Room for Imperfection Expecting perfection dooms relationships; including the relationship with self By: Troy Murphy
Stock Adobe Royalty Free Images
Actions often conflict with ideals—we act differently than we perceive ourselves to be. This creates internal dissonance; a divide begging for resolution. These internal contradictions sap precious energy, igniting discontent. The non-conforming actions must be addressed, or ignored. When internal landscapes consist of fractured and conflicting elements, we stall; the conflict must be resolved to soothe the internal strife.
The gap between the reality of action and ideals of self-perception closes in a variety of ways: we can accept we are essentially flawed; abandon conflicting behaviors; or justify errant behaviors as acceptable. These aren’t mutually exclusive; we may adopt mixtures and variations of all three. Each resolution pathway has costs as well as benefits. Protective layers of unconsciousness cloak the internal conflicts complicating our constructive efforts to positively change. The discomfort of internal conflict motivates action, not because we recognize dissonance but because we naturally act to soothe the irritation. We justify, deny and blame not for a defined reason but because we are inclined to do so. Often we don’t detect the internal contradictions, bewildered by frustrations and discomfort, we react. Frustrated from unresolved issues, we lash out, or hide.
Perceptions of self never accurately reflect the genuine self; partly because the genuine self is a term, more than a reality. Who is the genuine self? Our lives are dynamic and complex, constantly in flux. Any solid definition of self will fail to meet the fluid change of an organism in a complex environment. A gap between ideas of self and reality will always exist. A desire never fully satisfied, constantly demanding more success, more security, and more joy. Reality can’t satisfy these idealistic hopes. This includes visions of the self; Personal characteristics will always lack. Obtaining ideals isn’t the answer to resolve the disrupted life.
Reaching towards ideals, while enjoying the present, is part of the answer. We must find avenues of enjoyment within the limitations of imperfection. We add to survival moments of enjoyment, lost in hobbies, close friendships, and small achievements.
Our actions may drift from ideals. Everyone has moments of greatness and smallness. We screw up, acting wrongly and exposing humanness; we shouldn’t joyfully accept faults, but also not shamefully deny them. Errant behaviors remind us of our humanness, stumblings to be accepted and then conscientiously addressed—the best we can. Flaws don’t signal terribleness but normalcy. Awareness of blunders without self-condemnations invites constructive responses.
"Our lives are dynamic and complex, constantly in flux. Any solid definition of self will fail to meet the fluid change of an organism in a complex environment."
Close relationships include being irritated and irritating. Two people, especially those we depend on, occasionally strike nerves. Ideally irritation wouldn’t exist in intimacy—but real relationships aren’t always ideal. Couple must address normal irritations without judging the relationship flawed. If we believe our relationship will never ruffle our nerves, and irritations are unacceptable, then inevitable flawed interactions will strike anxiety that some thing is inherently wrong—with our partner. When all discomfort signals emergency, we rebel against reality, seeking unobtainable dreams. Without careful scrutiny, we attempt to fix non-existent problems, leading to frustration, anger, and contempt. This self-righteous unwarranted path vilifies partners for being human—perfectly imperfect.
Misattribution of causes, believing a partner’s behaviors flow from character flaws, biases future interpretations; neutral acts are seen from a negative context. Even positive behaviors are twisted, conforming to more sinister motives. When positive is seen as negative, the relationship is dead—few relationships will survive this destructive pattern of interaction; our dear sweet lover has become the enemy.
In relationships with ourselves and with others we must accept imperfection. This acceptance softens biases clouding the lenses of perception. Triggered feelings are accurately identified as a complex combination of behaviors and the subsequent interpretations. The clearer we identify unrealistic expectations, the more effective our response. With patience and compassion differences in self and with others can be accepted, addressed and improved.