This Art Called Life
There’s a meme I’ve seen going around on Instagram that says “You can be both a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time.” It’s a Truth very much in line with the title of a post I wrote in August: Life After Cancer: A Masterpiece in Progress. It means more or less the same thing. Life isn’t about perfection. Masterpieces aren’t truly flawless. Beauty and perfection are subjective.
Since I’ve seen this meme floating around the social media sphere, I thought I’d return to this train of thought – I figure it’s good timing as it’s been over half a year since I published the previous post.
Plus, the notion truly speaks to the name of my blog: This Art Called Life. As soon as I read the phrase that became my blog name, it just resonated with some deep part of my being. Every bit of me just said ‘Yes.’ Life is art; life is a masterpiece. Yet life is a continual work in progress. Life after cancer most certainly is.
Progress not Perfection
None of us ever have life completely figured out. When we’re young, we think adults have it all figured out. And when we’re young adults, many of us think we really do have it all figured out.
And then life swoops in with some reminder that we shouldn’t get too cocky. We continue to learn, we grow through the mess, and with each step we think we’re getting closer and closer to figuring it out. Yet eventually most of us realize that ‘figuring it out’ isn’t the point, and none of us ever really will. The point is simply this: living.
Living. Being. Doing. Improving. Because as humans, we are all perfectly imperfect works in progress. We are all continually learning, growing, and evolving, and the moment we lose momentum is the moment when things begin to fall apart.
Motion vs Stagnation
Because we are meant to be in motion. If we are not in motion, we are stagnant. If we are stagnant, we are not truly living. As conscious beings, we need goals and growth. So the idea of ‘figuring it out’ is actually counter to our nature: figuring life out implies reaching an end point. But when it comes to life, the only end point that truly exists is death. So if we reach a point where we stop growing, we stop living and begin to simply exist. Simply existing is not living. It is a life unfulfilled; a life not truly lived.
Once we let go of the notion that one day we might figure it out or achieve the ideal of perfection – another unattainable endpoint – then we can truly allow ourselves to live.
As a still-in-the-process recovering perfectionist, I’ve clearly confronted failure many times. And this notion of ‘letting go’ is very much a work in progress for me. But every day I am given gentle reminders that perfectionism only leads to procrastination and ultimately paralysis. Again, we return to the idea of stagnation; of being stuck.
Perfectionist ideals keep us stuck.
Addiction to Perfection
Many of us are addiction to the ideal of perfection. We envision a perfect life: a perfect body, a perfect partner, a perfect home, a perfect family. We filter our lives to make them look perfect on social media feeds. We filter our photos to make the images that construct this curated life look as perfect as possible.
Yet none of us truly look that way or live that perfect life we portray. We all have ups and downs and imperfections. We are all human after all. But we see the edited, filtered versions of everyone else’s life and we get sucked into the black hole of comparison.
I do it myself, particularly these days when it comes to post-chemo hair growth. And putting the pieces of my post-cancer life back together. I lament how short my hair is in comparison to other girls’ and compare the amount of time it has taken them to grow it to a certain length. I compare my seemingly lackluster life to theirs. But this helps me make absolutely zero progress in my own life. It does nothing to boost my mood or bolster my mindset. If anything, comparison holds us back or even causes us to take a step back.
The Underlying Cause of Perfection
What underlies perfection is fear – fear of being judged, of being rejected, of being not good enough. But fear is just a mindset – one that can be replaced. Perhaps it’s not the easiest thing to shift our mindset, but that’s the other beautiful thing about our malleable humanity: we are designed for constant growth and change. We are built to evolve.
And frankly the world would be quite boring if everything was perfect. We are drawn to the messy realness of others because we identify with it. Messiness is the human condition. Not perfection. Our imperfections are what make us unique – and they are what make us beautiful.
While this ‘ideal’ of perfection is not attainable nor even truly desirable for us as individuals, life in a sense is perfectly designed for our individual evolution. Everything happens for you – the good and especially the not so good – in order to help you grow and evolve.
This is not always an easy notion to accept – particularly when you’ve struggled with the shittiness of something like cancer. Or the senseless death of a loved one. Or a tragic accident. But perception of our circumstances and experiences is what most directly influences our experience of life. We eventually adapt to the new status quo. And if we allow ourselves to see the opportunity in crisis, we can actually experience tremendous growth.
Letting go of perfection isn’t a simple process, nor is it easy. Perfectionism resides in fear, and transformation stirs up those fears and conjures them to the surface. The desire for change doesn’t always prepare us for the reality of change: what we must let go of to allow change to happen.
So why do we desire change in the first place? Because we know things aren’t working as they are. We know the status quo isn’t serving our highest potential. We can’t expect different results if we don’t change the way we do things. Change is both inevitable and necessary to our growth.
Yet change is scary. Shedding limiting beliefs frees us from false boundaries we created around who we can allow ourselves to be. But Freedom forces us to confront the terror of the unknown.
The path of transformation isn’t always clear and the endpoint might be out of sight. Living in full authenticity – in your own genuine truth with passion, purpose, and total presence – requires letting go of the known to allow space for transformation. Letting go requires trust in the process, belief in possibility, and the courage of stepping into your powerful wholeness. It can be scary, but the process is powerful.
As a wellness and life transformation coach, I see the magic happen when clients begin to let go of who they were to allow themselves to transform into who they might be.
First, we must embrace possibility – the possibility of change, the possibility of improvement, the possibility of transformation. The possibility of living the life we truly desire. Ultimately, we must believe in possibility.