Have you ever seen a perfectly straight, infinitely long line? Me neither. How about a perfectly mathematically round sphere? Nope, never seen one. Perfectly straight lines and perfectly round spheres exist only in one place: your mind. Nature doesn’t make mathematically perfect objects, and yet who could say that a tree isn’t perfect?
Idealized perfection exists only in our minds. You will never be mathematically perfect. Your body will never be mathematically perfect. Even the people we think are perfect aren’t perfect. After seeing an airbrushed photo of herself, Cindy Crawford once said, “I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford.”
Who wants to look at a mathematically perfect tree? Have you ever seen those radio towers disguised with xmas tree needles to look like trees? They are weirdly symmetrical and unnatural looking. We love the imperfection in nature; the uneven crags and knolls are what draw us to a gorgeous landscape.
Yet often we expect our bodies to be perfect: for women, cellulite-free, hairless, toned but not muscley, tanned, free of pimples, scars, veins, and of course wrinkles. Perfection in humans is entirely limited to the class of human beings who live their flat lives on billboards and in magazines. All their imperfections have been wiped clean by technology’s magical brush. Whose body is perfect? No one’s. No one’s real body is perfect.
Our idealized definition of perfect is a soul-crushing steam-roller that flattens many girls (and some boys as well) starting at age ten or younger. We learn our bodies can never measure up and we go to wild extremes to reach for a perfection that, like a desert mirage, lures us on until we find ourselves face down in the sand and dying of thirst. For years I tried to shape my body into an unattainable perfection that left me hating myself and hating life and isolated from the people who loved me most.
It’s time to redefine “perfect” and throw out our habit of holding up outer perfection as a desirable goal. We don’t have to go too far to find a new meaning… in yoga, perfect is purna. Purna means not abstract perfection, but wholeness, completeness, fullness; perfect as a real experience of life… everything is perfect by being fully itself. Purna/perfect is natural, vibrant, asymmetrical, and dynamic. It changes, but is always perfect nonetheless. Perfect is no longer about comparing ourselves to something outside of us, but is our own experience, our own lives, our own bodies. You are already yourself, you are already perfect. There is nothing to attain.
Perfect is a way to see yourself. It’s not something we buy from a cosmetics company or a plastic surgeon. You are incomparable. To be perfect you need only to step fully into being yourself, and no one else. No one can show you your perfection… it’s like asking the fish to see the water or inside its own bones. Perfect is simply who you are.
Even the parts of ourselves we most dislike are perfect. Years ago after I'd lamented the stretch marks on my thighs, my partner responded, “I love your stretch marks. I love your thighs. Your stretch marks tell me you are a living, breathing woman who’s had many life experiences, all of which I value because they make you who you are: the person I love.”
To practice redefining perfect for yourself, walk down the sidewalk and observe the trees (even the stunted ones) and flowers (even the wilted ones) and say, “This is perfect. That is perfect. This thing is perfectly itself, perfectly alive, perfect in its experience.” See how things are perfect in their imperfection. Then look in the mirror and say to your flaws and your assymetries: “You are perfect. You are perfectly yourself.” Start to open your eyes to how you are perfect in your own imperfection.
Love Your Body Blog Part 48