I know I mostly talk about mental health on this blog. (Okay, that’s all I talk about.) But, perhaps surprisingly, my major in college was Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. So, I know a weird amount about evolutionary theory, parasites, etc. I literally have two resumes, one for my mental health work and one for biology. They tend to be separate parts of my life, but every once in a while they intersect.
A common misconception about evolution is that it results in the perfect outcome or adaptation to the environment. It’s cold? Gradually evolve hair or fat deposits. It’s dark? Gradually evolve the ability to see in the dark. In reality though, evolution is one of the greatest examples of good enough (Selection, not Perfection).
Evolution isn’t some all-powerful force guiding populations to perfection of what they “need.” Instead, some individuals survive to pass on their genes and some die before they can. Sometimes this is because of selection for or against traits; other times it is random. In the case of adaptations, the most fit of the group wins, not the most fit of all imaginary possibilities. A better phrase than “survival of the fittest” would be “survival of the ‘fit enough.’‘”
Have I bored you? If not, let’s get back to mental health.
One of my favorite quotes is “Perfection is the enemy of good enough,” or the variant “Don’t let perfection get in the way of done.” (It’s unclear who first said these; maybe Voltaire originally. I’ve heard them a lot from therapists.) I am someone who has struggled with perfectionism since very early childhood. It has improved greatly through therapy, but I still sometimes catch myself getting stuck trying to make something perfect. This mostly took the form of school assignments, but has bled into writing, dance, knitting, and everyday activities at times.
Perfection is impossible though, or if it feels possible, it is fleeting. Even the natural forces guiding this world don’t abide by perfection. If evolution of all the creatures of this world for millions of years can settle for good enough, then perhaps I can too. After all, we are part of this beautiful, natural world.