If perfection means happiness, then does the pursuit of happiness mean the pursuit of perfection?
Ever since I was a kid, I was taught to do everything perfectly -or almost without flaw- and to be politically correct at all times. Perhaps that’s the most common thing of Asian (read: third-world country) value: of being perfect from head to toe and live up the expectation of others. If I didn’t get perfect score in Math quiz, I would likely be humiliated at home. If I didn’t dress quite pleasantly with ruffles-embellished socks and Mary-Jane shoes when meeting people, I would be called a disgrace to family. Even when I unintentionally said a silly remark when seeing the Doctor or when having a witless bargain-battle with the street-vendors, I would too become a subject of derision during family gathering. There were so much rules of the game revolving around my life, and I never blame my family for those. Afterall, they just taught me how the game of life is supposed to be played tactically in the world of adults; I too, thought that the mental (and physical?) exercise would benefit me in the near future. However, I realized that there is no way I can be perfect since the very beginning, but I was too impotent to fight back to gain my independence, even too reluctant to talk-back. Nah, maybe I was just lazy hence the indifference :p.
Years over years, I started to make peace with ‘perfection’ and was susceptible with people’s expectation on me. In order to be happy, I just have to be flawless in every thing I do and fulfill what people expect on me -initially this is how it works in my life. And I don’t like to use the word ‘perfectionist’ as it sounds so self-proclaimed :P. My parents wanted me to enter their choice of Secondary School. Fine to that, I had no objection as I don’t care about which school either. Years later, parents expected me to enroll to a prestigious semi-military school with full scholarship from the government. Roger to that, it didn’t really concern myself. As long as they think I am ideal and can live up to their expectation, they would be happy -and I thought I would too. As long as big family said pleasant and desirable things about me, I thought that was where my happiness lies. But then problem persisted when I entered a boarding school, whereby parents and big family no longer present in my decision-making formula. From here, I stopped thinking about family’s expectation. Perfection then acted as the center steer of my hypothalamus. Flawlessness -my efforts to be perfect in every thing I do- became my moral standard in doing things in order to attain happiness. If I can be perfect, then I can be happy. If I am perfect, then I am happy.
Unfortunately, as cliche as it sounds, there is no way that we could be perfect. I was exhausted along the way to pursue the so-called wisdom of perfection. No matter how hard I try, no matter how I work my ass off, it is impossible that I could be the paragon of everything. Intelligence wise, I am not that smart; and there is always people placed on the top and then over the top. Even if I enrolled in #1 University, there are still strangers who could manage to tear apart my arguments or analytical thinking in the most unexpected places. If normal people could get the work done in one hour, I must spend manifold times of theirs in order to finish the same job. Even if I am qualified as a Ph.D. candidate, I can’t even do the Statistical analysis as proficient as an Undergrad student does. I attempted so hard to offset those deprivation in order to get the ideal-state of mind, which ultimately will lead to happiness. If the pursuit of perfection is tantamount to the pursuit of happiness, then why I am being resentful over the time instead of gradually accumulating the happy-feeling?
Appearance wise, I am nowhere near from the ideal pretty disposition. Even if I strive to conceal the lacking by dressing up, I am not even endowed by a slender body-shape and enough capital to invest on pretty dresses. I was born dark with uneven body-fat that garnished the body and face :P. I knew that I would never be perfect on this area. Even my parents endlessly ridiculed my crooked teeth altogether with the pimples on my face everytime I visited them during holiday. My unusual taste of fashion also never failed to fascinate them (in a bad way). I wouldn’t be used to make-up if my mother didn’t request me to wear it everytime we want to go outside. When I was at home, it is a big no-no for a lady to wear shorts or cargo pants as a casual wear-out. At some points when I was able to fulfill almost all the expectation on grooming and mannerism, suddenly they expressed the insistent request for me to wear a Hijab (whaaat? :D). Afterall in the end, my odyssey on perfection is still never-ending, no matter how arduous my effort to accomplish them.
Life and career-wise, now that is where the burgeoning expectations lie in. Parents expressed their wish for me to major in IT or Finance, and later on started a promising career in the financial institutions. Honestly, I didn’t possess an excessive brain which could solidly bolster me in IT, then I took up Business Administration. I studied so hard to win favorable scores on Finance subject but in the end I failed miserably. I guess I just didn’t have a strong penchant of doing Finance job and would take up another position in Finance without Finance degree, but this was when one of my parents said “…. I guess that thought is hopeless now. It can’t be helped….” Maybe they were right, when it wasn’t there for me, it meant I wasn’t suitable for the challenge. Anyway, I was thankful that I didn’t involve myself in the Finance-related job business.
I am 25 now, and who knows I will end up in 5 years or 10 years later :P. Life is short afterall, especially life of a modern homo-sapiens in 21st century. The world is so full of hazardous environment and cancer becomes the main slow, painful and expensive death-penalty of mankind :P. With this kind of life that I lead, I wonder if I could attain the longevity as most Okinawan does. Nah, the truth is I don’t want to get rotten and decayed into an ugly form of living-being, so maybe longevity of over 100 years isn’t a good idea either. I want to lead a quality life, that is life with happiness in every second. But then what is my happiness? I have given up on my divine Herculean tasks to attain perfection, hence I would reconstruct the definition of happiness :D.
I must start to listen to the inner voice of my mind (or heart?) while mute-ing the uproarious voices from outside. I have heard of outside opinion during my 23 or 24 years of living and tried to make them happy by fulfilling their expectations, now it’s time to let them wither away 😀 -which I think is fair enough. Happiness doesn’t belong to other people or external forces but ourselves. I would never bear childish resentment toward the so-called “external forces”; in fact I am thankful for the hardship and the experience. I am very positive that I can attain exponential happiness by the time I switched off the speaker of external sounds.
I will now not hesitate to try new things on my own, to dress as I like (of course a modest way of dressing!), to take up new challenges that I once gave up when I was young. I would then stop my quest on perfection and say forever goodbye to it and welcome a brand-new happiness to be my new partner in sailing the oceans of life~ 😀