“Perfect” – a Pernicious, Seven-Letter, Contagious Virus

Who do you know who’s doing well enough?

Are you? What do you see when you look in the mirror? A cute, grinning, bright, caring human being? Or a zit the size of a baseball on the end of your nose? What do you expect when you speak up in a group, or start work on another assignment to turn in for school or work? Do you floss your teeth often enough? Or even brush them right?

We’ve been taught to judge – everything – all the time. From first grade on – A’s, C’s, “I got a hundred on that one! What did you get?”

Perfect: and perfectionism – calls for (1) judging, and not just on one dimension, but on every dimension you could imagine, which means an infinite number of them. It’s important to judge. Your worth as a human being, your possibility of being proud, of being loved, respected, depends on how you measure up to this incessant process of being judged. Judge everybody, and be judged by them. That’s the game of human life.

It also calls for being at the top of all these dimensions, which is obviously impossible.

We lose the ability to appreciate – ourselves and others.
We lose all the intrinsic rewards because we’re so focused on the judgment.
We can never let down, even for a moment, relax, and enjoy being human.


Conscious commitment means that I am calmly raising an intention high enough on my list of priorities that I will simply get it done. It’s an assertion that I will change a pattern or habit that I realize no longer serves me. No particular drama – no big deal. I can commit to getting up when the alarm goes off, to flossing my teeth every day, or to being faithful to Jeanie – little or big – and keep my word with the same lack of drama.

If I use such a pompous word as commitment for some decision I make, it’s probably because keeping my promise will take me outside my comfort zone. I’ll be changing a habit that gives me some pleasure or benefit that I am choosing to forego.

Commitments are based on my values, not someone else’s, even when someone else strongly wants me to commit. After all, who’s doing the committing? Me. I am the one who considers their desires to be important. I am not their victim. My choice to commit reflects my values, what I prefer, not how I must behave in order to become a better or worse human being. Not what I should or should not do in order to be being right or wrong. When I keep my word, I get the benefits of what I have committed to. When I don’t keep my word, I don’t do what I said I would, and I and the people around me get to live with that. Whether or not I keep my word affects others, and often these effects ripple in ways that no one will ever know. They may give me praise or blame. This does not make me a better or worse human being. I am always fully human. If I don’t like how I live, I can learn from my experience and do it differently next time.

Having integrity means that I habitually keep my word, to myself and to others. A strong habit of doing what I commit to is a powerful tool for living a rich, productive life. When I keep my word, beyond the immediate consequences of doing what I say, I strengthen the power of my word. I know myself to be someone who can make a promise to himself or others and know that he will do what he said. I can trust my habitual integrity to see me through even challenging times. Sometimes, in challenging and important situations, when I have totally forgotten the values that led to my commitment, all I have to guide me in the direction of my highest values is the fact that I gave my word – to others, and to myself. Every time I break my word, I weaken this habit and set myself to float on the currents and breezes of circumstances and the transient voices of “I don’t wanna,” or “I wanna.”

Conscious commitment means looking at my life from time to time to see what I’m being committed to. What have I been committed to the past hour? Today? This week? This year? In college? With my family? My friends? The world? My life reflects my commitments, consciously made or not. I can notice the balance among my many values, see how I am expressing these different values in my life’s journey. If I’m lacking in one area, I can commit to putting more energy into that area. If I see myself developing a habit that I don’t want to deepen, I can commit to changing it.

When I don’t keep my word, I absolutely will not beat myself up. I will clean up whatever mess I have made to the best of my ability, learn what lessons I can, and see if it’s appropriate to recommit. I refuse to turn commitment into one more baseball bat to beat myself with. If I did that, I would shun committing, especially about “big” or “really challenging” issues. That would deprive me of this wonderful tool for a richer, more productive life. I am comfortable with commitments.

Feeling OK About Your Body (or Mind or Talents or …)

How each one of us understands our life is one particular take on Existence and on the human condition. I illuminate myself, others, and Existence with a tiny colored penlight. Based on what I see with this unique light, I hold the unique reality that I thereby create as an “IS” rather than as an “AS.”

I was taught the perspective that I am not part of a group, us, but I am an individual, separate from & competing with others.

If or when I judge something about myself negatively, could I use my pain to unite myself with countless people with similar pain, rather than hold it as my personal pain? To see myself as “one of us” rather than as “me?”

This moment: Where am I focusing? What is my intention? What game am I playing?
What games other than comparison-judgment-criticism-scanning-for-flaws-body image could I play?

What else could I tell myself? Something perhaps more in line with my highest values?
Something in line with what I want to achieve with my life as I live it?
Something likely to lead to deep satisfaction, joy, enthusiasm, happiness, cooperation, growth?

Will I take charge of how I use my life?

We tend to become like the people with whom we associate, in person or through the media.

Will I honor this incredible body?
Will I set realistic goals for diet and exercise, and then calmly meet them?
What do I offer the world other than the outer appearance of my body?
What behaviors might actually make me more fun, more interesting, more lovable?
How if I were to love and appreciate, rather than focus on being loved or being appreciated?
Will I reach out, help, laugh, smile, enjoy, listen, care, participate, join, share, support, create, appreciate – over and over – whether I feel like it or not?
Will I avoid media and ads that teach body image and celebrity status as the only game in town?

Will I pay attention to my obsessive focus on self-judgment, self-flagellation, and self-hatred?
Am I willing to commit to a mindfulness practice in which I support, rather than abuse, myself?
Procedure: (1) Observe what you tell yourself in your mind. This is what you’re hypnotizing yourself with. (2) Notice, rather than judge, when you beat yourself up in your head. (3) When you notice self-beating, calmly change your focus to something supportive.
Do that over and over and over and ov. . . ., as required.

Are you only how your body looks?
Are you a thing to be judged? Or an experience to be created?

Loving is the experience of a heart-felt “yes.”
Scan for/focus on the positive.
Share a triumph, have a great day.
Break the expected context – say something weird or funny.

What is the purpose of your body? To have stereotypic youthful good looks forever?
How does your body serve you?
Must you agonize over how your body looks? Must you exert control over it?
(Can you control it?)
There is no relationship between how people’s bodies look and quality of their romantic life.
Being in the top fraction of “good looks” is a quick, easy way to get attention.
Do you think that makes for lifelong happiness?
Talk to people who were drop-dead gorgeous when they were young!
They get cheap attention for their bodies, they get objectified,
and they miss the experience of getting it for “themselves.”
They often become obsessed with their bodies.
As they age, they lose this source of what they have relied on to be special.

Your body probably looks like those of your ancestors.
Celebrate your ethnic and genetic heritage.

Sit on a busy street or in a bus station and look at and meditate on lots of real human bodies.

Take ownership of your decisions: Assert and choose for yourself.

If you have been scarred by society, family, employers or peers,
Educate yourself about society, learn how it works and why it works that way.
Dedicate your life to changing society or to helping heal others who are scarred by it.
Thus, you use your own scars to guide you into a rich, meaningful path of growth.

Stay connected with friends, family, groups, counselor, even when you don’t want to.
Put yourself with people who embrace you for who you are,
who honor the direction of your highest growth.
Over and over, switch your attention off of your self and your body:
onto others, ideas, activities, serving, caring.

Choose to practice loving, and trust that the experience of being loved will take care of itself.
Choose to appreciate, rather than to judge.

Choose YES! Over and over. And when you don’t feel like it, choose YES! again.


When I was a kid, I was most impatient. For example, I lived the whole month of December for Christmas morning. I couldn’t stand waiting. Also, I had to be perfect, do it right, whatever it was, the first time.

Now most of the time I’m patient almost to a fault. I have learned that:

Time goes faster and faster as I get older, so whatever it is I want (or don’t want) will come soon enough.

Getting what I want does not transform my life.

I’m human, and I’ll make mistakes.

I can’t control the world, or the outcomes of my efforts.

Life needn’t be so dramatic; I can watch it, watch myself not get what I want, and still be interested and engaged.

I can be experiencing severe pain on one level and the part of me that is paying attention or witnessing the pain can be peaceful and in good spirits.

I get better at something when I practice—through disappointments and mistakes; I actually can gain expertise in areas where once I was a complete novice or beginner.

There is as much to be gained in not getting life the way I want it as in getting what I want. What is that? The skills of smiling through disappointment, of rising up and, I choose, doing it again and again, rather than of following my instinctive push to quit, to split, to go away, in order to prevent future hurt from disappointment, whether public or private.

Slow and steady wins the race, and winning the race is not determined at the finish line, but instead every moment during the process of running.

When I notice myself being impatient, I have a choice to giggle at my humanness and give up the impatience, the demand that circumstances be the way I want them—now and always. And I can quit exaggerating how terrible, how awful, it is that I haven’t got what I want. I am not the first person who lived without what he wanted.

Or I can hang onto my demands and upset myself and the people around me. I can watch myself being upset, and identify with the “I” who watching, rather than with the “I” who’s impatient.

These students don’t learn what I teach them. Why should they?

This committee meeting is neither productive nor interesting. Why should it be?

This traffic light has been red a long time. Why shouldn’t it?

This store doesn’t have my size in stock. Why should it?

My skin itches. Why shouldn’t it?

This coworker doesn’t like me. Why should she?

My book is not a best seller. Why should it be?

I don’t know what the future will bring. Why should I?

This person is not being logical or coherent. Why should he?

My hip hurts. Why shouldn’t it?

I can’t play this sonata the way I want to. Why should I be able to?

My loved ones will leave or die, or I will age and die before them. Why should it be otherwise?

That driver never signaled his turn. Why should he?

The world isn’t the way I’d like it to be. Is that news to me?

Why should I, out of the total population, be the one who is God?

The sad truth is — I’m human. So I can’t control the world or my own life in that world. Influence — yes. Control — never. Patience means living at peace with that reality; impatience means disturbing myself about it. When I want something other than what I’ve got, how will I live? I’m committed to embracing my lot as a human being. That means accepting, always accepting, the baggage that goes with being a person rather than my childhood image of God. Whether I want to, whether I feel like it, or not.

Why dwell on the fact that existence isn’t some way I wish it were? I will forever disappoint myself and others. And others will forever disappoint me. I will work at tasks I don’t prefer and hang around people I’m not charmed by. Or leave them. I’ll have trouble predicting tomorrow’s events. And the planet will keep staggering down its path into a rocky and uncertain future. I can upset myself about all this. But I have better ways to live. So I can’t control existence! Well, there are some things I can usefully affect — my intention, my attitude, my point of view, my beliefs, my internal voices, how I will live my life and use and serve the world I find myself in.

Of course, things I can’t control pop out at me so abruptly that I’m taken by surprise and find myself impatient. When that happens, I can choose to stay impatient. Or I can play a bigger game than finding fault with myself and life. There’s still a lot to love, a chance to serve, and a lot to learn. I am dedicated to loving, to serving, and to learning.