There are books and articles that warn against being a perfectionist and wanting everything and everyone to be perfect, but it seems there is more material which advocates perfection as a goal.
Look at magazines or internet articles and you will see there are plenty about finding the perfect partner, being the perfect parent or the perfect daughter. There are articles about hosting the perfect party, cooking the perfect meal, planning the perfect holiday or choosing the perfect gift.
The Heinemann Australian Dictionary gives the definition of perfect as an adjective meaning ‘faultless or without defect’ and the two examples given are ‘a perfect husband’ and ‘a perfect circle’.
It is not possible to be perfect because no one knows what the criteria are to start with. To quote Ellen Hopkins, ‘Perfect? How can you define a word without concrete meaning?’ Everyone has different ideas about what perfect means.
Let’s think about the dictionary example of the ‘perfect husband’. One woman may think this is the man who has a prestigious job, high salary, is responsible with money, conservative and reliable. Another woman may think the perfect husband is a man who wants a family, has a great sense of humour, is patient, loves dogs and spends time with her. There are many other variations. Even if a man ticked all the boxes for a particular person he will not be faultless because everyone (male and female) makes mistakes and has bad days.
To me, it seems like a waste of time and energy to aim for perfection. It also encourages unhealthy competition rather than cooperation with others. It puts a great deal of pressure on the individual to attempt to attain and then maintain an unrealistically high standard. Say you were able to host the perfect party (if such a thing existed) this year, then next year it has to be just as good or even better.
What is the idea behind the pressure to be perfect? If it was possible to cook the perfect meal, would your family enjoy it more than a nice meal you cooked without stressing about all the tiny details? It is likely your family would enjoy the nice meal more because the cook wasn’t stressed out.
Would your friends enjoy eating that perfect meal more? If you were spending most of your time fiddling in the kitchen to get everything 'perfect' it is likely they would rather you sat down and chatted to them. They would also be likely to feel pressure to compete with you. It could lead to them feeling they didn’t want to invite you to a meal in case it didn’t measure up to yours.
When it comes to planning the perfect holiday, again it isn't possible. We can choose a nice location for a holiday but there are many aspects we cannot control. We can't control the weather, but sometimes that isn't a bad thing. Perhaps it pours with rain and everyone is stuck inside but this provides an opportunity to play games as a family or to talk. Sometimes when things don't go according to plan these events become memories which make the people involved closer when they reminisce in years to come. They may also look back and laugh at the less than perfect parts of the holiday.
Choosing a present for someone should be an expression of love and a desire to share. Yes, we will want to give the recipient something they like but trying to find the 'perfect' gift takes the fun and love out of the equation.
Trying to be perfect as a parent, daughter or in any other role we fill is exhausting, confusing, impossible and not even desirable. Sometimes our imperfections help those around us. A friend said he had to develop good cooking skills because his mother wasn't the greatest cook. We may have to ask others for help because we aren't perfect and this can make them feel valued.
Striving to appear the 'perfect daughter' is likely to cause an unhealthy degree of sibling rivalry. It may even make a parent feel guilty or that the 'perfect daughter' is judging the parents. Cooperating and working together rather than competing seems likely to build a stronger family and is certainly less stressful.
In the end, I think Lauren King says it well, 'There are two kinds of perfect: The one you can never achieve, and the other, by just being yourself.'