Perfection: “The most grand and painful of all mirages”
Graciously re-posted from Gurze Publications: I once read an article excerpted from Courtney Martin’s book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters. It was a five page, extremely well-written commentary on her generation’s obsession with food and fitness and our (women’s) drive for perfection. Martin talked about how so often the place where this drive gets played out is our bodies. She said:
The cruel irony is that although we become totally obsessed with the daily measures of how “good” or “bad” we are (refused dessert = good; didn’t have time to go to the gym = bad), there is no finish line. This weight preoccupation will never lead us anywhere. It is a maniacal maze that always spits you out at the same point it sucked you up: wanting. We keep chasing after perfection as if it is an achievable goal, when really it is the most grand and painful of all mirages. 1
“The most grand and painful of all mirages.” Even knowing this it is sometimes difficult to release the desire for perfection. This desire helped kill my daughter, for heaven’s sake, and yet there are still days where I find myself accepting nothing less than “perfect” in certain tasks.
I remember once working relentlessly on creating a 5-minute video that would tell the story of not only our daughter’s life but of our foundation’s work and its goals. This video was part of a grant requesting funds for a project our foundation had envisioned. It needed to be right.
When my dear friend and I finally came to a stopping place at 2 AM the night before we were to present, we hugged goodnight. She held me away from herself and with a firm voice said, “You have to promise me you will not go home and continue to tweak this thing, Doris. It’s good enough.” She had read my mind. As I’d hit the shutdown button on my laptop I’d thought, “I’ll just fix a few frames when I get home.” I had to laugh when I made my promise. I never told her how clairvoyant she was.
The body is the perfect battleground for perfect-girl tendencies because it is tangible, measurable, obvious. It takes four long years to see “summa cum laude” etched across our college diplomas, but stepping on a scale can instantly tell us whether we have succeeded or failed.
I do not ever step on a scale, but I can still be sucked into that “perfect-girl tendency.” Our big presentation could not have gone better. It was a success maybe because of a 5-minute video that was not perfect.
Until next time,
1 “The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body” excerpted from Courtney E. Martin, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters (Free Press, 2007)