Stop Chasing Perfection
“Oh my gosh, Jeremy! Look! It’s a Blue Morpho!” I whispered intensely, trying to grab his attention without scaring the butterfly away.
“Mom! That’s good luck!” he shouted excitedly, as he ran toward it for a better look – the butterfly, once spotted, fluttered elusively down the path with a gleeful nine-year-old in pursuit.
I would love to have shared our Blue Morpho experience with you through my husband’s stunning wildlife photography, but alas, capturing their image is a bit like photographing a ghost. You’re left standing in vague wonder. Mesmerized. Questioning if what you saw was simply a figment of your imagination. (Thank goodness for stock photography!)
The Blue Morpho Butterfly, with its stunning iridescent blue wings, has a mythical beauty. As one of the most recognized and treasured icons of the rainforest, the indigenous people see them as both wish granters and evil spirits, and they’re believed to lead followers into the jungle to become lost forever. It was thrilling to see the butterfly in the wild during our recent trip to Costa Rica, and while I’m not terribly superstitious, I still kept Jeremy reigned in from following it too far off the path.
We chased that butterfly for probably ten minutes down that path in Manuel Antonio – keeping it in our sights – so focused. We didn’t want to look away, for fear that it would disappear. There we were in a gorgeous rainforest teeming with beauty and life all around us and throughout our chase, the only thing we saw was a single blue butterfly. And then it vanished.
I think many of us spend our lives chasing the elusive. We’re on a quest for perfection that’s always out there, fluttering just beyond our grasp – that shimmering promise that will guarantee happiness and success. If we…could…just…
But maybe perfection isn’t meant to be chased. For when we’re always chasing something “out there” we miss the beauty that’s right in front of us.
When I write, it’s always interesting to see what resonates, and last week’s post, “You’re Not a Fix-it Project” seemed to hit a chord with many people. I suspect that’s because so many of us are trying desperately to fix our way to perfection. As if we’re flawed. We look to the world for examples of how we should be and what we should have and how we should feel – and see evidence of beauty and wealth and brilliance and grace and success and figure if we could just fix ourselves to be more like that…
Chasing perfection is always somewhere up ahead – “out there”. You catch glimmers of it in the crowd. One person’s beauty. Another person’s wealth. Someone’s talent. Her great title. His great family. Their nice house. That life, that you wish you had – that you’re convinced you could have – if you could just fix everything that needs to be fixed. But perfection is an endless chase. It’s not real. You see an image and you think the image tells the whole story. You don’t see that the beautiful woman lives in fear of growing older. You don’t see the relationships the talented actor had to give up to get the role. You don’t see the late nights, and missed birthday parties, and ulcers leading to the title. You don’t see the vulnerability behind the great family or the sacrifice in the nice house. You just see the shimmer of perfection…just outside your reach. Chase it and you lose yourself forever.
I see a big difference between trying to catch perfection and committing to being your best self. In my mind, committing to being your best is about seeing, leveraging, and growing what you already have – who you really are. It forces you to be in the present, to see and own what is real – from a strengths perspective as well as from a development perspective. It recognizes and cherishes differences. It demands that you take responsibility for making powerful choices about the opportunities you choose, who you spend your time with, and the actions you take – responsibility for making decisions around how to leverage your best self. Committing to being your best is inherently more joyful and positive as it assumes that your best is already in you. It may need to be excavated. It may need to be nurtured and strengthened and developed and polished. But it’s there. You own it.
I find it so interesting that the Blue Morpho could symbolize two such contrasting things – good luck or lost forever – and I’m curious what would determine the different outcomes. My best guess is that, like perfection, if you find yourself chasing something that you can never catch, you’ll feel loss and disappointment. If instead we can find a way to fully appreciate and take in the beauty that’s shimmering – however briefly – before us, we’d experience such gratitude and reverence that it would shift the way we approach everything else. The way we treat ourselves. The way we show up in the world. The results that come our way.
And some people like to call that…