Unpacking ‘Perfect’

Mel Ness

Lately I have been struck by my obsession with being perfect.  At first that doesn’t sound so bad. We should strive to be perfect, right?

Perfect people have perfect lives with perfect problems, like choosing what shoes to wear with the dress you just bought or figuring out where to vacation in the fall. Those are actually choices, not problems, but you get it.


I’m a young, recent college grad. And there is pressure. There is pressure put upon my shoulders to be perfect.


Let’s unpack that word: Perfect.


Being perfect means having a set plan for the rest of my life.

Perfect people have lots of money to blow and are somehow rich by age 25.

It means never making any mistakes or asking for help, and always figuring things out on the first try.

Being perfect means having the energy to put in a 40+ hour week, regularly workout, participate in the right amount of extra-curricular activities, all while still having an active social life [during the work week].

Oh, and being a perfect daughter, sister, and friend. All of this must be done without getting tired or crabby and looking like a supermodel.

Being perfect means knowing exactly what I want out of my career and already being well on my way to reaching my goals as a professional.

It means knowing exactly where I will be in my career 5 years from now [my personal favorite].

Being perfect is me knowing who I’m going to marry and how we’ll meet.

The year and month I will get married. The exact age I will start having children [based upon how old I’ll be when I marry, of course].

The company I plan to stay with long-term.

And, finally, being sure of where I plan on living for the next 40 years of my life. [Because heaven forbid you pick the wrong place and have to move twice.]


When you’re perfect, people admire you because you are flawless; put together, the epitome of the American dream.

Well, guess what. Everything I just said isn’t true.


Here’s where I am right now:

I’m not sure what the plan is for the rest of my life.

I don’t have a lot of money.

I make mistakes daily, hourly, minute-ly [not a real word].

I am usually the last to join the party and the last to figure things out. [I didn’t figure out that Harry Potter was cool until I was in college.]

I am tired after working over 40 hours a week and find it hard to juggle working out, family, friends, and a social life. I applaud myself if I’m able to stay up past 10:30 PM on weeknights.

I’m not sure what I want out of my career and have no idea what I want to do for the rest of my life, let alone where I will be working.

I’m single and have no idea when, how, or where I will meet That Guy.

I couldn’t tell you where I’ll be living for the next 40 years. I don’t even know where I’ll live next year when my lease is up.


The funny thing about all of this pressure is that the person stacking pressure upon my shoulders…is me. Sure, people ask me what I want to do, where I want to be, who I plan on marrying. But if we’re being honest, my biggest enemy is me.


Now I’m going to share with you what I’ve been learning. None of the things I listed above actually matter.

You’re probably thinking, “Duh.” But be real, you know you think these things, too.


What makes you perfect?

a)        Having your life’s plan solidified, hard copied, and bound

b)        Making lots of money

c)        Knowing exactly which career you want and getting it in less than 5 years

d)        Never making mistakes

e)        The company you work for

f)         Where you live

g)        The amount of extra-curricular activities you participate in

h)        None of the above

The answer is H.


Such freedom is so few words: There is no such thing as being perfect.


When I think of the people I admire most in life, it has nothing to with any of the things I’ve mentioned.

I don’t admire people and desire to be like them because they have it all together or because they’re rich and have a successful career, or because they’re without flaws, work for an awesome company, and can somehow manage to juggle their professional and social lives like modern-day superheroes that look like Cindy Crawford.


I admire them because they are real, raw, and relatable.

I admire them because they have real bodies that have seen struggle and sickness, heartache and loss.

I admire these people because they have been through the pit of hell and the palaces of heaven.

I admire them because they got a late start in life, didn’t do so hot with their first two careers choices, and had to start over at square one.

I admire them for their strength, courage, sense of humor, character, integrity, attitude, and heart.

I admire them for the words of encouragement and affirmation that they pour out on others.

I admire them not for their perfect figures, but because of their health and vitality, their strong minds and ability to see the truth in every situation.

I admire them because of the courage they exhibit by admitting when they’ve done something wrong and getting back up after making terrible mistakes.

I admire them because they live for others.

None of these people are perfect.


I’d rather be imperfect.


-Mel Ness