Legendary film beauty (and underestimated intellectual) Marilyn Monroe, is quoted as saying: ‘Imperfection is beauty. Madness is genius. And it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.’
As we muddle through the bewildering daily landscape of COVID-19, what we aspire to be and do is called into serious question.
As recently as January 2020, the generally accepted norms of life, the terms and conditions of success and our evaluation of a relative state of happiness were rather easy to comprehend. Not anymore.
Life, as we knew it, has been upended and laid bare for scrutiny. And that is true whether you live in a sprawling penthouse on the privileged Upper East Side of New York City, or a tiny cramped space in any corner of the world. Everything has changed.
Some would say that justice has been served
People who call themselves pragmatists would say that this is justice. That, for too long – and prodded relentlessly by major brands and social influencers – we worshipped at the shrine of ‘perfection’ – a touched-up version of life that could be purchased and flaunted by those who had enough money and a desperate need for approval. And that we were now experiencing the backlash of this superficiality.
Semi-authentic is still faking it
The more bohemian – creative and artistic – elements among us, who had always lamented what they called a ‘lack of authenticity’ in those brand images, sought solace in trying to cultivate authenticity by supporting only those brands that claimed to be highly principled. However, a pious slogan on an overpriced t-shirt does not cut it when that same t-shirt was made in a sweatshop in a country where the local population lives in abject poverty.
So, now that the spotlight is forcing us to re-think our values, how do we move forward to change our behavior in line with our true selves?
It’s what the French would call the ‘mot du jour’ – the word of the day.
On the face of it, validating imperfection is a perfect excuse to lounge in your pajamas all day, over multiple Zoom Calls, go to the shops in your jogging pants – sorry, that’s ‘athleisure’, right? And feel that finally, the world had got it right.
But that’s not what this is all about. The fact that perfection is under the microscope is not so that we can substitute it with a more relaxed approach to dressing, eating, thinking and behaving.
My sense is that the call to imperfection will require an even bigger commitment to living life to the fullest.
We will no longer be able to blame external circumstances, or the stress of being constantly in the glare of a social media-centered game of one-upmanship for our personal situations.
Devoid of the excuse of not being perfect, we will have to show up – warts and all – and contribute our best effort, even if that is just a smile for a stranger – to be a worthwhile member of society.
And if we can get our heads around that, we may well end up being better than we thought possible.
When questioned on the subject of perfection, another legendary screen beauty (and deep thinker) Audrey Hepburn, is said to have tossed her head and said: ‘ It’s just a question of including an apostrophe and a little space and you can change ‘imperfect’ to ‘I’m perfect.’ Voila!