The world we live in does a great job of creating the illusion of perfection. Stories of romance and dream jobs, images of beauty and functional families — it’s no wonder we’re all under the impression perfection is occurring next door and is possible for us, too.
But many of us aren’t aware of how destructive this belief can be. Here are five reasons why believing in “perfect” is contributing to your dissatisfaction in various areas of your life:
1. Trying to be perfect is preventing you from committing to a relationship if you’re single, or being satisfied with your current one if you’re not.
By waiting around for Mr. or Ms. Perfect, we refuse to commit to the kindhearted, witty, but not quite tall enough/smart enough/rich enough potential partner. This is fine if you’re happy being single, but all to often we yearn for a relationship yet refuse the intimacy and compassion of a less-than-perfect other.
Alternatively, if you’re in a relationship, believing in perfect contributes to under-appreciating our partner. We compare them to this fantasy partner (something known as comparison level for alternatives), thus noticing where they are lacking, rather than accepting and embracing their imperfections.
2. Trying to be perfect is making you hate your appearance.
Just 10 more pounds, and I’ll finally be totally satisfied with my body. Bigger biceps. A flatter tummy. Maybe just a little Botox. Yep, that will make me perfect.
But we know how this goes: once we lose ten pounds, we fixate on something else. We get the Botox, and notice new wrinkles elsewhere. Believing that we can achieve perfection in our appearance leads to criticizing and shaming our current selves. And, thanks to impermanence, our appearance is always changing; so as soon as we “perfect” one area, we can guarantee another we’ll find another way to deem our appearance unacceptable before long.
Accepting and embracing our imperfections doesn’t mean we can’t still attempt to lose weight or get cosmetic work done; however, try to do it with the knowledge that perfection is impossible, and give yourself love and appreciation now.
3. Trying to be perfect is making you suffer through the mundane parts of your job.
I love working with clients, but you know what I don’t love? Case notes. Or cleaning out my Inbox. Or cleaning … anything.
We all have parts of our jobs we dislike. That’s why believing in the “perfect” job — completely free of mundane or tedious tasks — might be holding you back from fully experiencing and enjoying your day-to-day life.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t acknowledge that you might not be in this career forever, or that you shouldn’t keep your eye out for other opportunities. In fact, it’s even possible to find everyday happiness at jobs even where we are often frustrated. But that feeling of constantly searching for the mythical job that will never leave you bored or irritated — that’s what might be creating unnecessary suffering in your life.
4. Trying to be perfect is making you beat yourself up as a parent.
You know that vision of the parent who drives the kids (and their friends) to practice, keeps the house immaculate, makes a gourmet meal every night, and somehow still appears fit and well-rested? Or the parent who never raises their voice when they’re angry, and whose angelic children do their homework and go to bed on time and never get in trouble at school?
Well guess what? This is not reality. And above all, this idea is likely causing you to believe that you’re a failure of a parent. Of course there are areas where you’ll want to hold yourself to the highest standard: abuse and neglect are never OK; however, aim for being a good enough parent otherwise. You’ll be much happier.
5. Trying to be perfect is making you resent everyday dissatisfaction and annoyances.
In the past week, I accidentally deleted all my contacts in my phone … twice. My computer bit the dust (with dozens of hours of work lost), my gmail stopped delivering to addresses that weren’t gmail, my Amazon order got lost in the mail, and the prescription I paid to have FedEx-ed from Canada turned out to be filled incorrectly. I went to yoga with the hopes of detaching from my irritation, and I ran into an ex and his super bendy, super hot girlfriend. I’m sure you know those days when life just feels insane.
Now, nobody died, and I still have all my limbs, but I felt cheated that so many things in my week didn’t go “according to plan.” In reality, I was influenced by the dominant narrative in our society: that daily life is breezy and these things don’t (or shouldn’t) happen. But they do, and when we accept that, we’re liberated. Everyday dissatisfaction are part of life. Instead of resenting them, try to accept that they’re inevitable and embrace them with humor and wisdom.
So take a moment, and survey where in your life the illusion of “perfect” is contributing to frustration, resentment, and unhappiness. You’ll be much happier knowing “good enough” is the perfect of reality.