Monday, February 6, 2012

Letting Go of the Idea of Perfection

I have a secret to tell you.
I am not that different from the All American Housewife- the picture perfect soccer mom with her perfectly manicured hair, nails, and lawn, and stylishly decorated house. I like many of the same things, and maybe in a dream world I would have many of the same things as her.

But... I think one of the most important things I've learned/have been working on since adopting a more frugal and greener lifestyle is to just let go... Letting go of my dreams of perfection.
Because... face it- perfection is NOT normal. Its not natural.
Perfection often is the byproduct of assembly line style mass production.
Perfection often is the byproduct of chemicals and other tampering with nature...
Perfection often is dreadfully expensive.
Think about it.

That apple on that tree, perfectly shaped, bug free, and entirely red? Often got that way because of pesticides and food colorings and other tampering with nature.

Your noodles that all are a uniform shape, width, and length? Machine made, assembly line style.

That perfectly manicured lawn? A result of pesticides and fertilizers and who knows what else...

A perfect body? Often not even real, photoshopped to look that way. (See this really amusing and sad parody here.) Or attained by starving oneself or a binge/purge cycle. Or with plastic surgery.

Her perfectly beautiful face? Often lots of makeup to conceal all those natural flaws.

Perfect hair? Often from chemical shampoos, mouses, and gel. Blow dryers, curling irons, and flattening irons. Hair dye.

Your candies are a beautiful, bright color? Food coloring.

Those cookies are all a uniform shape and color, with the decorations on them picture perfect? Machine made...

One thing I've learned is that perfection isn't normal. Perfection generally isn't natural. Nature isn't perfect, usually, but there is a beauty in nature's lack of perfection.

I'm a forager.
That means that I am outdoors a lot, looking at nature.
I watch grapes ripen, and I watch one cluster of grapes. There are some that are still hard and green. Some that are half green, half red. Some fully purple. And some starting to wrinkle into raisins because they're overripe. And all within the same cluster.
That's how nature is.
A little bit ripens at a time.
Fruit aren't perfect.

I'm a forager.
I pick green leafy veggies. One of the veggies I pick most often is mallow. Mallow leaves frequently are marked with holes where bugs ate them. And you know what? I used to be grossed out when I saw that, but once I learned the rules of foraging, once I learned that a completely bug free area is suspect, (because bugs eat plants, and if there are no bugs it usually means chemicals were sprayed) I have begun to appreciate seeing that bugs chomped away on a plant. It means they enjoyed the green leafies as much as I did.
Veggies aren't meant to look perfect.

When you go to the grocery store and see row after row of perfect looking fruits and veggies, do you look at them and wonder "why?" like I do? Does it also hit you that this perfection is not normal, is actually rather "Stepford Wives"ish and just a wee bit scary, because to get things looking that "perfect", something was tampered with, because they don't naturally look like that?

Nature isn't "perfect". But part of the beauty of nature is its lack of perfection. The fact that every snowflake looks different. The fact that even within the same species, there are so many different variations that come about. The fact that creeks meander instead of flowing in a straight line...

I love nature. But it isn't cookie cutter. It isn't "perfection personified".
I don't want perfection.
Demanding perfection is what causes companies to use chemicals like food colorings to make foods more visually appealing. Demanding perfection is what causes companies to use artificial flavorings and msg and other additives like flavor packs to make foods have the "perfectly uniform taste", and not with the variation that nature intended the food to have.

While I've accepted the concept that perfection isn't something that I or we should strive for, there are some things that because of cultural norms and expectations, its harder to "let go of the idea of perfection" regarding them.
Like hair.
I don't use shampoo. I wash my hair using hot water, baking soda, or homemade soap.
My hair is clean.
But my hair is different than it used to be when I used shampoo.
I'll kid you not- my hair does not look like a shampoo commercial. It doesn't have that gleam to it, that iridescence, that thing that shouts "I use Garnier Fructis!"

My hair doesn't look bad.
It actually looks almost the same as it used to.
It just feels different.
The texture isn't the same as it used to be.

But you know what?
That's how hair is supposed to be. We, as a society, have gotten used to putting chemicals in our hair for so long that we assume that the look that can only be achieved by chemicals is how it is supposed to be, that our hair is supposed to be "perfect" and commercial ready.
But I am cool with not having perfect hair.
My hair is very good and beautiful and pretty, even if I wouldn't be chosen as a model for a shampoo add.

In general, I think its a good idea to adopt the idea that perfection isn't what we should be striving for. That its OK if our furniture in our home is from the second hand store or dumpster, that even if it doesn't match and have a uniform theme to it the way a brand new set would, its absolutely ok. That its ok if our homemade cookies turn out less than perfect. That its fine to sew your own homemade things even if the lines aren't perfectly straight. That gifts can be homemade and with mistakes and still be great. That your misshapen or bug nibbled home grown produce is just as tasty or more so than store bought perfection.

Striving for perfection leaves us with unrealistic ideals that, in my opinion, only end up hurting ourselves.

Nature isn't perfect.
Neither are we.

Striving for perfection?
I'm trying not to.
I'm trying to let go of the idea of perfection.

Who needs perfection anyways...

How do you feel about perfection? Do you strive to have things looking perfect all the time? Do you ever stay away from frugal things or healthier options because they're less "perfect" than the more expensive or more unhealthy option?
What are your thoughts on perfection in life?
Is perfection an ideal we should have?

Linking up to Real Food WednesdayWFMWFrugal Days Sustainable WaysSimple Lives Thursday Homestead Blog Hop,

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