In the quest to become a perfect version of ourselves, our focus is perpetually fixed on our shortcomings and we become obsessed with improving any deficiencies in our lives. Like a disease, our acute awareness of imperfection begins to infect other aspects of our lives. No longer are we focusing solely on ameliorating our own character flaws. Now, what began as an internal aspiration to better ourselves begins to spread and affect others.
The imperfections of those around us begin to complicate our quest for a perfect life. Our focus shifts from correcting our own character flaws to trying to correct the character flaws of our partners (children, family or friends). We offer suggestions and innocent critiques to try to encourage them to change and improve. Our intentions are good, yet toxic to the relationship. By focusing our attention on their flaws, we poison the relationship. Before long we forget all about the positive qualities of that person, our supportive tone becomes critical and our gentle encouragement turns to venom.
Our effort to create a perfect life has taken an unexpected turn and now, rather than perfection, we have become perfectly unsatisfied. How can we pursue a perfect life without harming our relationships?
It is Your Journey, Not Theirs. When our lives are intimately entangled with others, the boundary of individuality is often blurred and it is easy to lose our sense of self. When you become frustrated with others, remind yourself that this is your journey.
Lead by Example. If you want someone to change, instead of criticizing their current lifestyle, be a model of success. When people begin to notice a positive change in your behavior or attitude, it will influence them to improve their own life. Share your excitement about the changes you have made!
Be Patient. Breaking a habit or changing a lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight. Your own transformation is the result of your desire to change coupled with persistence and daily diligence. Be supportive and offer encouragement rather than judgement.
Watch Your Mouth. Words are powerful and have the potential to lift a person up or tear them down. How you chose your words affects your relationship with others and can influence their desire to change…or not.
Appreciate People for Who They Are. Why is this person a part of your life? Is it because they make you laugh? Do they support you in times of need? Maybe they share in your wild and wacky adventures or just love you unconditionally. Stop focusing on what is wrong and appreciate them for the person they are.
Perfection Doesn’t Exist. Not really. Even if it did, it is the imperfections that make life interesting. It is the challenges that give life meaning. Try not to get hung up on perfection. Instead, enjoy life for the gift that it is, bad breath, pimples and all.
This is good info and an interesting discussion… I think perfection can be an impossible target sometimes and that it can actually keep us from our personal bests… as you share it can then become toxic if it influences our interactions with others…. a certain maturity must exist when “perfection” is the target.
I am really beginning to think that perfection is the enemy of success. Constantly seeking a perfect state creates a level of frustration and dissatisfaction with the way life currently is in that moment. Instead of appreciating the gift of life and enjoying the moment we are currently occupying, our mind is judging our situation as not good enough. This leads to a decreased happiness and a constant feeling of an inadequate life.
It seems counter-intuitive to say “accept your imperfections” when discussing self-improvement but it is becoming more clear in my own life that if I ever want to reach a true state of satisfaction, at some point I must accept my situation, even if it is not the idealized version of perfection I had in my mind.
I am a self proclaimed perfectionist. I have for as long as I can remember. Most people wouldn’t know I am a perfectionist by some of my habits, but when it comes to certain things in life, if they are not perfect, I feel as though I am not as well. I really enjoyed reading this entry because it made me see that there is more to life than just perfection. I don’t have to be perfect for people to like me and I don’t have to change every aspect of who I am to be accepted.
You said, “Perfection doesn’t exist.” I agree with that because what’s perfect in my eyes is not perfect for another. It is all relative & a personal thing.
It’s true that words are powerful and we should be careful when criticizing people around us. You don’t have children yet but it is important to tell them what NOT to do! I feel that I should be able to tell my kids to correct their behavior if they do something that is not right (in my opinion). For example, they use to say things like “He has a fat belly!” really loud in front of those who are overweight & I had to teach them that they cannot say that. Another example is hitting and punching; I had to teach them that they cannot do that either. However, I do not even try to correct other people because they are who they are and it’s not up to me to change them.
About children, it is important to guide our children and instill moral and values and teach them proper manners and how to behave in certain situations. That is what parenting is all about. What I really mean by my statement of “trying to correct the character flaws of our partners (children, family or friends)” is when our children are old enough to have developed their own individuality which we may not view as being “perfect”, and we focus our energy on changing or “correcting” that character “flaw”.
This is something I went through when I was growing up. I remember one incident quite vividly when I was a teenager and began listening to Marilyn Manson. My stepfather HATED that I wanted to listen to such a freak and he attempted to prevent me from listening to his music. It didn’t matter whether or not the music was good, or that I liked it. I grew to resent my stepfather for not letting me express my own personality and enjoy those things in life that I found to be pleasurable. All he succeeded in doing was creating a tense relationship and to this day, I still listen to Marilyn Manson.
I think there is a difference between parenting and controlling or restricting an individual to grow and develop. In parenting, we want our children to grow in the image we have created in our mind but we also forget that they are an individual with their own personality. Sometimes this can cause tension for the parent. That is when we should remember that this is our journey and they have their own journey. Guide, don’t control.
I do not want to dictate what my kids should do with their life or what career choice they should make. It is their life after all. However, if they decide to become musicians or actors, I would suggest that they double major in something else as a backup. I want them to be happy; I also want them to be independent, responsible, and have a career where they’ll be able to support themselves.
I think most of us have experiences like what you described. My father was very strict & controlling. I wasn’t even allowed to go trick-or-treat! The only time I actually did was when my friend’s mother pleaded with him to let me go…
Jersey Mom: It sounds like you and I are pretty well on the same page as far as children are concerned (you with your experience and I with my idealized version of parenthood). It is definitely a parent’s responsibility to be a guiding force in a child’s life and to help create balance. Afterall, children, as much as they might think otherwise, don’t have all of the answers. Being there to offer wisdom and knowledge and help direct is a crucial parenting skill.
I read a quote somewhere about leadership that I think can also apply to parenting: “It is easier to pull a rope than to push a rope.” In other words, you can lead someone more easily by pulling them along with you than you can by pushing them into doing something they don’t want to do. You can encourage children to do what you think is best but in the end, you can’t force them into anything (well, you could but I’m not sure the consequences would be worth it).
I love “Watch your mouth”. There are times when I wish I could just reach out and grab the words out of the air and get rid of them. I wonder why I didn’t think first and then speak. It usually happens with my kids, who are bigger than me and often don’t seem like kids any more. They are though, and I’m not, so I need to…watch my mouth.
I can totally relate to you Paula. This is one thing I really struggle with myself. I have a tendency to be very blunt, to the point of rudeness at times. I like to think of it as unadultered honesty but I am beginning to realize how much weight my words can carry, especially critical words. In my attempts to motivate, I find I can actually break a person down. It might work for me to have someone being mean to me to get me motivated but it doesn’t work for everyone. It is a bad, bad habit of mine and definately something I need to change.