Thursday, January 24, 2013

Perfection Does Not Exist

We All Have Our Shit

Perception is Not Reality

Perfection is as real as unicorns-
From the outside my life seems ideal, nearly perfect. I was lucky enough to be born into a wealthy family that could provide me with any material possession I could possibly want. I am earning straight A's at an Ivy League University. I have a large pool of friends and a decent social life on campus. When I walk out my door I look put together; there is not a hair out of place metaphorically speaking. I live in my own cozy apartment that is decorated flawlessly, reflecting my style and personality. I have an adorable kitten who snuggles up with me. I have long brown hair. I am thin, enabling me to wear almost anything out there. I am for all intensive purposes attractive. It appears that I have it all together and that my movements are effortless. Everything seems to be perfect; but, in fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. 
Would you guess that I often feel this way?

I am chronically ill with anorexia nervosa. My mind is overwhelmed, attempting to balance school, eating disordered thoughts, depression, and my OCD/perfectionist tendencies. Everything I do- each accomplishment, completing assignments, eating, socializing, cleaning my apartment, waking up each day- requires a painful degree of mental and physical effort. It is nearly impossible for me to be present and have fun when my mind is always preoccupied. 
Bones as cold as ice-
Just walking across campus leaves me out of breath and exhausted. When it's cold, like today, my bones feel as if they are made of ice. I am constantly sick because my immune system is weak from malnutrition. My hair line is receding and my arms are covered with abnormally thick hair, called lanugo, that my body has created as a means of additional warmth. It is difficult to fulfill obligations while also maintaining my health and my sanity. I live my life on a prayer, hoping that I can stay well enough to graduate from college (finally) and begin to create a life for myself post graduation. But I am filled with doubt and uncertainty. I have been maintaining my minimally acceptable weight for quite awhile now, but I know that my situation is precarious. One bad week of symptom use and/or anxiety and I am screwed- below an acceptable weight, unable to function, back in treatment. What is my point in sharing all of this information with you? I am not looking for sympathy nor do I want applause; I'm hoping to help you recognize that perception is not reality and that perfection does not exist because we all have our shit lying beneath the face that we put on for the world. Growing up I remember seeing other girls and imagining how wonderful their lives must be; they seemed perfect and I would have done anything to be one of them.

"Stop trying to 'fix' yourself; you're not broken! You are perfectly imperfect and powerful beyond belief."

- Steve Maraboli

I probably would have benefited from hearing Maraboli's advice back in the day. (But knowing myself I probably wouldn't have believed him or I would have adamantly refuted his statement.) Wishing that I could be these other people was a waste of time and energy for two main reasons. The first comes directly from the above quote. I did not need to 'fix' or change myself in order to create a life and persona that pleased me. It sounds very cliche but instead of wishing I should have been accepting; accepting my flaws and figuring out how to build a life for myself despite my imperfections. The second reason is knowledge that I needed to gain on my own. With time and experience I began to realize that this supposed perfection was a falsified image that I had created based on limited information. These people that I emulated were not perfect. They had shit too; I just wasn't privy to it. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that one day I would be someone who was seemingly worth emulating. 
Is this worth envying?
I am flawed, my life is imperfect, my past and present are painful, my future is unknown. Who would ever want to be me or be like me? I was shocked to discover recently that others saw me in the same way that I saw those seemingly perfect girls during my youth. They looked at my accomplishments, my appearance, and my behaviors and came to an inaccurate deduction; they assumed that my life was more desirable than theirs. People envied and applauded my ability to be in school. They acclaimed me, saying that I was "bad ass." And people wished that they were as thin as I am. My reactions to these words were numerous and varying. At first I was angry; how could people not see how much pain I am in? How dare they disregard the degree of effort I have to put forth by assuming that my life is perfect or that I live with ease? After my anger and frustration came sadness and disappointment. I felt like a fraud or a fake. I go about my life at an anorexic weight and write this inspirational blog, earn good grades, go out with friends, and live a somewhat typical life. 
Stand up to the Pro-Ana movement 

I am concerned that I have been unintentionally sending the message that you can be anorexic and function, that anorexia can be a lifestyle choice. I feel like a fucking walking, breathing, living pro-ana campaign and it makes me sick to my stomach. The pro-ana movement counters my values, morals, and beliefs. I would never wish this disease upon anyone, so it is appauling to me that there are people out there who wish it upon themselves and/or help others attain it. How can I feel good about myself when I am unintentionally promoting and supporting a movement that defies everything I stand for? How can I be proud and satisfied with myself when  I am leading people to believe that you can live a fulfilling, productive, and happy life while also holding onto your eating disorder? The truth is that you can't. 
"I would never wish this disease upon anyone..."
I may appear to have it all- confidence, fulfillment, functionality, success, happiness, my anorexia- but in reality I am living a half life. Other's perception of me and my life is not reality. It may look as if I have everything figured out, that I am put together, and that my life is whole; but, in reality my anorexia is robbing me of my health and happiness every single day. You may not see this from the outside but I can feel it on the inside. I still have my shit and so do you; we all do. It may not be obvious to others. It may not materialize physically- weight loss, self-harm, obesity, extreme plastic surgery- but it is still there. Just because your problems aren't visibly apparent does not make them any less real or significant than those that can be seen by the naked eye. Ultimately we all struggle because perfection does not exist. 

"Perfect? How can you define a word without concrete meaning?"

- Ellen Hopkins

Perhaps we say that perfection does not exist because there is always room for improvement, always the possibility of doing something better. Or maybe it is nonexistent because we all have different ideas of what perfect means.
What is perfection?
As Hopkins explains, one is unable to define a word that lacks concrete meaning. There is not unanimous agreement regarding the definition of perfect and its meaning changes depending on the situation. If you describe someone as your perfect mate you are asserting that the individual fulfills your wants, meets your expectations, and makes you feel complete. It doesn't mean they are flawless; it simply means that they are compatible with you. However, if you are referring to a perfect score on an exam the meaning changes. In this case perfect refers to an absence of errors. We can't claim that an individual has a perfect life when we can't agree what perfect means. What I deem perfect may be completely different then what you consider to be perfect. Perfection does not exist simply because its meaning is constantly changing depending on the person, timing, context, and situation. How can we aim to achieve something that lacks a definitive meaning? It seems to me that it is more logical to work toward improvement rather than striving for perfection.
I always need to add a bit of humor !

"Don't worry about getting perfect, just keep getting better."

- Frank Peretti

Yes, there is always room for improvement; but, can we do as Peretti suggests and work toward getting better without having perfection as our ultimate goal? What's the point of practicing and working if we will never achieve perfection? It comes down to realizing that there are other reasons behind wanting to improve yourself, your abilities, and your life. You may never be perfect, but you can always work toward being kinder, more committed, less argumentative, happier, etc. You might not perfect a specific task but you can continue to work toward improving your skills and abilities. I will never be perfectly fluent in French but that doesn't stop me from studying everyday and absorbing as much of the language as I possibly can. 
I know my life will never be perfect or fit my version perfect. (As I said before we all ascribe different meanings to the word "perfection.") But am I supposed to give up on bettering my situation and life simply because it will never be perfect? Since I can't achieve perfection should I resign myself to live in squalor? Absolutely not. My life may not be perfect but that is no excuse to simply give up. I can put forth my best efforts to make my life as fabulous as it can possibly be. I will continue to do things that bring me comfort- cuddling with Milly, journaling, snuggling in my bed. I will always strive to succeed and commit myself to do my absolute best in everything that I do- school, job, relationships, apartment upkeep. I am going to actively engage in fun- going out with friends, baking, shopping, travelling. And, I will continue to pursue happiness with fervent effort.

"I will continue to pursue happiness with fervent effort."
My life will never be perfect; but, that fact is not going to stop me from working to create a life worth living. We have only one chance to experience life and I plan on taking full advantage of this opportunity, filling my life with friends, family, success, peace, laughter, pleasure, and joy! It is time that we start accepting the fact that problems exist and the we all have our shit. We need to stop walking around, looking at other people, and envying the lives that they seem to have; our perception of them and their life is not reality. At the end of the day their lives probably aren't worth envying because no one lives a problem free life. Instead we should recognize that we have issues to deal with and be active in working toward resolving them. Dwelling on our problems, feeling sorry for ourselves, and wishing that they would miraculously disappear is a waste of valuable time and mental faculties. Life is made up of a multitude of elements- good and bad- including the existence of problems. We can't pick and choose what aspects of life we want and which ones we don't. We either engage in all of it or have none of it.
We All Have Our Shit

"The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem."

- Theodore Rubin

When we see people from afar and do not have access to inside information regarding their lives it is easy to imagine that everything about them and their life is perfect; we fail to comprehend that perception is not reality and we dream up the fact that some lives aren't burdened by problems. In doing so we set ourselves up to be disappointed with ourselves and our own lives. As Rubin says, the trouble is that we believe that life is possible sans problems; this false notion results in us thinking that having problems is an issue. Having shit feels wrong or as if it taints us in some way and consequently we judge ourselves because we are not perfect. 
It's time to realize that perception is not reality-
We compare ourselves to those who appear flawless, which results in further disappointment and self-loathing. All of this needs to stop right now. We can't afford to continue thinking that perfection exists. We are endangering our emotional and mental well-being by comparing ourselves to an impossible ideal. If we can understand that perception is not reality and believe that we all have our shit than we can finally put an end to the assumptions, comparisons, and judgments that bring us down. Once we recognize that perfection does not exist we can begin to make realistic expectations for ourselves and our lives. We can create fulfilling lives  by working toward and meeting these personal expectations. No, I am not perfect. My life is not perfect but I don't expect it to be because no one's life is. We will never achieve perfection but that does not mean we are unable to achieve happiness.

Appreciate every moment of your imperfect life,

Learn more about anorexia nervosa- symptoms, warning signs, and risks- and help me and millions of others by spreading awareness about this life threatening illness. Thank you for reading my blog. You and your responses are constant sources of support and happiness for me.

Lets live life FUN !

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