Seeking Perfection in an Imperfect World

Thursday, August 22, 2019


“Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.”
― Leonard Cohen


I met a friend for coffee the other day and while we updated each other on our lives and routines, we both realized (not instantly, though) how tough we have made everything for ourselves by being the ‘perfectionists’ we so pride ourselves on. The best thing coming out of the discussion was our acute self-awareness and the fact that it inspired this post! 

This post is, therefore, dedicated to all those readers who understand the joys and struggles of being perfectionists – we are never content with anything, and constantly seek to improve and perfect everything we touch, hear or see. Ahhh!  

I love ‘haphazardly’ putting everything back to its original position every chance I get. This habit has become so intense that if the shadow of a piece of porcelain makes a 45-degree angle against incoming rays of light, and someone were to move it from its original position, I would begin a pointless struggle to restore the 45-degree angle. Any visitors to my ever-so-freshly cleaned apartment would be hard-pressed to find a bowl out of place or even a small cluster of leftover breadcrumbs on the counter. It’s because I cannot sleep with the knowledge that I will have to wake up to coarse bread crumbs in the kitchen. *yuck*

There is this funny story – which you may not find as funny – that I always like to tell friends who often see my awkward behaviour unfold. It’s about the one time I was watching a movie, cosily snuck on my couch, absorbed into the fine details of the movie – the name of which currently slips my not-so-perfect memory – until my gaze shifted to a sloppy blanket staring right into my face. I can’t describe the feeling. It was a mix of disappointment, anticipation, and anger. Disappointment because I clearly remember folding the blanket several times to make it into a small square. Flattening the crease so it evenly reflects waves of light. And positioning it in parallel (note parallel) to the bed. The blanket looked like someone wrestled with it! (Notice my exaggeration) It was a disaster and I sprung into action to restore normality to my weird life.  Anticipation because I longed to see it once more, and anger because it dared to show itself!

This story doesn’t get as many giggles as I would hope to. What follows are intermittent bursts of chuckles, forced out only to dispel the awkwardness. What made things worse was a strand of hair on one of the listners' face that stood out because it was 2 millimetres longer than others. Least to say, I pointed it out. Yes, I like to brag about my ability to find perfection in the most hopeless of cases…Wearing it as a badge of honour, sometimes I rub it in my friends’ faces that I have higher standards than them. But the truth is that I seek perfection in a world that is simply not perfect. 

The above story applies to every little thing that the typical perfectionists venture upon doing in their lives. Spending nonstop hours of obsessing over perfecting things by eliminating those little hard-to-find devilish errors and imperfections that would keep us from achieving perfect grades on class tests, top-notch reviews from clients or bosses, and whatnot. While this maybe desirable and enviable in some ways, we often put too much pressure on ourselves, stress over things (even when they are out of our control), harshly judge our own selves...all in the attempt to find perfection in the imperfect world – not a perfect thing to do at all!  

The truth is: We need to change ourselves. Our obsession to make the world conform to our ‘definition’ of perfection is an uphill battle that we always end up losing. This unnecessary demand for perfection is a tremendous strain on our resources. We need to accept that, uncleanliness, disorder, and unkemptness aren’t necessarily vices, but they are in fact a part of the universe. And imperfection in ‘everything’ is, should and must be acceptable. The entire existence of the universe rests on the chaos theory which postulates that the universe tends toward high entropy, also known as the second law of thermodynamics. Before I trail off into philosophical and cosmic tales about perfection and how the universe seeks disorder, I must come to terms with my perception of disorderliness despite my blatant distaste toward it. Maybe then I will have good stories to tell my friends instead of blankets that seemingly come undone on their own. 

In fact, in the recesses of my mind, I know that when I went back to fold the blanket, there was this one speck of fur poking out, beckoning me over. But I deliberately ignored it, pretending I didn’t see it. Because acknowledging it would have only resulted in yet another sporadic fit of rage and I might just end up wasting the entire night on it.

Dô* to the beauty of imperfections in the world! 



Dô: Pronounced as 'Yo'; means ‘Cheers’ in Vietnamese (Learned that very recently) 

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Amna's Goodreads Bookshelf

To Kill a Mockingbird
Animal Farm
Of Mice and Men
The Alchemist
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Romeo and Juliet
Lord of the Flies
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Odyssey
A Tale of Two Cities
Frankenstein
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale
Les Misérables
Eat, Pray, Love
The Poisonwood Bible
The Joy Luck Club
Middlesex
The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Lolita
Under the Tuscan Sun


Amna Tariq Shah's favorite books »