Disney, movies, TV shows, and novels have not prepared us well for real life. In most stories, there are answers, resolution of conflicts, justice, and happy endings. Often the good guys win. From our earliest days, our hearts long for the perfect score on a test, the flawless partner, unwavering health, etc.
Perfection has not been my experience. It has not been the experience of my counseling clients. And it has most likely not been your experience either.
Life is often hard, disappointing, and perplexing.
When our lives do not match happy stories, we tend to think there is something wrong with us. People think “Things always seem to work out for others, but not for me. I must be doing it all wrong.” Have you had these thoughts?
Please be assured that it is not you.
Do not listen to the voice of shame. Life is hard, disappointing, and perplexing for everyone. Sure, there are blessings and happy endings for some people, but these are rare exceptions to the general rule. All religions and philosophies acknowledge a similar problem – the brokenness of the world. Things here on earth are not ideal - for anyone.
There are at least four reasons why real life is not perfect.
1. Imperfect Me
Alexander Pope gave us the oft-quoted line "To err is human." Few people would say that they have arrived and no longer need to grow. We all want to improve in some ways. These realities point to a truth about each of us – we are imperfect people. The Judeo-Christian perspective explains that a terrible fall from perfection occurred at the beginning of human history, and we’ve been suffering the consequences ever since. Our wants, ideas, inclinations, emotions, and even our physical bodies are distorted as a result of the fall. A wise person understands and lives in the reality of personal imperfection.
2. Imperfect others
Not only are we fallen and flawed, but so are all the people we encounter every day. Traffic, social media, HOA meetings, work teams, and family gatherings are all comprised of fallen and broken people who are a lot like us - imperfect. When you put two flawed people in the same room, what do you think will happen? Correct: Imperfection. There is a common saying that is very true: Hurt people hurt people. We have difficult and uncomfortable interactions with hurt people every day - and we get hurt in the process. Why? Because they are imperfect.
Undoubtedly, you’ve heard the phrase “It’s not rocket science.” The implication is that rocket science is the most complicated science. Well, human psychology is much more complicated. In rocket science, there are many variables, but many of them are known and constant. In human science, there are thousands of variables - and they are constantly changing. People are complicated. Interpreting emotions, relational interactions, and reasons behind behaviors are nearly impossible. Understanding imperfect people can be very frustrating.
3. Imperfect coping strategies
There is another factor contributing to our imperfect lives - imperfect coping strategies. Coping strategies are the methods we use to deal with stress. And like other areas of our lives, our coping skills are less than perfect. Something inside the human soul tends to reject helpful options and instead chooses harmful ones.
Instead of resting - we worry.
Instead of calmly talking about offenses – we bottle up emotions until we explode.
Instead of prioritizing self-care – we run frantically until we are exhausted.
Despite logic, we often fixate on a far-fetched possibility throughout the night.
Sadly, many adults are still using the coping mechanisms they developed as young children. And the results are, at best, imperfect and, at worst, damaging. Do you see the problem here? Imperfect people stress other imperfect people. And we all have imperfect methods of dealing with stress.
4. Imperfect perspectives
Do dogs understand the economy? No. They can’t. Well, similarly, at any given point in your life there are thousands of unperceivable things happening. No human being can possibly understand all the myriad variables and possible outcomes. This is especially true about your perspective of your own life - you’re just too close to the action. The apparent chaos of life, caused by your imperfect perspective, can be painful and paralyzing.
This all may seem like bad news, but let me end on a positive note. It is true that each person’s journey is rough and uncertain much of the time. While everyone struggles with the effects of the fall, we all can hope for change, growth, and joy in the journey. Each person can fight their struggles and take steps towards a positive destination.
Helpful Tips for Thriving in an Imperfect World.
1. Accept the fact of imperfection. There is freedom in developing a worldview that accepts and expects imperfection. You don’t have to like it, but you can see it as normal. Constantly fighting imperfection or expecting things to be perfect produces stress, disappointment, and other psychological problems. Personal imperfection is normal, human, and expected. If you were perfect, there would be no room for progress. Imperfection is a requirement for learning and growing.
2. Correctly label imperfections in yourself. Many people view their imperfections as bad, worse than others, brokenness, inadequacies, or unacceptable. This practice is harmful. Instead of judging, shaming, or punishing, give yourself grace. Don’t hate your imperfections. View them as areas of growth. Like the piano student struggling with scales. The imperfection is just an area where improvement will replace it in a few weeks. Being mad or embarrassed with your imperfections only interferes with your growth. No one is an expert until they put in the 10,000 hours of practice.
3. Give grace to other imperfect people. It is very disappointing when others fall short of our expectations. But if you remember that those around you are imperfect humans like you, it is easier to forgive.
TIP: Let’s go back to the piano student. Would you yell at a student who did not perform the scales perfectly by the end of one lesson? Why not? What would you say instead? What would happen if you did yell at him/her?
I hope this information helps you understand the reasons we all struggle with mental, emotional, or relational stress. While your struggles manifest themselves differently than the people around you, rest knowing that you are not alone. It’s not just you. Try to embrace and apply the three helpful tips. You will find them to be practically helpful.
Are you having trouble coping with this imperfect world? Does imperfection cause you to struggle with anxiety or depression? If so, Next Step Counseling can help. Next Step Counseling is a Christian Counseling practice serving in Gallatin and Hendersonville, Tennessee. We specialize in helping teens, adults, and couples overcome the challenges of this imperfect world and regain control of their lives. Whether you are dealing with personal issues, relationship problems, or work-related stress, we want to help you find the strength to overcome and move forward in your life. We offer both face-to-face and tele-sessions, so you can choose the option that best meets your needs. Don't continue to struggle alone - reach out to Next Step Counseling today and take the first step toward thriving. Use this link to schedule a free consultation call.