I read something interesting today. That the word “perfect” was mistranslated in biblical texts. According to Father Teilhard de Chardin, perfection didn’t mean “without fault”, that in fact, it had a deeper context than that (as ancient Aramaic often did). And while this email isn’t a discourse about the Bible or its accuracy, it’s actually about how our entire purview of our worlds can change with the shifting of the definition of what “perfect” is, and how much perfectionism–or creating without fault– is pervasive within all of us.
One way “perfect” may be translated besides “without fault”, is: “all-accepting” or “all-embracing”. Wow, I mean… That’s Cosmic Creator level of love isn’t it?! Let that sink in… to be perfect is to be all-accepting. I think with this slight shift we can begin to taste the all-ephemeral concept of unconditional love. I just think of all those times I held too high of expectations or standards for myself that lead to self-loathing, or full-on retreat from society and wish I had this deeper definition of “perfect”.
Yesterday, in the pottery class I teach, I explained to my students that their pots are the result of their time, energy, and resources. Which are parts of them through ownership. Those pots, once created and manifested into this world, are a part of you too. And immediately after I said that had a student who made a lovely first pot say “I hate mine”.
I urged her to love the entire pot, as it is a reflection of herself, but forged in clay. Then she shifted her story to, “I love the top, but I hate the bottom”. In other words, I cannot love the parts of this pot (or of myself) that are broken, wonky or imperfect. And symbolically speaking, loving the top and hating the bottom only tells me that who she is deep down is not enough or ok, but the parts of her that are pretty and on the surface are worthy of praise and love.
This young woman is likely a perfectionist. The kind that thinks that self-flagellation for not performing-without-fault will fix her pain. That it is the only valid response to messing up after trying something for the first time. It wasn’t enough she was there, of her own volition, with her own hard-earned money trying something new and learning a new skill. No, her only value comes in when she does it perfectly. Perfectionists don’t value new experiences over the esteem hit that would come if they did something really difficult, perfectly, and on the first try.
And spoiler alert: she would never get it perfect. Because it’s not possible. To be fault-free is not possible. And so she would go on for her entire life trying to attain something impossible. Perfection is a trap.
We went over as a class about loving the whole, broken bits and all. Because when we can love our creation “Perfectly”, we begin to reflect that Perfect, all-accepting Love With-A-Capital-L onto ourselves. We cannot hate our darkness, our brokenness, or our insecurities away… Perfect Love, in this new definition, is the way to become whole, heal those wounds, and be strong in our vulnerability as an imperfect human.
Hi, my name is Nikki and I’m a recovering perfectionist too.
And now I cheer myself on and root for myself, because hot damn… I am a miracle. I’ve done so much. I’ve learned so much. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. With Perfect Love, I have been able to shift what I value over time. I now value that I am upright and kicking; able to experience life as an imperfect being in healthy awe of myself and my own biggest cheerleader. Instead of beating myself up over faults in my foundation.
My faults make it possible for Perfect Love to be given to myself. My faults are the portal for Perfect Love. Without faults, there is no need for Perfect Love.
Can you meditate today on what being perfect means to you, and can you let “all-accepting” and “all-encompassing” replace the old and ease any self-loathing you may have?
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