Daily Life


In the eye of the beholder

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To be without fault. Is anyone? Ever?

Perfection is unattainable, an imaginary other, a mesmerising token of beauty, flawlessness, intelligence and completedness that eludes us all.

OK, except for that one time when the stars aligned and there was a horse and some armour and it was shiny and he was a god of which perfection was the only fitting description for a form of such grandeur. But either way... if he and his shiny armour were perfection, it was fleeting.

This idea of striving for perfection in our lives, our appearance, our careers, has poisoned many of us.

The futility of this fruitless pursuit has not stopped society investing countless dollars, endless time and far too much energy in attempting to attain perfection – in some form or other and as hopeless a pastime as this might be.

When watching 25-year-old Lacey Buchanan cry and laugh and revel in the existence of her beautiful little boy, who suffers a rare cleft palate condition that has left him blind, my emotion was raw, the guilt undeniable.


Had I ever looked pityingly at a disabled person? Yes. Had I ever felt the pangs of despair for a mum struggling with a wheelchair-bound dependent? Yes. Fought off feelings of shame when interacting with a family touched by disability? Yes.

Why guilt? Because I do not have to deal with the added burden of disability, immobility, or being vision- or hearing-impaired and nor does my family. We are not perfect but we are able.

Do we strive to be perfect? I don’t think so, but we do strive to be better.

The pressure to be perfect however, is certainly present. There is a distinct coercion that filters through work and education and social circles that demands we fit the perfect family mould in terms of wealth, career, appearance and intelligence.

What defines our perception of beauty and perfection? Why is it necessary? Why does it make us feel more accepted, functional or whole?

A friend’s wife recently gave birth to a baby with Down Syndrome. He recounted the emotional reflection that came with such a life-altering event.

He spoke of the blessings that came with a child who didn’t fit the universal description of ‘normal’ or ‘beautiful’ or ‘perfect’.

He spoke of how living with ‘imperfection’ brought so much more depth and meaning to his life and caused those caught in the imperfect realms to be more conscious of what mattered and what ultimately brought happiness, rather than just the idea of happiness.

When my babies were born ... of course I was hoping I’d conceived a beauty to behold. It was not my defining objective, however I’d argue most parents hold a certain amount of hope their little cherub might enter the world with ten fingers and toes.

Truth be told, every newborn squashed in the birth canal for hours and couped up inside a uterus for nine months is not the prettiest sight upon arrival. Those Huggies ads have a lot to answer for.

My friend’s total acceptance of his child’s condition, described by society as a disability, is not seen by this family as such.

Their baby is perfect – the definition of which is clearly open to interpretation.


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