What is perfection? What does it mean to be perfect?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines perfect as ‘the state of being complete and correct in every way’.
The Oxford Dictionary defines perfect as ‘Free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless.’
‘Free from flaws’, an interesting phrase considering that dimples, which are considered widely in many countries and cultures as attractive, are in fact muscle defects. They are caused by a fault in the tissue situated under the skin, or a shortened muscle, while the embryo develops. Medically registered as ‘genetic defaults’ and imperfections, it is ironic that this is one of the main attributes women find attractive in men. Famous celebrities such as Cheryl Cole, Cameron Diaz and even the Duchess of Cambridge, all present beautiful smiles enhanced by dimples and let’s not forget about the men: Hugh Jackman, Brad Pitt, and even Maroon 5’s own Adam Levine.
Body modifications have jumped onto this popular defect with dimple piercings which according to Piercing Models, is the ‘most talked about modification’ due to ‘how it accentuates a feature beautifully.’ Models such as Iska Ithil rock this modification, instantly eye-catching and highlighting her facial features. Piercings such as this, attempt to capture the natural beauty of a defect because, despite its medical imperfections, dimples are attractive and beautiful.
“One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist… without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.” – Stephen Hawking
We aren’t born perfect because perfect is not human. As humans, it is one of our shared traits as a race to be subjected to human error. Unlike certain animal species that are so perfectly adapted to their environments, they have been around since the dinosaurs (aka the resilient crocodiles), we are a relatively new species on this earth that is ever-changing and ever learning. The Marcgravia evenia plant has only recently been discovered to have evolved a new leaf that creates an acoustic echo beacon. This allows bats to find it more easily to increase pollination. Like this plant, we evolve constantly with changing believes, opinions and perceptions that help us adapt. Filled with flaws we adapt through trial and error, better fitting our environments and constantly remolding society.
Imperfections are natural in our birth, unique to each different human being and in our flaws, we create our fingerprint of identity. Yet our society is founded upon perceived beauty and perfection that is unnatural, photoshopped and airbrushed. Free of wrinkles, freckles and tight, fat-free synthetic bodies is the image society depicts as their perfect, an image that is imposed on women and men alike. This leads to many spending the rest of their lives trying to achieve a look of perceived beauty and perfection. Especially susceptible to peer pressure and media, young girls are constantly attempting to emulate these size zero models. Vulnerable in how they view themselves; young girls misguidedly think that starving themselves is natural to achieve the body they desire. Detrimental not only to their physical health but mental as well, this has irreparable effects.
Who has the right to say what perfection is? Perhaps this is for celebrities to decide, they often start trends and end them, or perhaps media holds this power; shaping views, beauty don’ts and dos. Maybe family, friends or even your partner, but whether this is one or all, the underlining fact is that perfect is a myth. The image of perfect changes from person to person, culture to country and century to century. The 18th century presented a chic look of dead white, porcelain skin attractive due to the social connotations of being pale equalling being rich. Only servants or laborers had any colour from working outside. Lead-based cosmetics were the trend, applied to the skin in the pursuit of the perfect ghost complexions. The deader the better. Only death was the result in many cases including Maria Gunning, Countess of Coventry, who at the age of twenty-eight died due to her ‘fashionable lead-based makeup’ as the National Trust quotes. Now, our own 21st century Western trend has flipped this completely with tanned skin being the desired appearance which has resulted in many Oompa Loompa wannabes.
What is your ideal image of perfect? Everyone has a different view no matter how small. Is it tall, dark-haired, tanned skin and tight bodied? Or perhaps a fair-skinned, blonde hair, blue eyes Adonis? Sound familiar? This Aryan race was one man’s ideal view of a perfect world, a perfect race populated only with perfect people, a vision that leads to mass genocide. In the name of perfection Hitler killed and tortured millions: the elderly, women, children, disabled, Jew and just about anyone with a difference of opinion fell into that category. None of them fitted into Hitler’s distorted image of perfection. ‘I have the right to remove millions of an inferior race’, in the book Hitler Speak, this is quoted. What gives one man the right to murder all in the name of his own personal image of perfect?
We, as a race, have become obsessed with the image of perfect. Only recently has Vogue featured an article celebrating ‘sun-kissed’ women full of constellations of freckles. Titled as ‘13 Rule-Breaking Beauties Who Made Freckles Iconic, From Twiggy to Penelope Cruz’, these women are considered ‘rule-breaking’ for throwing away the socially imposed image of perfection and embracing their freckle flaw. In doing so they demonstrated the beauty of this flaw, a beauty that has now changed a perception of society so dramatically, that freckled models are ‘in season’ with the demand for them being immense.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we all judge someone on their appearance, much like the judging of a book by its cover. A taboo in literature, yet one of the main selling points of books is their bright covers and interesting designs that make them stand out from the rest. But have we considered that our imperfect little flaws act in the same way? Bright, interesting covers that shine inner beauty and self-acceptance, being more interesting than the hundreds of others: all the same shade, all the same style and trend. We each have unique personalities, unique styles, unique quirks and flaws that create the individuals that we are.
I by no means claim to be confident in my own skin. I could not walk out the door with no makeup and feel confident, self-assured and ready for the day. Some days a little battle makeup is required in tackling a particular activity or event, and makeup can be a wonderful tool to enhance a natural feature. However, I have an immense amount of respect for those women that can walk out the door barefaced and beautiful in whom they are.
“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.” – Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
So much of how we are expected to look is all subliminal and specially made to target our subconscious selves. Embedded into magazines, trends and television adverts, this perfect image of men and women starts as young as children; as a study by Johnson and Young in 2002 shows. However, if we are all one shade of perfect, then everyone on earth would look the same, act the same, dress the same, even talk the same. So are we all expected to become Stepford robots: mindless, submissive, docile with no lives of our own but perceived as perfect? What a boringly dull world that would be. It’s our imperfections, our little quirks, birthmarks, dimples, personalities and so much more that make us who we are. We aren’t perfect and I’m okay with that.
Maybe, one day as a united human race we’ll rise up above media and unrealistic expectations to be ourselves. Already we have taken a step in the right direction with France joining Spain, Italy, and Israel in banning underweight models. They have also added a law that any photos which have digitally retouched a model’s appearance have to mark this with photographie retouchée (that’s retouched photograph to you and me). Slowly, we are continuing to evolve in our thinking and accept that being who you are is not only okay but beautiful. When we finish this Elysian evolution of thought, we will change the definition of perfect. Perfection will mean being who you are and no one else; because we live in a world where everyone is born a single, magnificent shade of imperfect perfection.
So why cheapen yourself to be a copy when the original is worth so much more?