I know this is a strange concept...perfection as unappealing, but you know what? Sometimes it is. Maybe not perfection in and of itself, but the stress and unrealistic ambitions we often put on ourselves when trying to accomplish certain things in our life, especially when it comes to cooking.
Here's what I think: It doesn't have to be perfect. Now, I'm not talking about that careless "good enough" attitude that some people have, leaving things that should be done properly done only halfway making it really, in essence, not "good enough". The chicken does need to be cooked, and the seafood probably shouldn't be served raw, but that's not what I'm talking about here.
What I am referring to is the social stigma that seems to equate "perfect" with being "good". Like the fashion magazines that make us feel like we should look thin and have perfect hair, teeth, makeup, abs, and of course flawless complexion, cookbooks and magazines often set recipes as unattainable or impossible to execute just by how good they look. The pressures of social media and this unrealistic view that everything "has to be perfect" has seeped into just about every aspect of our lives - and cooking has become just one more thing that we need to do "perfectly" in order for it to be of any value. Somewhere the true passion for cooking and what it actually means has been lost. It's not about the perfect garnish or glaze, airbrushing or photoshop, it's about making a meal for your family and taking pride in what you serve. It's not about being perfect or flawless, or looking just like the picture, it's about fresh ingredients and about nurturing your family - mind, body, and soul. In fact, your dish may need a little more salt, a little less garlic, or a touch more sugar. Half of the cake may still be stuck to the bottom of the pan, the sauce on the pasta may be a touch too thin, or the salad wilted ever so slightly because it was tossed too soon with the dressing. It doesn't matter. Really. This is how we learn, and this is how we all become better cooks. And it's still going to taste good. Trust me.
My advice: Just cook. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be honest food. Fresh ingredients, simple cooking methods, basic food knowledge, and a whole lot of love. That's all it takes. People will never know what it was "supposed" to look like, and quite frankly they'll be so happy to be treated to a freshly cooked meal they really won't care. So don't stress over your next dinner party, backyard BBQ, or get all worried about trying out a new recipe. Just do the best you can, and if it doesn't look like the picture, so what? It's just a picture, and they too probably made a few mistakes to get there.