Do you sometimes berate yourself for not being "better" in some way? As you reflect on your life at work, at home, at play and in relationship, can you see instances where you wanted to be perfect, and you weren't?
Success and failure
One way we measure success and greatness is by assessing our failures – or rather, what we have learned about ourselves through these failures. There is no perfection without fault - none. The self-reflection that follows failure is the catalyst that fosters improvement, growth and greatness.
Do you spend time lamenting that you will never be perfect? Do you hate yourself as you list all the things at which you'll never be perfect? Do you have memories of someone telling you you'll never be good enough? Do you constantly ask, "What have I done wrong?"
Wholeness, not perfection
In truth, there is no point at which we can say, "this is perfection." Perfection, being a "10," is an ego-driven, mental idea. We think that being a "10" means that I have no flaws, no imperfections. Perfection excludes negative realities - an impossibility, no matter how hard our mind wants to convince us otherwise.
So when we strive for perfection, we are hoping to remove or mask our defects. In essence, perfection means denying our self.
"Wholeness", on the other hand, is an archetype - something unattainable - a metaphor. An archetype is intended to guide, inspire, support and affect our reality in various ways. We embrace and manifest archetypes by being self-aware, conscious, affecting our attitudes and our approach to life and living.
Unlike perfection, the archetype of wholeness points to both the positive and the negative, all parts of our self.
At the outset, pursuing perfection can be a useful first step in our growth process as it motivates and provides a focus on the positive. However, it must give way to the pursuit of wholeness where our duality (the light and the shadow, the good and the bad, the positive and the negative) has meaning.
Focusing on perfection is focusing solely on the personality, the outer, the "packaging." Focusing on wholeness puts our attention on the essential truth, beauty and goodness within our soul.
Wholeness is not a process of identifying what is "wrong" or imperfect and trying to fix or eradicate it, but to discover what our "flaws" have to teach us and learn from them.
Our "flaws" exist as a means of challenging us to learn what we need to see about ourselves. No flaws, no challenge. No challenge, no growth. No growth, a pebble. When we learn what we are challenged to learn, the "flaws" often lose their charge, and in the process they often disappear.
Who are you?
"Our image of perfection is the reason we reject ourselves - the way we are - and why we don't accept others the way they are." [Don Miguel Ruiz]
The reason striving for perfection is often an exhausting struggle is because we've lost connection with our core self and become mired in some self-image or concept of who we think we should be. The negative feelings and emotions that accompany striving for perfection are a signal to stop, take a deep breath and identify with our true self.
When we stop the relentless striving for perfection and take time for silence, meditation, and inner exploration, my essence will arise, my sense of wholeness manifests and the strength and courage to accept my self as I am arise.
Fear drives us to the self-sabotaging quest for perfection. Love allows us to open to all that we are with curiosity, passion, excitement, and acceptance.
Wholeness then sees flaws and imperfections as eminently useful and necessary so we can embrace all parts of our self and can value every experience.
Pain is a reality; suffering is optional
- What do you seek – perfection or wholeness? Examine your pursuit of perfection and the areas of life in which this pursuit takes place. What are the consequences of this pursuit on your soul's quest for wholeness?
- In your relationships with some important people in your life, how can you share more authentically your true inner self with them?
- What do you judge as wrong or evil? Can you see wrong or evil from the perspective that it is serving some useful purpose? What can you learn from it?
- What are three defense mechanisms that you frequently use to deny your flaws? If you stopped using one of these, what happens to you, your feelings and your relationships.
- What was perfection-seeking like when you were growing up? How did you learn about perfection?
- Can you envision a world where folks seek wholeness, not perfection?
The first fact of life is suffering and affliction, flaws, exist. Accepting this fact of life is the basis of our life's journey. Our desire to escape from our flaws, rather than embrace and learn from them, is what leads to suffering.
Most people either feel ashamed about their flaws or they try to deny them. But our flaws are one of our greatest spiritual assets. When we consciously deal with our flaws they lead us along a spiritual path.
Unfortunately, at an early age we learned to push affliction away, to deny or hide from our flaws and seek perfection. Rather than be open to suffering as a fact of life, we become defensive and live a life of avoidance.
It's in this defensiveness that we first begin to reject ourselves, experience shame and guilt and engage in self-destructive, repressive and suppressive behaviors to avoid suffering.
But when we seek wholeness and accept our flaws, our diamond grows brighter and brighter, as our qualities of compassion, tolerance and understanding arise. When we are able to live with our flaws, we not only avoid suffering but we become better able to support others to relieve their own suffering.
During the coming week, reflect each day on how often you express who you really are, your wholeness, and how often you only express some perfection-seeking traits. You might find the answer quite illuminating.
"After enough mirror gazing, we all develop our 'cosmic sense of humor.' We no longer try to be perfect, or try to get all our work done in time. We become content with whatever life brings. Just to deal with what comes up without crucifying ourselves or others is enough of a challenge." [Paul Ferrini]