We are a culture obsessed with perfection. It can be a bit overwhelming making sure you never make a mistake at work, are exactly on time 24/7, never put on an extra pound, and maintain perfectly smooth armpits at all times.
The impossibly high standards we set for ourselves make it inevitable that we will fall short. Then we beat ourselves up, feel defective, disappointed, frustrated and stressed.
Who came up with this Prozac-inducing notion that we must be always be perfect in everything we do? Does it make you any happier, or does it have the opposite effect?
Recently I watched Julia Child’s very first episode of the French Chef from 1963. Immediately I was struck by all the little mistakes she made, which for some reason were left in the program. It wasn’t until later I learned she had no opportunity to edit out any mistakes! When the cameraman began filming, she was ON, and didn’t stop until 26 minutes later. Whatever she did or said during that time was going to be seen by millions of people. No pressure there!
As the show began, Julia smiled out at me from her black and white kitchen and began making her French Onion soup. Among her ingredients scattered around the counter, were two large identical glass bottles with handwritten tape labels. One was olive oil, the other vermouth. Can you guess how many times she mixed them up? That soup probably had enough vermouth in it to catch fire! But every time she accidentally put in more vermouth instead of olive oil, she simply said ‘oops!’ and kept on going.
Somehow, even with all those unedited errors, the French Chef was a huge success. Julia helped people feel comfortable with imperfection and capable to attempt the recipes in their own kitchens. (We can all relate to messing up a recipe or ten) People clearly did not think of her “mistakes“ as failures. Julia’s vermouth moments were the best! Her authenticity made me a fan. Yet that episode would probably never air today on the shiny and perfectly produced food shows where no mistakes see the light of day!
Striving to do your best is one thing. But expecting that you never again eat the brownie, or forget something while at the store, or make a mistake on national tv, is just not a part of reality on this world. Next time you catch yourself not being perfect, come back from planet Stepford and remember you are human. The other humans out there in the world aren’t perfect either, including the ones you’re in love with. But you love them anyway! You may even love the so-called imperfect things about them, like the way they snort when they laugh too hard. (Not that I know anyone who does that).