“We are constantly bombarded with perfection.”
This is a poster for the movie “Closer” (2004) with Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen, directed by Mike Nichols. Flawless faces – probably airbrushed.
Characters brought to life by Owen have struck me as a powerful images of rectitude and personality to me in all his films I’ve seen – characters who are a mensch, someone of strong character and admirable self-assurance, someone to admire and emulate, even though they may be egregiously nasty or killing people.
Much as we might think we are “above” popular culture and media influences, they do impact our values and strivings to emulate others or be flawless.
Tal Ben Shahar, Ph.D. in his article Just Let Go explains how insidious these media images and other influences can be.
“We are constantly bombarded with perfection,” he writes. “Adonis on the cover of Men’sHealth and Helen on the cover of Vogue; women and men getting together on the larger-than-life screen, resolving conflicts in two hours or less, delivering perfect lines, making perfect love.
“Parents and teachers exalt the flawless ‘A’; college admission officers expect resumes without end.
“We’ve all heard our self-help Gurus tell us that there is no limit to our potential, that what we can believe we can achieve, that where there’s a will there’s a way.
“We’ve been told that we can find bliss if only we follow the road not taken, or the road taken by our serene spiritual leader — the one with the best smile on the cover of the New York Times best seller.”
Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D. taught one of the most popular courses in Harvard’s history, on Positive Psychology, and is author of The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life.
In the book, he comments on the urge to be perfect.
“Would I have chosen a life without perfectionism had the choice been presented to me when I first became aware of the price I was paying as an athlete, a student, a writer, a partner? Possibly.
“Would I have chosen a life without perfectionism had I known what I would gain by struggling through it, the growth that would take place alongside the real emotional pain? Absolutely not.”