So, a while ago I wrote about the dangers of, or concerns around, striving for perfection. I don’t think I made clear that I believe, think, feel that recognising our imperfection and striving to be authentic and continue the active process of becoming ourselves is the key to our ability to enjoy our lives to the fullest and express who we are with meaning and therefore satisfaction. I think these are the things that lead us beyond Maslow’s hierarchy of needs into a new realm of more holistic needs that are better suited to humanity’s way of being, within the current culture, and may well lead to a revolution, perhaps even enough of one to start to change our evolution.
To the evolutionary biologist, evolution occurs over a long periods of time (millions of years kind of time). The smallest amount of time most are willing to suggest this has measurably occurred in humans and other species (referred to as rapid evolution, contemporary evolution or evolution within an ecological timescale) is within 50-100 generations. In today’s worldwide culture we tend to use the word ‘evolution’ rather loosely when what we often mean to reflect is a paradigm shift in an individual’s experience (as opposed to an entire species genetic direction). Yet, there is increasing evidence that species of many kinds are passing on learning to their young which is enabling them to enter their world with greater advantage and adaptation and, depending on your definition of evolution in biological terms, this is starting to influence the scientific worlds take on evolution. The recognition that evolution is not just genetic adaptation but is beginning to be seen as 50% genetics and 50% environment (or some similar measurement) is becoming more commonplace.
Returning to the idea of ‘perfection’, in terms of evolutionary biology homo-sapiens have never been perfect. There is a bit of a trend currently to idealise different periods of our evolutionary history such as pre-agriculture or the paleolithic period. The truth is that there is no time in human history that humans were perfectly in harmony with our environment or perfect in any particular way. “Humans are not at the pinnacle of any evolutionary ladder… Evolution is always working from existing parts… Organisms are not in ‘perfect harmony’ it is more that evolution just has to be good enough.” (Prof. Marlene Zuk, 2014). How many of us feel that we are ‘good enough’? I wonder if we started to think that we were just good enough if that might help many of us fill the void of doubt, fear and shame that drives us toward worthlessness, self-loathing, overthinking, over analysing, anxiety and depression…
In terms of religion or philosophical belief, without getting into great depth across multiple belief systems, there is a strongly familiar repetition that we are moving towards rediscovering, finding or reaching for perfection. Do our religious beliefs ever suggest that we were born imperfect? That our road leads us towards authenticity and that this is the greatest honesty we can achieve? It is easier to lose ourselves to a saviour that will cleanse us of our imperfections than to take the more honest and seemingly harder road toward just being our imperfect selves. It is easier to succumb to addictions, be they substance or material based, than accept our vulnerability. As researcher Brené Brown asks, in her infamous TEDex talk, how many of you see vulnerability in yourself as weakness yet when you see someone else expose their vulnerability you see courage.
The road to happiness, it starts with allowing yourself to be vulnerable. To be yourself, not who you think others think you should be but who you really are. It takes great risk and potentially terrifying honesty. In a world where we are told to ‘harden up’ or buy into the consumerist/capitalist idealism, and swallow the culture, politics or pseudo-psychology that is sold to us in bite size nominalisations, what we might really need to do is allow ourselves to be courageously vulnerable so that we can begin to accept our imperfections, feel worthy and experience innovation, creativity, real connection and happiness.
word errant satiety image courtesy of alltelleringet on deviantART