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The Ideal Myth

Have you ever looked at the definition of Ideal? Before reading further, take a minute and write down a few words or ideas representative of ideal for you. Then write down a few words or ideas about what you think it isn’t.

There is a void we create for ourselves and ultimately others, preventing us from truly allowing inclusion or feeling included

I was contemplating Optimal Imperfection in relation to inclusion and the female perspective on body image. While attempting to put the thought in words, I was hit with the impact of one word…IDEAL. The thought was along the lines of…There is a void we create for ourselves and ultimately others, preventing us from truly allowing inclusion or feeling included. Using myself as an example, most of my life I felt a bit like I fell between two teams; not really fitting in with the ideal and not really fitting in with the [insert word to represent the opposite of ideal]. <<<This is where my mind got blown!>>>

In searching for the right word for the previous sentence, I looked up the word ideal to find its antonyms. I referenced the Merriam-Webster entry. There are several iterations of the word, ideal as an adjective. All are relevant in different but enlightening ways. Initially I was looking for the antonyms but in reading the definitions, was struck by how the iterations play together. In the first entry, ideal is just a quality or an idea we perceive, which ultimately makes it subjective but also gives it fluidity.

The second entry; not real and existing only in the imagination, gave me a chuckle too because, yeah…it’s imaginary. But how powerful is it to unpack that the ideal is imaginary!?! We imagine it and in doing so, often make it inaccessible and out of reach. We have the power to imagine it in a way that is accessible and within reach but not until we define it for ourselves in two very different ways.

1. The way we see it now or the way we think we see it now.

This if often more a reflection of what we think other people see, expect or want.

Seeing this for what it is, takes away its power over us.

2. The way we WANT to see it, the accessible and productive way.

The antonyms and near antonyms of this entry are things we often aspire to be; authentic, genuine, true, solid, real. Even those ideals (see what I did there) are born of the mind and self, influenced by our experiences and our desiring.

if we aren’t ideal, we are worthless

The final entry and the doozy; being entirely without fault or flaw…was no one, ever! The near antonyms and antonyms…deficient, inadequate, incomplete, insufficient, wanting, unfinished, unpolished, fallible, blemished, blighted, broken, damaged, defaced, disfigured, impaired, injured, malformed, marred, misshapen, spoiled, vitiated, atrocious, execrable, wretched, imprecise, inaccurate, incorrect, inexact, wrong, amiss, bad, censurable, defective, faulty, flawed, imperfect, reproachable.

Are you kidding me? By this account, if we aren’t ideal, we are worthless. A perfect tomato is a gift to the senses; firm and smooth to the touch, a fresh, sweet and herbal scent that gives way to perfectly balanced sweet acidity on the palate. But just because a tomato isn’t ideal, doesn’t make it inedible as the antonyms here suggest it would be. And just because we don’t see ourselves as the ideal and others may not see us as the ideal (which is none of our business but that’s another conversation) does not make us worthless.

We are forever in control of how we view things

The only two words listed which truly represent the opposite of ideal are fallible and imperfect. We are these and they are perfectly ideal ways of being. Those qualities make us human. We can make them optimal and that is, in part what Optimal Imperfection is all about. We are forever in control of how we view things and our lifestyle choices in optimizing our emotional and physical health.

Choose wisely and well.

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