Perfection? Is it true that perfection doesn’t exist and that we should just do our best? Well... yes and no.
I wanted to share an interesting conversation I was part of recently. Allow me to set the scene. I’m talking about mind health, with two lovely women. One is a young mother, let’s call her Briana, to a delightful 18 month old girl, called Lily. The other woman would like children one day, let’s call her Mary. Mary makes a statement with real conviction, ‘no one is perfect’ she says, “but we just have to do the best we can”. This is a statement I have grown up hearing, ‘no one is perfect’. Sometimes, it’s been uttered as a way to mitigate or defend some unfortunate behaviour. Or it’s been said in order to alleviate some blame, or reduce some responsibility. At other times, it’s just been uttered as a blanket statement about all people. I turn to Briana and say, ‘describe Lily to us’. Briana lights up, she reaches for her phone and starts to scroll through her photo library so that she can share a few pictures with us. We swoon over the lovely pictures and Briana says, ‘Lily is perfect, she’s wholesome!’ ‘That’s so interesting,’ I reply smiling, and I can feel a growing excitement bubbling up inside me. I look at both women and I add, “Babies are pure”. They both nod. The three of us are quiet for a few moments. And then I ask, “So when do they stop being perfect and wholesome?” I turn to Briana and ask her, “Can you imagine a day, when you’ll stop describing Lily as wholesome and perfect?” “No,” she responds immediately with absolute assurance. I look over at Mary, who is deeply pondering, and I put the question to her, “So when did we stop being perfect and wholesome? What happened to us to change that? We were all babies once”.
This is how I explained it. During our early childhood, we begin to gradually move away from seeing ourselves and others as perfect and wholesome. This isn’t done through some deliberate intent, by the way. It’s done in innocence. We embark on making a new identity for ourselves through our various conditioning and socialisation experiences. To this identity construction, we start to add data. We add our likes and our dislikes. We add preferences, our judgements and our interpretations of what’s happened to us. We continue adding more and more data and we continue to do this as we move into adulthood. All of this extraneous information gets held in some storage vault in our brain. I call it the basement bit. Rarely does anything get deleted. We make meaning from events, we hold on to grievances. We inadvertently give our power away when we listen to what others tell us about who they think we are. We take personality tests. We decide to go on courses to learn from experts about who we are, and who others are. This search outside of ourselves for the answers, gains momentum, all in the name of self improvement and self development. As a consequence, we keep moving further and further away from the original Self that came into this human experience. More and more layers get wrapped around this secondary version - this ego identity. Is it any wonder that we have a condition called ‘imposter syndrome?’ Each of us has done this to some varying degree. Some people make themselves a darker identity. Others make up fairly lovely ones. Ultimately, the ego is a varying mix of yin and yang, darkness and light. But whatever we make, the point is this, we made ourselves up. And anything we make up, is never going to be like the original. It’s similar to me making myself a Prada handbag, it will never rival an original Prada creation. Mine is a fake, no matter how close to a genuine Prada it may look to be. I love something I heard Michael Neil say on his Ted Talk, “Why Aren’t We Awesomer?’ He says, we draw a picture of a monster and then we go out. When we come back home, we see the picture of the monster as though we were seeing it for the first time. We run away scared, forgetting that we made the monster ourselves. We made this ego identity and if that wasnt enough, we make one up for others too! Please step forward the real You!
I need us to really hear this, we made our ego identities, in innocence, and unconsciously. Ŵe can unmake them too. And this is a journey worth taking.
Now please take a breath here, as I am about to tell you something very important with deep ramifications. Ready? Your perfection and wholesome have not left you. They are still there. You are not broken. You are layered up with so many labels and judgements, from yourself, as much as from others, that you can’t see the forest for the trees. There is a reason why ancient and modern philosophers, prophets, sages, and saints say, ‘look within’. You came into this world as a soul and spirit, pure, perfect and whole. Then in your innocence you made up all these things about who you think you are. Much of it being made up by what you saw and experienced, outside of yourself. The real You, the Self you will realise again, that perfect wholesome Self, is waiting to be reclaimed. On that level, you are perfect and wholesome still. You always were, you always will be. Imagine a world, in which, what we do is, undo what we made, and then we help lead each other back gently, to that true original perfect wholesome Self.