The Unachievable Idea of Perfection
Life’s not about achieving perfection, it’s about learning to love ourselves exactly as we are.
When I was a little girl I was obsessed with the entire modeling industry, from afar mind you. I wasn’t exactly model material but the entire modeling and fashion industry fascinated me. I would take magazines and cut out the models like paper dolls and glue them to a piece of poster board and slid it under my bed. I would pull it out from time to time and look at them. (Yes, I was a weird kid. Yes, I needed to go outside and make some friends.)
I recall the trend of actresses slowly beginning to replace supermodels on the cover of all the magazines and how I felt badly for them. What little kid notices that? All I knew was that they were cool and I wanted to be like that. It was the 80’s! They would do crazy things like wear socks with high heels. I couldn’t wait until I could wear socks with high-heels!
I remember one summer I started to get a little tummy. I was mortified. So I did 100 set-ups every day until my tummy disappeared. The problem? I was in the sixth grade. (Don’t you worry, my tummy made a big comeback in my adult life.)
My love affair with the industry ended when I was around 20 years old and working as a flight attendant. I’ve always had a pretty good way with people and one flight I was working first class on a New York to L.A. route. Those were always fun because you would typically have someone famous on board. As I bounced around doing my job and taking care of the first-class patrons, I kept noticing a man and a woman watching me the entire time.
Eventually, they called me over and said that they had noticed I had a way with people and would I be interested in a side job. They went on to explain they were the CEO and COO of a major fashion label of which I won’t mention the name. They asked me to fly to a fashion show to meet a few of the top executives. Of course, I said yes! It was like all my dreams were coming true.
I showed up and they gave me a bunch of beautiful free designer clothes so I would be a brand ambassador of sorts and then they were going to have me travel to different stores that carried their product and have me increase their sales in the different markets. This all sounded wonderful. At the fashion show, they had tons of food and drinks, and then I saw them. The models. They were sort of sitting there huddled in their big sweats waiting to get dressed. They didn’t eat, I noticed. And when it came time for them to change, I was shocked at how emaciated they looked in person. I was about a size 6 at that time, and I was the chunky person in the room.
After that, the execs had me fly out to California to visit their studio where the clothes were made. With a tad more disenchantment, I still agreed and flew out. They gave me a tour then walked me through the factory where the clothes were being made. It was a huge metal hanger type of building with giant fans on the upper outer edges and the doors were fully open. There was no air conditioning and it was hot the day I was there. Then I noticed the rows and rows of ethnic women hunched over sewing machines–sweating.
Something that seemed so perfect to me my entire life suddenly was finally viewed through the lens of reality.
It was a sweatshop! In America! I mean, I don’t know if the women were happy or not. Maybe they made good money. But, the whole thing shattered my illusion of the glamorous fashion industry. Something that seemed so perfect to me my entire life suddenly was finally viewed through the lens of reality. I wanted to give those models food. I wanted to give those hard-working women air conditioning. This was obviously not the place for me.
I flew home and ghosted the company for a while before ghosting was a thing. I finally responded and told them I would send the clothes back. They said to keep them, but I never wore them again.
In life, we see “perfect” people and we want to be like them. The problem is perfection is an illusion and it’s unattainable. In today’s age, young women are bombarded with a million more images than I was when I was young. It takes a short time on Instagram, if you live in the world of comparison, to feel like complete shit.
My daughter turned me on to an Instagram account called @beauty.false that I’ve become a little obsessed with. It will compare photos posted by influencers, then typically, an unedited photo of the same person next to it. It begins to open your eyes a little. As it turns out, even the so-called “perfect” influencers are pretty much just like the rest of us.
We don’t have to live in that space of constantly comparing ourselves with others.
However, exposing imperfections in others is not the answer. It’s not even exposing that the entire Western world’s beauty industry is pretty messed up. We don’t have to live in that space of constantly comparing ourselves with others. That gives our power away to forces outside of ourselves. We are responsible for how we think and feel and we can choose to think and feel differently.
Beauty is subjective. What one person finds beautiful the next person may not. You are perfectly beautiful exactly as you are. I don’t even care if you have six toes on each foot and three eyeballs. Cool! Look how unique you are! Different is not bad.
You don’t have to fall into the trap that you must look like something society tells us we must look like. How boring if we were all the same.
One last thing, there’s also a lesson here about the present moment living. When I was growing up, we still had film in our cameras. You never knew what your photos were going to look like until you had the photos developed. My mom thought it would be funny to snap a photo of my ass with my camera when I came running through the house with a swimsuit on. When I got the photos back, I cried. Look at how huge my ass is! I lamented. It wasn’t. I would kill for that ass right now. Then, I stop myself and think about how my current ass will also look super good to me in twenty years. Maybe I’ll take another photo, and relish the days when my ass looked this good.
Be happy with what you have, right now, in this very moment. Not after you do a million squats, or get that plastic surgery, or lose those ten pounds you’ve been trying to lose for ten years. Right now, you are perfect and made exactly how you were meant to be. Enjoy it!