There are two ways to look at yourself and reality: a) dualistically—as either perfect or imperfect, or b) nondualistically—as neither perfect nor imperfect. You have a choice of psychological software: seeing the world as a discrepancy between “what is” and “what should be,” or seeing the world as it actually is.
The following ten points are a kind of new operating platform to serve as an antidote to the dichotomous/dualistic/all-or-nothing cognitive style that ruins our lives.
1. A state that is so flawless, so immaculate, so error free, so complete that nothing can be added to it to make it better is a state beyond improvement. That is theoretical perfection.
2. Practical perfection is a state that is beyond improvement not because it is immaculate, flawless, or error free, but because it has been completed and is now fact.
3. Every moment, by virtue of it being already a fact, is complete. Thus, it is also a state of perfection—a state beyond improvement. This isn’t fantasy. It is reality at its practical best.
4. You are part of this reality. You are neither perfect nor imperfect. “Perfect” and “imperfect” are words. You are not words. You are everything you have ever been up to this moment, and no one moment or word can define you in your entirety and complexity. You are what you are, in your suchness.
5. To believe that what happened should not have happened and to believe that what didn’t happen should have happened is a violation of causality.
6. It is understandable to want only “this” part of reality and not want “that” part of reality, to want “this” part of yourself and not “that” part of yourself. But while it’s possible to want to divide the indivisible, it’s not actually possible to do so. Reality is this and that, in its suchness. Any attempt to cut the indivisible whole in half is a departure from reality.
7. Splitting what is into good/bad, perfect/imperfect, proper/improper, success/failure, and so on creates false dichotomies. A false dichotomy produces a perception of alternatives to what is. A belief that the reality does not have to be what it is at any given moment leads to a desire for it to be what it is not. Constant rejection of what is and a desire for what is not is the essence of perfectionistic suffering.
8. To want what doesn’t exist and not to want what exists, not to want the reality of the “now” that you have, is a formula for existential suicide. If this reality, as it is in its entirety, is not enough for you, if you feel that you deserve more than this entire universe can summon up at any given moment, then check yourself out in the mirror for a halo around your head.
9. Acceptance of what is isn’t passivity. Acceptance of what is means an active engagement in reality. Accept that whatever exists right now is beyond improvement and therefore as perfect as it can be. And, if you think you need to, try to change what is yet to be. As you do so, accept the results of your efforts as the best that you can do. Repeat this cycle of acceptance and change on an as-needed basis.
10. Old Perfectionism: the old-paradigm of perfectionism was an attempt to perfect the imperfect. New Perfectionism: the new paradigm focuses on perfecting the perfect. The new way of seeing reality (which is just a way of seeing reality at its practical best) begins with the acknowledgement that everything is the best way it can be at a given moment in time— i.e. perfect. Having acknowledged the ordinary perfection of what is, you allow yourself to simultaneously realize that reality can still be better in the next moment. Relax into this idea: the present is already perfect; your work in this moment is done. Now you can look to the next moment and perfect the future.
For years you have defined perfection as a theoretical best. Naturally, by these standards, you have always fallen short of what theoretically could be. You’ve put into this game far more than you’ve gotten out. It’s time to rethink perfection. Understand: chasing the unattainable perfection is a cultural scam; failing to notice the ordinary perfection (of you doing the best that you can at any given point in time, of reality being the best that it can be at any given point in time) is existential suicide.
It is time to realize that perfection is not only attainable but that it is inevitable.
Celebrate what is. There is nothing else.
Adapted from Present Perfect
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Last reviewed: 9 Jul 2011