I struggled with the word perfect for years and years and years. It felt like this impossible state that I had to somehow already have achieved with a password, able body and infinite bank account I didn’t have.
That is, until one day I was talking to my sister-in-law, who has her Ph.D. in Old English. She explained to me that in the middle ages, the word ‘perfect’ meant whole, or mature. For example, when you finished your seven year apprenticeship and presented your masterpiece before the guild it wasn’t expected to be flawless, but to demonstrate that your understand the whole of your craft and that you had become mature in your capacity and were ready to join the guild. If that was the case, then your masterpiece was perfect.
We’ve come up with a very different meaning for this word over the years, and I don’t know about you, but the flawlessness thing? I just can’t make that work. But mature? Even whole? I might not have arrived yet, but I can see the progress I make year on year as I keep on becoming mature. And that leaves me with a sense of hope and possibility and agency – the ability to think that I can make changes in my life!
So my question to you is this – what would it mean if perfection didn’t mean flawless? And what would this change?