My pursuit of perfection: How the veil of illusion was lifted

This post is the first in a three-part series on embracing imperfection. 

My pursuit of perfection started when I was a young girl, growing up in the 1980s and 90s. I remember poring over pages of perfectly styled bedroom suites in JC Penney’s “Big Book,” trying to mimic the look in my yard sale-furnished bedroom.

But even worse than my early preoccupation with home décor was my fascination with the models in “Teen” Magazine.

“How can someone’s skin look so flawless close up? It must be that brand of makeup they’re using,” my naïve teenage mind concluded.

It wasn’t until I was introduced to the world of Photoshop as a twenty-something journalist that I understood how simple – and common – it is to digitally concoct perfection for the pages of magazines and websites. But the final veil of illusion was lifted from my eyes when I began blogging.

While attending my first blogging conference in 2012, a few months after I launched Living Rich on Less, I nervously struck up a conversation with a seasoned blogger whose work I admired. “Tonya, your home must look so perfect, with all the amazing projects I’ve seen on your website,” I remarked.

I’ll never forget her response. After a loud laugh that continued for several seconds, she managed to spit out the words, “Yea right.”

“What a strange reaction,” I thought. It wasn’t until later, after many projects and posts of my own, that I truly understand the lunacy of my statement.

When I showcase projects on my blog, I usually meticulously – and painstakingly – stage the environment I’m photographing. And in addition to setting the scene with the decor, I use a professional-grade camera and a studio lighting kit. In other words, I do my best to make sure everything in front of the camera looks perfect.

What isn’t conveyed or reported is what’s behind the scenes. So the audience is left with only the reality in front of them – the staged, “perfect” version of reality.


Because most of us saturate ourselves on a regular basis with the perfectly staged eye candy we find online and in magazines, we assume that our homes, or worse, ourselves, are somehow in need of improvement. Inevitably, we continue to chase a horizon of perfection we’ll never reach. And when our real lives don’t match what we see in media, we’re left feeling frustrated, empty and inadequate.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to feel frustrated, empty or inadequate! That’s why I decided to start this blog series on embracing imperfection, because it’s one key to ridding ourselves of these nasty feelings. Later this week, I’ll be sharing my top three reasons why we must learn to embrace imperfection. I’ll conclude the series with some practical ways we can do it!

Do you struggle with perfectionism? What coping strategies have you learned?

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14 Responses

  1. I have SO much love for this post and can’t wait to follow along with the rest of the series. Guilty as charged in the blog photos over here too. Sometimes I’m photographing the product of a new recipe and it looks so perfect! Then I laugh to myself and think, if they only saw the first batch I totally screwed up or worse, zoomed out to show my entire kitchen. Yikes! There’s no true perfection and I love that you’re going to address it. (And brave enough to show pictures! )

  2. Sue Farmer says:

    Hi Susan. I have enjoyed your blog for a while now but this is the first time I am commenting. I too struggle with perfectionism!!! I am sort of new to the blog world and have wondered how everyone in it has such a perfect world they live in!!! Thanks for the reminder that looks CAN be deceiving!

    • Susan says:

      Thanks so much for the feedback, Sue, and for stopping by. I’ve come to realize that no one has a “perfect world” they live in and it is such a freeing feeling! 🙂

  3. Dorothy says:

    Looking forward to this series! Between Pinterest and Bloggers, I always look around and think I should upgrade something or myself!

  4. Shawna says:

    Oh this really hits home. On a regular daily basis, I feel the frustration, emptiness, and inadequacy because it seems like I can never “measure up”. It’s robbed me of my joy more times than not. How refreshing to see your laundry area floor look just like mine! Thank you for this post and I am looking forward to the rest of the series.

  5. Pam says:

    I am looking forward to the rest of this series. As I have just entered my 50’s (okay, 51 next month!), I am realizing that I just can’t do everything that is on my list (hobbies & projects) and I just need to do the things I really love. I think this also runs along with the idea of being content. I have also realized that in my pursuit of the “perfect home”, it is one of those movie sets with the false front and it’s okay if everything actually isn’t perfect. Thanks for reminding me of this!!

  6. Jill T. says:

    I really enjoy this blog. I have seen my 61st birthday. (old/young depending on how I feel of course!) As I get older and I hope wiser, I find that so many younger people and many fewer older people, are so consumed with appearances. I work in an office where all of my coworkers are moms with kids still at home.. I can see their serious desire to be picture perfect, always in control of themselves and their environment. There are good lessons to be learned for being concerned with this and some not so good things to be understood about it too. At my age, I find that being a bit more organized, washing the dish I just used, hanging up clothing or using the laundry hamper as a basketball hoop, means that later on when I am tired, it is done. I do not have to follow up on something that is easily dealt with RIGHT THEN.
    However, what I did when my child was young, wasn’t always this. In fact, rarely was it the norm. It is good for young people to see that others struggle with keeping things up,to find that you are more “normal” than you imagined. And you will find as you get older and your body decides not to cooperate, that doing it now is far better than waiting to do it later. Keep this up. Again, I love this blog. You do a wonderful job,

  1. May 15, 2015

    […] This is the second in a three-part series on embracing imperfection. If you haven’t already, read Part 1.  […]

  2. June 2, 2015

    […] final post in a series on embracing imperfection. If you haven’t already, be sure to read parts one and […]

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