Growing up, I always strove for perfection. There was a saying that intrigued me when I was younger, something about how if you aim for the moon and fail, at least you’ll fall among the stars. Having been raised by hard-working immigrant parents, I had to make sure that everything I did was the best. Despite my efforts, however, I was so far from perfection growing up – or at least far from their concept of what it was. I failed exams in high school despite staying up until 3AM studying. I didn’t get a perfect score on standardized testing despite the prep classes and practice tests I devoted hours upon hours completing. For the longest time, I felt ashamed for not achieving all of these things – for not being perfect.
It wasn’t until I attended university and experienced independence from my parents where I truly realized that perfection doesn’t actually exist. Sure, there’s a dictionary definition that describes it as a state of being free of flaws, but having no flaws is not always possible nor is it very appealing. After all, why would anyone want to be the same as everyone else? As a student at the University of Southern California, I was surrounded by thousands of intelligent, bright eyed individuals who were paving their own pathways in their respective expertise. I was inspired from seeing that everyone was doing completely different things and learned that there does not always need to be a clear progression to indicate success.
This realization that perfection is subjective completely changed the way I approach my day-to-day life and overall sense of self-worth. Why should an idea that someone else believes have to have any impact over me and my decisions?
Focusing on perfection causes us to focus on what we lack. It puts on a pedestal an unrealistic impression of success and lends power to something that might not be as glamorous or desirable as we may perceive. It forces us to compare ourselves, even creating a feeling of insufficiency.
When I finally realized that perfection can mean whatever I want it to mean, a weight was lifted from my shoulders. This realization gave me the confidence that I needed to break away from expectations that existed to keep others happy and to feel justified about pursuing the life journey that I wanted to pursue.
I find this realization to be applicable to anyone who might be feeling a little bit lost and comparing themselves to others. Realize that everyone’s journey is completely different and that as long as you believe in yourself and approach any endeavor with absolute confidence and passion, you can bring any of your goals to fruition. I hope that this perspective helps bring you peace and reassurance as it had done for me.
Sarah Shen is an up-and-coming fashion and beauty photographer currently based in Los Angeles, California. She’s been working as a freelancer for about one year after graduating with a degree in Business Administration and minor in Advertising from the University of Southern California. She’s experienced and passionate about creating content and communicating brand narratives for various brands in a way that appears effortless, yet cool.