When you boil it all down, most “problems” people have are with other people. Directly or indirectly it is our fellow human beings that are the force behind many of our daily hassles.
You can’t solve the people issues by isolating yourself from everyone else. In addition to being the source of most of our pain, others are also the source of much of our pleasure. You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them, or so the saying goes.
This article is the first in a series of articles about people problems.
The Expectation of Perfection
We often expect others to be perfect or nearly perfect. This is termed other-oriented perfectionism. You are holding others to standards that are impossible to maintain. Of course implicit in this expectation is that your definition of “perfect” is the correct one. This expectation seems to rise in direct proportion to the closeness of the relationship. You set a higher perfection threshold for your family and your friends than for your colleagues and for strangers. The highest level is usually reserved for your partner and your children. This is one of the main reasons why there is so much pain and frustration in dealing with those closest to us – they disappoint our expectations the most.
Let’s face it: neither they nor you are perfect. We are all fallible human beings and we all make mistakes and have characteristics that others do not appreciate nor understand. Your children are not carbon copies of you. They are individual human beings who will find their own way regardless of what you do. They, even as children, have a different idea than you do of who they are going to be. Your neurotic obsession with molding them into your idea of a perfect human will only succeed in frustrating you and driving them away.
Let It Go
Simply accept that others are not perfect and will be who they will be and do what they will do. You will lift a huge burden from your shoulders the day you simply accept others for what they are and stop your crusade to try and change them.
Lower your expectations. Having said that, let me clarify. You can still demand appropriate and responsible behavior from those you associate with. But you should refuse to be disappointed by the behavior of others. You can recognize occasional mistakes for exactly that; mistakes. If someone in your life habitually behaves in a way you find unacceptable, don’t expect them to change. It is at that point you have a decision to make. It may be time for them to be removed from your life. At a minimum you should considering decreasing your interaction with them. That is you exercising your freedom to associate with whomever you please.
Lowering your expectations is not a lowering of your personal standards or an approval of others’ behavior. It is simply the acceptance of reality. The world is not going to be the way you want it to be. I do not expect you to allow people into your life who behave in a way that harms you or your family or in any way makes your life less wonderful. I am simply asking you to accept what is. There is a judgment of reasonableness required in dealing with other people and part of that is an acceptance that people are never going to be what you expect them or want them to be. Learn to love them for being those unique and fascinating individuals that they are. If you can’t love them for that, then at least let them alone.
When I was young, I expected everyone to think the way I did and I was very intolerant of those who didn’t. In my old age I have done a complete 180 degree turn and now simply accept that other people are not me and do not think like me. I am very tolerant of those who are different than me and this has allowed me to calm down and enjoy the wonderful diversity that exists in the human family. Since I don’t expect them to behave according to my standards, and I don’t feel the need to convince them of my way of thinking, a stress-free and easy-going relationship is allowed to develop. There is an incredible feeling of freedom that comes when you decide to simply allow others to be who they are.
“There’s something toxic about expecting others to be perfect. The other person can’t meet those expectations, so the perfectionist directs a lot of anger and disapproval at them.” Lynn Alden
My advice to you is to let go of your need for changing or perfecting other people. If someone does not meet your standards for maintaining a particular kind of relationship with you, then you have a very simple solution: don’t maintain that type of relationship with that person. It is truly as simple as that.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.
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