Several clients I saw last week at the clinic spoke about their inner sense of “not being good enough”. We explored self-criticism and if the inner assumption revolves around the concept of perfection. Here are some quotes to ponder:
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.
? Immanuel Kant
The man with insight enough to admit his limitations comes nearest to perfection.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Certain flaws are necessary for the whole. It would seem strange if old friends lacked certain quirks.
Everything is perfect in the universe — even your desire to improve it.
-Wayne Dyer Quotes
This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfection.
Faultily faultless, icily regular, splendidly null, dead perfection; no more.
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson Quotes
I don’t like these cold, precise, perfect people who, in order not to speak wrong, never speak at all, and in order not to do wrong, never do anything.
-Henry Ward Beecher
We all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes, and our ravages. But our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to fight them in ourselves and in others.
The pursuit of perfection often impedes improvement.
What are some ways to reflect these various perspectives?
Here are some questions that came to me as I studied them:
1) Camus talks about fighting one’s own inner darkness. Goethe and St. Augustine speak about examining one’s limitations. Is there a difference between honest self-inquiry for self-improvement versus meeting a social standard of attaining perfection?
2) Saint-Exupéry’s quote about taking away versus adding has a zen-like quality to it. Is everything we think of doing based on unconscious motives or ego-oriented assumptions? Are we better off peeling away what we observe that is a limitation than trying to erect something?
3) Is Dyer’s quote about everything being perfect a different level of viewing this whole dilemma?
You can find past quotes here: