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The Price of Perfection

A reflection on society’s unattainable beauty standards

By Gael MacLeanPublished 13 days ago 3 min read
Top Story - June 2024
A female puppet torn to pieces by society’s expectations. Author created in Midjourney.

The call came early. On a Tuesday morning. The sun barely peeking through the curtains of my apartment. The sounds of New York creeping in. It was her sister. Voice thin and brittle like a dried leaf crushed underfoot.

She’s in the hospital. And it’s serious.

And the world tilted on its axis.

I thought of the last time I saw her. My lifelong friend with the golden hair and the haunted eyes. We had lunch in the city. Picking at overpriced salads and sipping Chardonnay. The conversation drifted like smoke. She talked about the upcoming trip to Italy. The scheduled liposuction. The promise of a new beginning. I remember the flicker of doubt in her eyes. The air thick with the unspoken question hanging between us.

Will this make me happy? Finally.

She left for Italy the next day.

Could I have done more? The phone is heavy in my hand. Could I have been the voice of reason? The one who pulled her back from the brink. But I, too, am a product of this world. A woman shaped by the expectations of a society that tells us we are never enough. Never good enough. More to fix.

I think of the countless hours I’ve spent in front of the mirror. Scrutinizing every flaw, every imperfection. The endless quest for a beauty that always seems just out of reach. The diets, the workouts. I think of the women I know. My friends. Confessing their own secret battles with the beauty myth. The mothers who fear passing their insecurities on to their daughters.

What is it about our culture that makes us feel so inadequate? As women. That convinces us our value lies in the symmetry of our features. The flatness of our stomachs. The gap between our thighs. Why do we keep chasing an ideal that doesn’t exist? A mirage that disappears the moment we reach for it.

As I board the plane to be by her side, I feel a sense of clarity wash over me. I see the folly of our ways. The futility of our pursuit. We are fighting a losing battle in a war against ourselves. Against the very essence of what makes us human. Our differences.

I think of my friend lying in a hospital bed. Her body ravaged by the price of perfection. I think of the scars she will carry, both visible and invisible. The reminder of a society that told her she was not enough. And I vow to be the change. To use my voice and my words to shatter the illusion. To help other women see the beauty in what is defined as our imperfections.

Are we not all flawed? Are we not all broken in our own way? And yet, it is in those cracks the light shines through. Illuminating the truth of who we are. We are not meant to be perfect. To fit into a mold created by someone else’s desires. We are meant to be real, to be authentic. To embrace the messiness and the chaos of life.

As the plane touches down, I whisper a prayer for my friend. For all the women fighting this battle. For my battle. May we learn to love ourselves. May we see the beauty in our scars. And may we find the strength to be who we are, unapologetically and unabashedly.

For in the end, it is not the pursuit of perfection that will save us. But the courage to be imperfect in a world that demands otherwise.

*Authors note: This is a fictionalized version of a true story.


About the Creator

Gael MacLean

Award-winning creator bringing a fearless approach to exploring new creative worlds across multiple disciplines. Pushing boundaries, experimenting with cutting-edge techniques, and building strong collaborative relationships.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  1. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (16)

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  • Paula R7 days ago

    This is the reality today. Congratulations, great read!

  • Ruby Red8 days ago

    Congratulations on TS 🎉 This was excellent, very well written and passionate. It reminded me of a book I read recently: You Could Be So Pretty by Holly Bourne 💖

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • BrettNotGreg9 days ago

    Congrats on TS

  • angela hepworth9 days ago

    Such a powerful piece on the power of societal expectations.

  • Khan9 days ago

    Love this! So relatable and well-written❤️

  • Carol Townend9 days ago

    I've been battling the same issues in your story most of my life. I love how you have made a point of talking about how women struggle with many myths regarding their bodies and looks. I think, that because we have lived decades with the ongoing myth that women are supposed to be figure-perfect both in and out of media, it can be a nightmare to not distort how we are seen from how we think we are seen. Your narrative tells a story from the point of view of someone who cares and sees things from the outside that the patient can't see. She wants to live in a world where women can be accepted for more than just their bodies, and she accepts her sister as she is. She tells of a painful journey that both she and her sister have been through, a journey which I can relate to because I recover one minute and relapse the next. I think your story is very much heartfelt and relatable. It made me cry, but it helped me see that someone does understand. Thank you for touching on such a vulnerable topic.

  • Christy Munson9 days ago

    Love your word choice and narrator's voice. Your use of crisp imagery (smoke, leaves) mirrors what's about to happen with your narrator, haunting foreshadowing. Loved that. Congratulations on Top Story! 🥳 I'll definitely check out more of your writing!

  • Congrats on your TS.

  • Congrats on top story

  • Rachel Deeming9 days ago

    Yes! This is how it should be. But the weight of society's expectations is so heavy. Hope your friend is doing okay.

  • shanmuga priya9 days ago

    Congratulations 🎉

  • Oh, for the courage to be imperfect. What a great story. Congrats on your top story

  • Anu Mehjabin9 days ago

    A powerful reminder to love ourselves as we are.👏👏👏 And congrats on your top story🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

  • Please send my love and hugs to your friend 🥺❤️ I hope she's okay soon

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