“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”Harriet Braiker
This week in our Boys and Girls group with Alicia, we have been discussing the topics of beauty, society’s view of the ideal man/woman and what we personally think makes up the perfect man/woman. With this heavy topic comes the discussion of empowerment, which means the promoting and realization of one’s potential, or influence.
Self-actualization resonates with the internal work that we do here at Ironwood and it comes in many shapes and forms. These include praising and recognizing our strengths instead of tearing ourselves down, treating ourselves the way we would like to be treated by others and also treating our neighbor the way we would like them to treat us. To truly empower each other and ourselves, we have been taught to let go of all judgement and thoughts of perfectionism. Once we do this, we are free from our own mind as well as the chains and standards made for us through society.
This facet of the program is beneficial to not only students, but to staff and family, as well. In a way, it rewires our thought pattern so that we are kinder to ourselves and others. Empowerment helps us stray away from the imposed beliefs that we must be perfect. At times, it can be challenging because automatic negative thoughts are not easy to deal with and relapses in thought patterns may sometimes happen. However, our peers and staff largely can provide us with the support we need as we take steps toward better ways of living.
One of the challenges that teenagers face in today’s society is the constant pressure to be perfect, which is the very thing that our minds implore that we have to be. There are unrealistic standards that individuals are held to nowadays. Social media and advertisements are great illustrations of the negative promotions that exist to push us to be “ideal” and “flawless”. A specific example of this are commercials that imply that women’s body hair growth is an inconvenience, that it is not right and that it is even shameful. What current advertisements fail to say is that natural and authentic looks are beautiful and enough.
As I wrote before, our minds also promote this standard that we feel we must meet. If something or someone is not up to our standards, then we criticize and judge. It is a vicious cycle where we form an opinion, or evaluation, by discerning and comparing. The truth is that there is no such thing as “perfect”. Being perfect is an illusion that can ultimately separate us from one another.
One of the most important things that I have learned from my group with Alicia and throughout my time at Ironwood is that there is no such thing as ugly, a perfect body, or a perfect personality. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Our outer appearance is not a supernatural thing. It’s likely unrealistic to wish for a smooth complexion, an even tinier waist and a perfect smile to match what society promotes as ideal. Instead, it is important to express respect, seek equality for and denounce systems and views that hold individuals to be inferior and unworthy.
It’s not only women who are held to unrealistic standards and it’s important to shed light on this conflict, as well. Men are also pressured to be perfect and are also judged based upon ideals that shut down authenticity, honest expression and connection. A true feminist standpoint should argue that society has chains and standards for every gender.
Perfectionism can be damaging to one’s mind and soul because beauty is universal. It is important to empower one another by uplifting and supporting each other as well as ourselves. I hope that this update has shed some light on the heavy work that we do here at Ironwood, as we try to break free from oppressive thoughts and careless judgement.
Many thanks for this level 4 author. We support, appreciate and respect your thoughts and we also celebrate your growing level of confidence, knowing that you are moving closer toward an authentic life that is filled with purpose.
Have a nice weekend and always remain hopeful. 😊