The Pressure of Striving to be Perfect when Standards are Contradictory – Part 1

The Pressure of Striving to be Perfect when Standards are Contradictory - Part 1

Most of us wake up every morning wanting to be the best versions of ourselves, but by about 9 am we have lost the plot and are drowning under waves of franticness, feeling overwhelmed and pulled in every direction.

Paradox and perfection relate to those thoughts, ideas, ideals and standards that we try to live up to that are often contradictory yet perfectionistic; that, in my opinion, just make us plain crazy.

Perhaps the first thing we can ask ourselves is: ‘How am I defining success and who is setting the standard?’ And boy, are there a million answers to that question. There is always someone willing to tell you what to do, what to know, how to be, how to think and how to live.

If you stop and think about it, how many rules and standards are you trying to live up to? Dress this way, a successful woman has a balance between career and family, do your face this way, your house must…, three recipes every woman should know…., ten principles for business success, how to be a good mother….., be the best wife you can be by doing….., have a perfect figure within weeks of giving birth……, go the extra mile, feel the pain and do it anyway,…..etc., etc.

And what’s worse they can be so contradictory. This idealised “Super Woman” narrative, that we are fed, has an outstanding career, is a killer in the boardroom and, magically, is also a great sports mom with straight A children who behave like angels. She bakes her own cakes, cooks organically, has a perfectly clean, tidy, tastefully decorated house at all times and has a fantastic figure; despite baking all day long! Of course, she maintains her figure with regular visits to the gym, several long-distance runs and a designer wardrobe to go with it! She is an energetic, inexhaustible lover who has several tricks up her sleeve in the bedroom and she can change the tyres on her own car – despite having to have a great manicure!

And when you’ve achieved all of this you will be successful and happy! Right?

Well, from my little corner of the world it seems not so – you are more likely to be an exhausted, confused, gibbering wreck. So it is probably useful to stop and ask ourselves what we are trying to achieve and for whose sake are we trying to achieve this?

It is my contention that we are all basically striving to be happy and that we have come to believe that the gateway to happiness is by achieving success.
But how are we actually defining this success? And, more importantly, who is defining success for us? Is there actually a reliable definition of success?

Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, a highly successful on-line Newspaper came up with the concept of the ‘Third Metric”. She contends that: “At the moment, our society’s notion of success is largely composed of two parts: money and power. In fact, success, money and power have practically become synonymous.”

The antidote she suggests is to make space for well-being, wonder and wisdom.

This idea that people are eager to find — or define — success outside the normal parameters is backed up by a study done for American Express.
This study found that the top ways people define a successful life are: Being in good health, finding time for the important things in life, having a good marriage/relationship and knowing how to spend money well.
So perhaps it’s time to drown out all the voices of external authorities in your life and explore what your own internal authority looks like?
This is really about discovering how to be in your own unique life fully – not living an appearance or image-driven life as defined by an outside agency. Living a life of personal authenticity, true to self and our individual, cherished values.

There isn’t really a right or wrong way of being – only a more or less effective and fulfilling way of being. Perhaps consider what is more effective and fulfilling for you?

Personal authenticity is that place where you meet and acknowledge who you really are fully and create a good wholesome relationship with your true you – away from the confusion and conflict of external instructions.
The authentic self is the You that can be found at your absolute core. It is the part of you not defined by your job, function or role. It is the composite of all your experiences, skills, talents and wisdom. It is all of the things that are uniquely yours and need expression, rather than what you believe you are supposed to be and do.

The characteristics necessary for authenticity include a capacity for unbiased self-examination and accurate self-knowledge; reflective judgment; personal responsibility; humility; empathy for and understanding of the others around us, as well as a willingness to listen to feedback from others. Basically it is about trusting yourself, knowing how far you can trust yourself and never about arrogance and pride.
This means that one exercises choice from a position of balanced self-mastery.

This is the first part of a series of posts. See Part Two here.

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