Yesterday my 7-year-old daughter stood crying in her bathroom. “Why do I take so long to shower?” Who knows what goes on within an exhausted and hungry 7-year old mind? Scientists! Forget the gravitational waves, genetic sequences, circadian rhythms, cell regrowth. The real challenge is trying to understanding a child’s emotion-fueled actions. My little girl’s tirade ended with “I will never be perfect!” My “be-who-you-are, love-who-you-are” instinct went on alert instantly. I hugged my little girl and told her nobody is perfect but we must try to always be our best, do our best.
Why are we so hung up on perfection? And what is perfection by the way? Is it Tartine’s sourdough? A sunny day at the beach? Kids snug in bed at 7.30pm? Burrata from Puglia? The third Brandenburg concerto? The structure and design of a single leaf? The beauty of the Himalayas? A girls’ night out complete with a party bus? Mom’s dal? Flight sequences in films by Hayao Miyazaki? A home cooked meal shared with friends? Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album? The Harry Potter books? The silence after snowfall? A coral wall?
Inspired by my daughter I went exploring on what people had to say about perfection. I guess the most famous quote belongs to Vince Lombardi – “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Hmm… I would settle for excellence any day.
Dali was a bit more severe. He said, “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
Some felt perfection was in the realm of the Gods (Carolina Herrera, Michael J. Fox), some felt perfection takes time and cannot be rushed (Voltaire, Alexander Wang). Some focused on the fallacy of physical perfection (Kate Winslet, Tracee Ellis Ross, Mila Kunis).
Nobody probably knows about perfection more than Nadia Comaneci and she says she never thought of the score. If she did, she probably would have messed up. She just aimed for perfection.
I belong to the group that believes perfection is an illusion and what matters is hard work (Drake). As Margaret Atwood says, “If I waited for perfection I wouldn’t write a word. But I would like to think I worked my hardest and gave it my best.”