In the Pursuit of… Mediocracy?

“Strive to be the very best version of yourself that you possibly can”, a phrase that we’ve all heard countless times and in countless different ways.  This quest to achieve the unattainable, pushing ourselves to constantly improve until there is no possible way to reach the next level.  And as we get further and further up the ladder, it becomes harder to travel less distances.  So is it possible to ever create the best version of ourselves? defines perfection as a level of refinement that surpasses what could possibly be improved upon. If we assume this to be the accurate definition of the word, it stands to reason that there could be two possible conclusions on reaching perfection.  1) The level that we can’t pass is arbitrary, and thus we are the ones that define when we reach it.  2) That level is never attainable because the goal posts will always move. I think both have a reasonable base to stand on and that they both warrant more discussion.

perfect-002 Picture source

The first possibility is that the person assessing perfection is the only one that is capable of defining it in that situation.  In which case, when a person feels that they are unable to make themselves any better, no matter how much effort is put in, then they have theoretically reached perfection.  Now an issue exists here of bias, because people always think more highly of themselves then the rest of society does.  This article from CBS points to the fact that a large majority of people rate themselves as “above average”, which is stastically impossible.  Obviously not everyone can be above average, because then the average would be raised and people would be below it.  Clearly a lot of people have trouble in finding faults in themselves, and that makes the idea of rating yourself as perfect sort of bunk.

The second idea assumes that perfection is an ever moving destination, similar to the concept of infinity in math.  You can get closer and closer, but every time you do it’s value moves further away.  This is the fallacy called moving the goalposts, which is when you demand more and more to come of a situation until the original goal is no longer the same.  In the case of perfection, people expect more change to occur then is reasonably possible.  Whether it’s personality traits or body-shape, people are always going to expect more then can happen.  This study, while not directly related to the idea of being perfect, shows that by changing the way we tell people to think about their weight loss program the less likely they are to have unrealistic standards for the result.  This same idea could be applied to the concept of perfection, where people think that they can make massive improvements in a small amount of time, but in reality it takes an incredible amount of refinement to make even the smallest changes.

I do believe that a person can reach the 1st criteria of “perfection”, a point of refinement where they deem themselves unable to go any further.  If this happens, they have made the perfect version of themselves.  However, the 2nd idea of perfection is unattainable.  People are much quicker to point out faults in other people, and as a result there will always be something to critique.  For someone to be perfect in the general consensus of the world would be a level of refinement that doesn’t exist.  This isn’t to say that you should stop attempting to make yourself a better person, but just understand that there will always be some things you can’t improve upon.




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