made, we think that this will make us fit in. If we look and act the way society wants us to, then no one can judge us. We look the part, we act the part, and we fit in.

We live in a world where truly being yourself is rare. It is hard to do. The people who have the courage to truly be themselves often get judged. It is so much easier to just adjust to the ideal and the idea of perfection and strive for that instead of finding yourself and truly be you. Because if you are perfect, no one can say bad things about you.

So why try so hard to fit in when we were born to stand out?

However, something indicates that a change in the culture of perfection is about to happen.

70% of the respondents say that they do not want to be perfect. "No matter how we define perfection, I think it would be boring if everyone was perfect. There would be no challenges, and we would all look and act the same."

The respondents say that it seems like a stressful and impossible thing to achieve. There are more important things in life that they would rather use their time and energy on. At the same time, they state that being different is what makes a human being unique and therefore being perfect in his own imperfect way.

Perhaps the culture of perfection is about to change?

Nothing in this world is perfect. Everything and everyone has flaws and you are no different from anyone else. Perfection is not an end goal to be achieved, but rather a process and mental state in which to try and envelop oneself. It will never be achieved, but that is not the point. The point is the effort, drive, and goal.

This brings us to a conclusion: true perfection is not only unattainable; when something appears to be perfect, it is an illusion.

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