Why Waiting To Be ‘Perfect’ Is Keeping You From The Love You Want
Perfection is a coping mechanism we use when we are unable to give ourselves approval. It’s an inner battle for acceptance and validation from others. What’s ironic about perfection is no matter how much or how hard we try to do things “perfectly,” it never feels “good enough.” There is always some part of us that feels we need to do more and more because we are trying to fulfill this imaginary threshold of enoughness in order to be enough. But perfection is not real because it’s impossible to be perfect.
Many people on the path of healing and self-awareness subconsciously believe that there is this level of perfection they need to attain in order to date. They believe that it is only when they attain this level of perfection that they will be worthy of love. This belief comes from society, culture, and institutions. For example, in school, you are programmed to achieve a passing grade in order to get to the next level (to graduate, etc). If you do not pass your classes, you fail and you will not move forward to the next grade.
This can be extremely overwhelming for a child, especially if they are struggling in certain subjects or they may have a learning disability. Nevertheless, when things feel threatening we find ways to cope by being whoever it is we need to be to get social approval. You spend the majority of your formative years trying to get things right rather than getting them wrong, striving to pass rather than failing, and this is the very energy we take into our healing and our dating experiences.
We are still striving to achieve something, to reach something we believe is bigger than ourselves rather than simply allowing ourselves to be human and find people who accept us for us.
In this article, I will share four ways to work through the need to be "perfect" in order to start dating.
1.You are not being authentic when you are trying to be “perfect.”
As Black women, culture and society have conditioned us to work really hard to achieve things. Take the Super Bowl, for instance. Rihanna performed for the first time after a seven-year hiatus, and she shocked viewers when it was revealed that she was pregnant during her performance. Carrying a baby and performing in front of thousands, there were people still criticizing her performance because they felt she didn’t “do enough.” She showed up in her authenticity and it still wasn’t “enough." But it was more than enough for her fans, her loved ones, and most importantly herself.
When we are striving for a certain level of perfection in relationships, we become a slave to other people’s standards. We become energetically tethered to their beliefs, their perception, and what we think they want from us in order to be loveable. If you didn’t learn anything from Rihanna’s halftime performance: It is absolutely impossible tomeet everyone’s expectations.
Viewing our interpersonal relationships through the lens of perfection makes us more focused on performing rather than actually being. Rather than trying to meet everyone else’s expectations, it’s important to learn how to embrace who you are and create a level of intimacy with yourself. Intimacy means clearly seeing someone for who they are and meeting them where they are with love, compassion, and acceptance. When you are striving for perfection, you are actually inauthentic which is a barrier to intimacy and a clear sign of emotional unavailability.
2.Look at the parts of yourself you’re not accepting.
The belief that we must be perfect in our relationships in order to connect may be directly related to a fear of intimacy that carries the core belief that certain aspects of us are unloveable. This belief can stem from negative childhood imprinting and relational trauma. When we are told that certain aspects of ourselves are unloveable, we learn to disown those parts of ourselves and we cope by becoming whoever we need to be in order to function. For example, as a child, if you were often criticized or shamed for your sensitivity, you may cope by suppressing that part of yourself and taking on a mask of avoidance or a nonchalant attitude to ensure your survival growing up.
Inner child work can be helpful in unpacking the parts of yourself you may be suppressing. The longer you suppress these parts of yourself, the more they will keep showing up in your relationships. You may find yourself having strong reactions or judging others who exhibit characteristics you’ve suppressed. Learn to see your own humanity and start that process by embracing all of your insecurities because those are the places where you need the most love.
3.Embrace vulnerability rather than avoid it.
Striving for perfection in relationships can point to the fact that we have core needs that are not being met. Trying to be perfect can come from a lack of physical/emotional safety, lack of validation, approval, trust, and understanding in relationships. But when we are being vulnerable, we let people in and give them an opportunity to hold space for us.
In relationships, we have to give people the opportunity to hold space for us because it can go either one or two ways. They are either going to honor our needs and hold space for us, or they are going to show us with their actions that they do not have the capacity to honor our needs or hold space for us the way we need them to.
The issue comes in when we avoid vulnerability because we are so afraid of what that answer will be. But regardless of wherever the pendulum swings, what are you going to do with that answer? Are you going to stick around and wait for the person to meet your core values/needs/standards or do you have the courage to walk away and go get your needs met elsewhere?
Sometimes striving to be perfect is a reflection of an abandonment wound and an inability to walk away from relationships that do not serve you. Instead of waiting for people to disappoint you, focus on what you will do if they ever do disappoint you.
4.Show empathy and compassion for yourself and others.
It’s easy to judge someone, but it takes strength to really understand the deeper truth behind someone’s behavior. Whatever we judge in someone else is a reflection of what we’ve disowned within ourselves. Take some time to learn what real empathy and compassion are and start by offering those things to yourself.
How do you speak to yourself when you make a mistake? How do you speak to others when they make a mistake? Start to pay attention to how hard you may be on yourself and others. Where can you extend more empathy and compassion in your relationships without overriding your boundaries?
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Featured image by Cavan Images/Getty Images
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Imani Tutt is a therapist-LP and intuitive. Her approach is rooted in intuitive knowledge that trusts in the innate knowingness of the conscious mind and body. She creates a safe for people to confront their inner wounds with bravery, curiosity and care. Her playful spirit makes the healing process enjoyable as she invites people to meet her for soul-centered transformations of the mind, body, and spirit.