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What perfect means to me

Is it a great eyeliner flick or being the perfect size 10? Or is it getting through a day without getting egg on your top? We asked writers to describe their idea of perfection

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“Perfect, to me, looks like a day when I never feel like I'm running behind. Not once. I wake up without an alarm. The toast doesn't burn. The hot water doesn't run out. The train isn't delayed. There isn't anywhere I have to be for any specific time. I can go on long, pointless walks without worrying about the other things I should be doing instead. Basically, perfect looks like any random Wednesday when I was at uni.” – Lily Peschardt

“When I was first asked what perfect meant, I flippantly said Sofia. She being my six-year-old niece and, for me, the best thing in my life. If any of you have seen The Secret Life Of 5 Year Olds, or have any children in your life, you will agree, I hope. Four-, five- and six-year-olds live in a world full of kindness and forgiveness. They don't see colour or class. They love wholeheartedly and, if they dislike you, it is PhD-level thinking and you probably are disgusting. I mean, find me any kid from this generation who likes Trump or hates cats.” – Nimco Ali

“Having time to wash my sheets. Life gets so busy, with so many pressures on time, and carving a few moments out of the day to put the washing machine on and throw a clean duvet set on signifies order and relaxation. Perfect is also managing to do two eyeliner flicks that match – although that doesn't happen very often!” – Frankie Graddon

If you're aiming for perfect, you should aim to be Cher's kind

I think there are two definitions of the word ‘perfect’. The first kind of perfect is when something is perfect because it has no flaws. Like an egg, for example. An egg is a perfectly designed thing: the way the shell protects the white bit, the way the white bit protects the yellow bit. Perfect. The second kind of perfect is when something is so uniquely itself, so absolutely one of a kind that you can't imagine it being even one per cent different. Like Cher. If you're aiming for perfect, you should aim to be Cher's kind.” – Caroline O’Donoghue

"I've always had a problem with ‘perfect’. Until recently, perfect for me was AMAZING. Unbelievable. The best thing I'd ever done. That once-in-a-lifetime spark of inspiration that allows you to achieve something beyond your wildest expectations. That was the yardstick I was measuring myself against. Every time I shot for the stars and didn't actually REACH the stars, I felt like a failure. Now, though, perfect is the best that I can do – if I can see my workings, and I've done everything I possibly can, then that's good enough for me. Perfect is hard work, as far as I'm concerned. Damn, I should have said a quiet beach." – Robyn Wilder

“My friend's baby! Her tiny hands and her mighty grip. Her toothless smiles and her sparse but silky hair. When she squeals with joy, it makes any moment perfect. And she fills me with hope and happiness every time I see her." – Lynn Enright 

“Perfect, for me, is when you have the house to yourself on a Saturday morning. I like to go get the paper in a big winter coat over my pyjamas and return with a huge coffee and an almond croissant. It's very important that it's almond. I have the radio on at the same time, but don't really listen to it. You can quite easily spend three hours pouring over the supplements and drinking coffee, before getting ready for whatever the weekend is going to bring. I don't consider them wasted hours – I think it's so important to press pause on life once a week. It keeps me sane.” – Juno Dawson, author and activist

“For me, perfect is Gwyneth Paltrow. Yes, it’s shallow, but anyone who really knows me knows how much I love Gwynnie. She is beautiful and a little bit bonkers. I know I could never *be* GP, nor would I ever want to be. But whenever I need a distraction it’s so fun playing ‘What would Gwynnie do/wear/buy/say?’ with myself.”  – Lucy Dunn

For me, perfection lies in the moments just before everything comes together, before it can be spoiled or swept away

“For me, perfection lies in the moments just before everything comes together, before it can be spoiled or swept away: those last few pages of a brilliant book; the moment, around 9pm, surrounded by pals on a warm summer evening, when it feels like the night is on pause; seconds before a sip of cold white wine or the lift in the middle of a brilliant song. And the best thing about these perfect snapshots is that they often quietly pass by without ceremony – but, once you notice them, they are everywhere.”   Zoë Beaty

“This will probably make me sound like an old soul, but it’s coming home on a Friday after a long week of work to a comfy bed that swallows me up, and not having to set an alarm for the next morning. That moment when I climb into bed and let myself get lost in the sea of pillows and puffiness, knowing that I'll be able to sleep ’til my heart’s content, is unreal – I'd go as far as describing it as euphoric.”   Hanna Yusuf

“Perfect is the smooth surface of a new jar of Nutella. A jar of Nutella that was on special offer and your plans for tonight got cancelled at the last minute, so you have a long, fresh evening of nothing stretching ahead of you, a new series of whatever on Netflix and a bath running. I don't think you can engineer perfection – I think it happens by accident, when everything suddenly, temporarily settles into place. Perfect is also waking up without a single duvet smudge on the nails I painted at midnight.”  Lauren Bravo

“I'm a working mum of five-year-old twin girls. I juggle trying to be the best mother I can be with running two production companies and my website, jeweltonesbeauty. I love my life – it's a fast, wild ride – but what's refreshing and much needed is a sense of stillness. Ten years ago, I would have laughed at anyone saying that (New Age crap), but now I realise that being still, quiet, pottering among my things, reading a good book, playing with my favourite beauty products and doing a whole smoky eye on myself at 11 am, just for fun, is my happy place.” – Ateh Jewel


This article is part of our Past Perfect series exploring the idea of perfection and the unrealistic perceptions that often surround it.

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