Is True Perfection Attainable? - Yasaswi Veera

According to google, the definition of perfection is the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects. But is this really possible? How can someone, or something, be completely flawless at something? Does perfection really exist? If so, is it the same for everyone? Is perfection helpful or does it do more harm than good?


Perfection is entirely relative to one’s thoughts and opinions. Perfection exists differently in each person and is not the same for everyone. If perfection were the same in everyone, it would not give the world the potential to be diverse and the people to be unique.


In a report titled ‘Reflections on perfectionism’, the author, Pacht, discusses the negative aspects of perfection on an individual and on society as a whole. She states that ‘perfection is an undesirable and debilitating goal and that striving for perfection can keep people in turmoil and is associated with a number of psychological problems’. By this she means that striving for perfection is unnecessary for your health because it can seriously affect your mental health. This point is the main focus of many modern songs, one being ‘Scars to Your Beautiful’ by Alessia Cara. This song explains how people are willing to sacrifice their mental and physical well-being to meet the standards of being perfect.


According to an article published by Harvard Business Review and a CNN article, a study was conducted on three different types of perfection: self-oriented, socially-prescribed, and other-oriented. Self-oriented perfection dealt with people setting standards too high for themselves. Socially-prescribed perfection has to do with meeting society’s standards of perfection and other-oriented involves setting high standards for others around you. After conducting tests and analyzing data collected from 41,641 college students between 1989 and 2016, it was concluded that the severity of all three aspects of perfection drastically increased, thus provoking the need for better influences such as inspirational songs as mentioned earlier. Stressing about being perfect is really a waste of time because one just cannot be absolutely flawless. Pacht continues to state in her report that ‘human qualities come from imperfection, from defects that define unique personalities and create real people’. She is right. If we all lived perfect lives, there would be no room for diversity and uniqueness among people. We would essentially be living a life of robots: we would all have same identical perfect lives with no difference between one another. Imperfection is what gives people character and diversity in society.


This ties into the idea that perfection cannot be set to standards because perfection depends on one’s opinions and perspective. As stated in an article posted on a blog ‘the most beautiful drawing would still have its detractors. One man might find no flaws in the drawing that the other man would find in a heartbeat, but that is only because they look at it with different pairs of eyes. There cannot be a concrete definition of perfection if there is opinion in it.’ The author speaks the truth. Everyone has their own views on life and society. They have their own perspective on what’s right and what’s wrong.


Perfection is a quality that does not have any set standards to go by. The author of the book ‘Beauty Sick’ shares similar thoughts in her writing. Renee Engeln, the author of a book that discusses the effects of pursuing the ‘perfect’ body image, states that there are no true standards for someone to compare themselves to. Thus, one cannot determine if they have the perfect body if there is nothing to compare themselves to. This proves that standards set by society of a perfect body image just do not count. Perfection is different for everyone, so society cannot just set standards for everyone and have them emotionally and physically suffer if they do not ‘meet the requirements’. Because perfection is majorly a subjective quality heavily dependent on someone’s thoughts and opinions, perfection cannot be set to real standards that are equal to everyone. This further proves that true perfection cannot be achieved, although relative perfection can be.


According to an article published by Harvard Business Review, there are 2 different types of perfection: healthy and unhealthy. Healthy perfection is associated with feelings of doing your best and feeling content with your work. This promotes healthy and satisfied feelings within you. Unhealthy perfection, however, deals with feelings of incompletion and stress. People who are under the influence of unhealthy perfection are usually not satisfied with their best work and intend on doing more. They are always putting themselves down for not doing their best, even though they did. These types of people are usually more concerned with the end goal rather than the journey. This can negatively impact one’s self-esteem and promote unhealthy thoughts, which can lead to more serious problems, such as mental health issues and psychological problems. In conclusion, one should be aware of what type of perfection they want to aim for: healthy or unhealthy.


Some may argue that striving for perfection can be beneficial to people because it can help them improve in certain areas. I agree with this because striving for perfection is definitely beneficial because on the journey, one will find their weaknesses and come out much stronger. They can learn from their mistakes and avoid those in the future. However, making perfection one’s ultimate goal is unhealthy. Attempting to achieve perfection can stress one out beyond their limits. They would feel that they are not doing enough and that they have to try harder. Additionally, when they finish, they usually do not feel content with their work and focus on what they could have done better. This causes low self-esteem in such people and can eventually lead to serious mental and physical health risks. In an article published by Harvard Business Review, a situation was presented. A reporter is to write an annual report and present her rough drafts to her boss. However, she feels uncomfortable with this idea because she thinks her boss will believe that the drafts are her best work and be disappointed in her. Thus, she decided not to submit her draft until the very last minute because she thought it was very well done and perfect. However, she ended up receiving a lot of criticism from her boss. This greatly affected her self-esteem.


In this situation, the reporter had good intentions: she wanted to provide her boss with her best work. However, she was not accepting of failure. She did not want her boss to see her drafts full of mistakes and she was very disappointed when her boss was only trying to help improve her writing after her submission. In another article published by Harvard Business Review, perfection is depicted as the fear of failure. To achieve perfection, perfectionists strive to avoid failure. This is not good because failures teach us a lot about how to succeed. Although striving for perfection can be beneficial in the aspect of helping us improve and better ourselves, it should never be the ultimate end goal of someone.


Because perfection is majorly a subjective quality, it cannot be set to true standards. One should strive for perfection rather than set perfection as their ultimate goal. This prevents one from being associated with unhealthy perfectionism and promotes the opposite: healthy perfectionism. It is also important to consider the fact that absolute flawlessness is unachievable and that nobody can be perfectly perfect at a certain activity or subject because mistakes are inevitable. Perfection is an unachievable concept and although striving for perfection is healthy, attempting to achieve true perfection is not.


References

Ben Tinker. “The modern problem with pursuing perfectionism.” CNN, January 9, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/09/health/perfection-mental-health-study-intl/index.html.

Hill, Thomas CurranAndrew P. “Perfectionism Is Increasing, and That's Not Good News.” Harvard Business Review, 30 May 2018, hbr.org/2018/01/perfectionism-is-increasing-and-thats-not-good-news#comment-section.


“Login.” Teen Ink, www.teenink.com/opinion/social_issues_civics/article/511585/Perfection.

Pacht, A. R. (1984). “Reflection on perfection.” American Psychologist, 39(4), 386-390


Renee Engeln. Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women. HarperCollins, 2017.

Szymanski, Jeff. “Perfectionism: Healthy or Hurtful?” Harvard Business Review, 23 Jan. 2019, hbr.org/2011/10/is-perfectionism-helping-or-hu.

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