The Failure of Our Perceived Ideal

If I am James Bond, you must be Beyonce?

New York Times, bestselling author Austin Kleon said, “It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us.”

Understanding ourselves is a phenomenon that requires as much unlearning as learning. In our adolescence, we are involved in the process of constructing our identity based on a perceived ideal. We grow up idolizing people from various genres of life and idealizing their actions. It is the collection of idolizations and idealizations that form our perceived ideal.

For some of us, our parents are our “ideal” and for others its David Duchovny from Californication or Beyonce. Our perceived ideal becomes the external identity that we try to emulate in the world to inform others of who we are. Afterall, it is our own impressionability that desires to make an impression on others.

The perceived ideal is the combination of all of the different components that we want to bring together to represent us.

This is a major reason that things gets so complicated in our twenties and thirties. We realize how fragile the perceived ideal is and as we begin to fall short of that ideal, our sense of self that we had spent so much time curating starts to crumble.

The perceived ideal is the guy who walks up to the girl at a bar and sweeps her off her feet; not the one who says, “maybe another night.” It is the woman who fully embraces her body, not the one who hits the light switch before undressing and getting into bed with someone.

As we deviate further from our ideal, our blueprint of what life is supposed to look like gets flipped on its head. This is generally around the time we start googling the cheapest therapist in a five-mile radius and try to work some of this shit out.

We want to feel comfortable walking into a party, speaking up at work, and most importantly being ourselves, whoever the hell that is (at that point). The ideal is such a stud compared to the bumbling, fumbling oh so human selves that we are. This is where the unlearning must start so we can reconnect with that oh so human part of our selves and realize that this is the foundation on which we must build on. Not James Bond in a tuxedo or Beyonce in a bodysuit. That’s right. Mr. and Mrs. Bumbles and Fumbles becomes ground zero and the foundation upon which we begin to understand who we are.

As we learn more about who we are, we learn more about what we must overcome. It is the intimate knowledge of our lack, that allows us to share meaningful experiences with others.

For our experience to resonate with someone else, it must ring true. It is impossible for someone who has never felt crippling fear to talk about how to overcome it. People who write or speak about procrastination have most likely experienced the pitfalls of extreme procrastination.

To be empowered by something, we must intimately know the disempowerment of the other. The feeling of disempowerment becomes the compass that guides us towards the inner work that we must do.

When we are forced to let go of our perceived ideal, we allow ourselves to no longer be fragments of idols and ideals. We open the floor to tango with our messy and weird selves.

The quote by Austin Kleon at the beginning of this article is an incomplete quote. The quote in its entirety says: “It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. Thank God.”


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