No One Is Perfect, Not Even You. And That's More Than Ok
“Do you want to know why I think you might be feeling this way? You hold yourself to such high expectations”.
I couldn’t tell you what day of the week that my friend and I were having this conversation. I know that it was somewhere between a Monday and a Friday because neither of us had jobs at the time. I was trying the whole ‘work-for-yourself-as-a-freelancer’ thing, and she was trying to figure out her life purpose.
You know, pretty standard first-world millennial sort of stuff.
We were sat in our living room in Sydney. Both of us had moved from the flat we used to live in together in London to see what life was like down under. The idea of sunshine and beaches had finally managed to pull us away from our stuffy morning commutes on the Central Line.
And here we were. Sat, cups of tea in hand, with the sunshine pouring through our open windows, trying to work out what the f*ck we should do with our lives. As we did pretty much every day, because that’s just the kind of people we are.
These types of conversations are nothing new to us. Usually they go something like this: she tells me what’s going through her head, we analyse, dissect, probably have a little cry, and then try and work out what to do. Then, I do the exact same to her with my problems.
Are we over-thinkers? Most definitely. But hey, it is what it is.
While your geography can change quite a bit, your problems – I have learned – often don’t follow suit. But more on that in another post. Venting our emotional problems to each other was nothing out of the ordinary, but this conversation, this specific one, we had had before.
It was my turn to offload. Honestly, I can’t even remember what I had been saying, but if I had to take a stab in the dark, it probably would have been something along the lines of, “What the f*ck can I do to make me truly happy in life?”
Like I said, pretty standard first-world millennial sort of stuff.
I don’t remember most of what my friend had said back to me. I imagine it all would have been very practical, and lovely, because she is both of those things. But what I do remember is that, following a warning that she was going to be totally honest with me, instead of her usual 99.9%, she simply said, “You hold yourself to such high expectations”.
In the weeks that have passed since, I haven’t been able to shake this.
I started writing all about what I think expectations are; how we can define them, how they affect us in subliminal ways, and what they mean. But when I think about it, that’s a whole separate conversation.
The question I really want to ask here is that when it comes to ourselves, why do we even feel any expectations in the first place?
I am by no means an expert. But if I’m to speak from my own experience, I would say the expectations I feel to be, act, or behave a certain way come from a whole range of different places; from societal pressure, from not wanting to disappoint family or friends, and of course, from not wanting to disappoint myself.
I want to be polite, and kind, and funny, because they are all traits that are valued and appreciated by society. I want to be in good physical shape, with a good sense of style and a neat haircut because those are some of the things that are valued by the culture of gay men. I want to be successful, financially secure, and independent because these are all valued by my parents.
And most of all I want to be the perfect friend, the perfect son, the perfect employee, and the perfect boyfriend, because these are all things that are valued by me.
But here’s the deal. The no bullsh*t, self-loving reality check I needed to realise: absolutely nobody is perfect. Not me, not you, not anyone, and put simply, you’ll burn yourself out if you continuously try to be.
Why is it that we hold ourselves to such unobtainable standards when we don’t expect that of other people? Plus, aiming for perfection is actually kind of relative; the way I perceive it might well be totally different from how other people do. It’s all about what perfect is to you.
How am I possibly to know what society values? Who am I to claim to know what the entire collective of gay men places significance on? Can I possibly begin to understand the complexities of aspirations a parent must feel for their child?
Of course not! By assuming I know the answers to any of those things is to deny anyone of their own independent experience. Plus, constantly striving for perfection you leave no space for arguably the most important thing of all: accepting things just as they are.
That’s what expectations do, whether positive or negative, they stop you from seeing what things actually are. And what you are is imperfect, like everybody else. And that’s ok.
My friend isn’t the only person who’s told me I hold myself to high expectations, it’s actually been something I’ve heard a few times.
When that starts happening, when a few different people start telling me the same thing, it’s often a sign that there’s something I need to take the time to look at a little bit.
Do I know why I have such high expectations of myself? I have my suspicions. Am I saying that we should totally accept ourselves and never stop aiming to be, or do, better? Absolutely not. Do I have any tips on how to stop expecting so much of yourself? Honestly, I wish I had more.
All I’ve managed to figure out so far is that clinging to the idea that I should be perfect, or that I even have an understanding of what perfection is, hasn’t exactly been working out too well. I think it’s about throwing yourself into the perfection of imperfection which is that we might be flawed, but that let’s us live, feel, grow, and be happy.
Because if everyone was perfect, that would just be too damn boring.