Whilst searching for perfection, what I actually discovered was chaos. And I loved it.
Around three years ago, newly single, I devoted significant time to becoming a Better Person: I tried to restart and maintain an exercise regime that was bound to put me in the best shape of my life; I decided to set my book goal for the year to 52 to encourage my love of reading to return after graduating from an English Literature degree with an increasing amount of books on my To-Be-Read pile; I got a pre-paid annual Audible subscription.
I know. Things were getting REAL.
And that was just the beginning.
As you can probably imagine, none of the aforementioned decisions particularly helped me become a so-called Better Person and the only thing that actually stuck was the fairly high reading goal (now increased to 100 books a year, thank you very much.)
Which led me on to the fairly important, and somewhat imperative question on everyone's lips: what – or rather who – actually is a Better Person? Is it measured in how much you donate to charity every month? The amount of self-help books you read in a year? Whether you reach 10,000 steps every day?
Of course not. These are just things that external forces tell us Better People should do and, thusly, we feel compelled to do them in order to reach the level of perfect that we think we should strive to gain.
But here is the harsh truth: perfection does not exist. It is not a state that can be measured, tracked or maintained because it is not a tangible entity. It simply... is not.
The second thing to consider about perfection is that – even if it did exist in some form or another – it is completely and irrevocably subjective. I mean, think about how much we all fall out over pizza toppings, football teams, ice-cream flavours. My margherita pizza wouldn't touch another's meat feast and don't even get me started about the fact that I haven’t the faintest idea what the off-side rule is.
I realise I'm getting off-track.
Whilst I regain my train of thought, I would just like to take a moment to clarify that at no point in my early twenties was I actively seeking perfection; of course, I wasn’t. But I did want to become Better. I still do. In a world with so many opportunities available at our fingertips, I don’t think I ever won’t want this. The difference, though, is key: now, I understand that any attempt at self-improvement – even if it is something you are so committed to that you’re willing to pay a lot of money for and devote a lot of time towards – is messy. And it requires a lot of work to sort out the fantastic from the shambolic. Even good attempts can often go wrong.
Right, back to this idea of perfection. Around the end of last year, I remember reading a blog post by Jenn Hand called ‘Why Striving For Perfection Is Actually Holding You Back.’ At the beginning of this post, Hand quotes American author and journalist Anna Quindlen: “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” To say that hit home with me would be an understatement. I soon realised that what I had been trying to do for the best part of two years was to improve myself to a point where I would be a certified Better Person. My self-improvement would reach a point where I was complete, certified, finished.
The sheer concept of this seems ludicrous to me now.
What makes this all the more ironic is that there is no bigger proponent of Being Yourself than I am; I don’t think I could stand by this message any more than I do in my general day-to-day life. However, despite believing in it wholeheartedly, I was not allowing myself to take that same advice.
And the more I talk to other people about this, I am realising that I am not the only one.
Which leads me to this blog. I have been a writer for as long as I have been able to hold a pen and yet, in recent years, my word count has been embarrassingly low. In order to take Quindlen’s advice and “begin the work of becoming [myself]”, this is going to change. I would also love to have a place to write about the things I have tried and tested over the years – some things have been amazing, some utterly ridiculous – and give people my two-cents on healthy and positive ways to engage with self-improvement in a world where everyone is trying to tell you what to do.
All of my opinions are that: my own. I am not claiming to be an expert in the slightest; I am merely a self-professed self-improvement nerd with lots to say and a clever domain name* on which to say it.
If you have read this far then I genuinely thank you very much and hope you have found at least some of what I have said interesting.
So, who's ready to embrace the chaotic?
*Credit for the clever domain goes to my friend Ellie, without whom 'UNFIONNISHED' would have been called something far more boring. Everyone loves a good pun, don’t they?