The Perfect Everything and the Luxury of Choice

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Is it just me, or have you also been noticing recent blog posts like “The Perfect Spring Wardrobe”, “The Perfect Day at the Beach”, or even “The Perfect Messy Bun”? The seasons change, or we get a little bored, and we are gripped with a sudden need to become our perfect selves, with the perfect body, the perfect sandals, the perfectly effortless perfect life.

The obsession takes us over, and it’s not (only) because we’re fashion-conscious and a little vain, it’s because for so many of us, deciding what we will wear is deciding who we will be. And each of us can’t wait to find out, will today be the day that I finally become my perfect self?

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Magazines know this and trot out the obligatory Perfect Trench Coat, or Perfect Floaty Dress For Summer Weddings. You’ll be marketed ten versions of the same Perfect Red Lipstick before spring is over. We spend hours scouring the web for the item that will catapult us from our same old selves to the woman we see in our mind’s eye.

About five summers ago I was visiting Israel with Birthright and stopped by a pharmacy to grab a bottle of nail polish for a DIY pedicure in our hotel that night. Now, Israel is a very modern, high-tech place, but the smaller shops off the beaten path just don’t have the same selection as we’re used to in America. I was given five choices of nail color, picked the best pink, and was on my way. Picture the store displays in the States: hundreds of polishes, so many shades that you can browse for hours. On one hand, that’s great– you can always find something new and exciting!– but it also leads to choice paralysis and a nagging feeling like you might miss what suits you best. The pursuit of perfection can be an exhausting endeavor.

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I loved that late-night pedicure at a moshav in the beautiful north of Israel. I felt pampered, beautiful. It was a little effortless. I wasn’t second guessing, I wasn’t wasting time comparison shopping. I was glowing from hiking all day, from trying new foods and making new friends, and I was happy to spoil myself for a few lovely moments. I wasn’t looking for perfect, I wasn’t hoping for luxury, and found that “good enough” was very freeing indeed.

So many of us have the luxury of choice. And it is a luxury; proportionately few people in our country are privileged enough to have the time and money to care about their “spring look”. The ability to choose what we wear and shop for something new is a great luxury, and one that we often take for granted. It is when we get swept away in our indulgences, obsessed with the perfect thing that we hope will make us our perfect selves (at last!), that’s when our privilege starts controlling us. That’s when nothing seems good enough, and we are paralyzed by choice.

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So what do we do? We still have to get dressed, we still want to feel like our best selves. We just want to be easier, more natural, less grabby and panicky. Here are a few things I’m going to try.

Get that glow somewhere else

Maybe we don’t need to look perfect to feel like our best selves. Remember me in Israel, hiking all day and sparkling, feeling alive? When do you feel that way? Maybe after a day at the sea, with salt in your hair. Maybe when you go dancing, or when you finish a tough tractate of Talmud. What brings you that deep, purposeful satisfaction?

Trust what you love

Where did the joy go? Remember when you were a child and immediately knew what you LOVED? We bury that visceral reaction as we grow older, in favor of logic, tact, and anticipatory anxiety. Go to a store and see what attracts you. What colors make your heart leap? What textures feel good on your skin? Find what makes you happy and trust it. Don’t make it hard, don’t make it into work.

The truth is that no one else cares if your capsule wardrobe is a perfect austere blend of blue, oatmeal, and gray. No one else is as invested as you are in your Perfect Leather Sandal or Perfect Diamond Studs.These things only have value insofar as the happiness they bring you. That is what people will notice. They will see that you dress in a way that brings you happiness, that makes your day better. They’ll see your glow. And you can use the rest of your precious time and energy living your juicy life.

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