If you’re a perfectionist, you may believe you need to be perfect to be loved. For some, this means being always upbeat and never expressing negative emotions. For others, this means achieving a physical ideal and so they stress about their body, their weight, face, skin and hair. For others, it’s having the perfectly decorated home, or the perfect job. They tell themselves, “When I’m perfect, I’ll be loved.”
But stop and think about the people you love. Are they perfect? Do you love them because of their perfect apartment, job, hair, or body? For most people the answer is no to both questions. We love someone’s energy, or their smile even if their teeth aren’t perfect. We love their laugh and sense of humor or spirit of adventure. The care they show for others. Their bravery in the face of fear, their persistence in the face of adversity. We love how they make us feel. Have you ever met anyone you thought was perfect? Chances are they intimidated you rather than melted your heart.
The quest to be perfect and stressing over imperfections can limit our ability to connect with others. It keeps us in our heads and focused on ourselves. In his book True Love the Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says, “The most precious gift we can give to someone is to be present.” So, the next time you’re stressing about your imperfections, try the mantra “Be present, not perfect.” It’s the greatest gift you can give.
Dr. Lisa Napolitano is an expert in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other mindfulness-based treatments. A licensed psychologist in New York and Florida, she is the Founder and Director of CBT/DBT Associates, a boutique psychology practice group. Dr. Napolitano is an expert in the treatment of stress, anxiety, worry, and emotion regulation problems. She has specifically designed her treatment approach for executives, attorneys, and other high-functioning individuals whom she believes shouldn’t have to sacrifice their careers to manage their stress and work on developing their potential.