Progress Not Perfection

Progress Not Perfection

hiking togetherNathalie Bowman

The Quest for Perfection is all consuming. Many women have an ideal of the perfect life, and beat themselves up for not being able to attain it, or they put on a mask and pretend they’re perfect even though they know they’re not. Neither way brings happiness. What, really, is “perfect”?

There are as many definitions of perfect as there are people trying to attain it. Think about how you would define your perfect self. Does the thought bring you joy? Or does it feel heavy? The never ending pursuit of perfection can get old fast, but somehow, we still manage to want it, thinking it will do us some good.

Instead of perfection, how about having joy in the journey and recognizing progress?  It reminds me of the time I hiked the Grand Canyon from the North Rim to the South Rim in one day; it was over 23 miles. We started early in the morning, and hiked in darkness with only a flashlight to guide our way for the first several hours on the trail. I wanted to be “perfect” and make a good impression, because this was my first official date with my boyfriend (who later became my husband). As we went on, the sunrise was beautiful and the day began to get warm. By the time we got to the bottom of the canyon, I was a bit worn, but we still had the most difficult part of the hike ahead of us-going up the South Rim. I was getting worried about my strength to make it all the way up.

I knew my boyfriend enjoyed the great outdoors as much as I did, and I wanted it to be the perfect day as I made a grand impression on him. As we went up the steep switchback trail, he was holding my hand to keep me going up the trail at his pace, which was faster than mine.

I felt like I was going to throw up. My body did not want to take one more step, but I kept going. I was so grateful for the resting points along the way. Finally we made it up to the top, and it was beautiful. In spite of my desire to impress and be “perfect,” the journey wasn’t perfect–I made my boyfriend wait for me to rest when he may have preferred to go on; we had to wait for mule trains to pass us; we were tired and sore and thirsty. But we made it, one step after another. The beauty was in the progress along the way, even though our experience didn’t fill my “perfect” expectations. In spite of it all, we look back at that experience with wonder and awe because of the progress we made together.

It’s about progress, not perfection. Life can be like my experience hiking the canyon–at first I wanted it all perfect.  Then as we pushed on through the journey, I realized that the perfection was in the progress, not in the unattainable ideal.

Progress is putting one foot in front of the other and not giving up.

It’s getting up in the morning to care for our families or go to work when we’d really rather stay in bed.

It’s doing the little things that add up and that help us along the way.

Progress is forgiving ourselves when we make mistakes, letting go, and moving past the frustration.

Taking steps and acknowledging our progress creates peace and confidence, even through the hard days.

Next time you start getting uptight because you’re not “perfect,” take a deep breath and find evidence of the good things–even if it’s little steps-and banish those thoughts of “perfection!” It’s always good to improve yourself, to set goals and move forward, and the easiest way to do that is to let go of the myth of “perfection,” love yourself as you are, and enjoy your progress.  



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