Over the years, I’ve realised that not only is our striving for faultlessness a losing game but a rather unnecessary one. While nobody has and ever will reach such unattainable levels, there are people who look as if they are close. The truth is that they aren’t- not even remotely. Chances are they’re also fairly boring. Many of the things we see as imperfections are actually just quirks, unique to us. We ignore a bigger point too. Perfection isn’t linear. In life, there is more than just black and white, right and wrong. There’s more than grayscale too. There are faces of perfection, so many of them. Chances are, to someone, for something, you fit the bill.
Something I’ve noticed myself doing lately is putting others on pedestals. Specifically, the pedestal of perfection. It’s not that I necessarily expect this of anybody- It’s more just a pervasive feeling of unease and dissatisfaction when others around me don’t seem to live up to their potential and therefore have a lead on effect in my life. I think I’ve taken to almost villainising myself. Making myself out to be bad and incompetent compared to others. Realistically, I know there is nothing wrong with me, nor with others. There are two recent examples in my relationships that I can draw from- recently the facade of my best friends having much better lives than me fell away when I realised that they also struggle with rocky mental health and have unstable home lives.
Having gone through some things that have completely changed me, I realise now, more than ever, how isolating it can be to struggle with unseen pain. While fluctuating states of mental health are becoming much more commonplace and talked about, therefore less taboo, they are still an uncomfortable topic for many. Chances are that if you don’t struggle with a mental health condition, someone you love and care about does. It is very close to home for many. I found about my friends struggles once I let on about mine. We’d broken down a wall and were now in a place of complete radical honesty and transparency about our realities. It was very difficult for me to realise that we were all hurting simultaneously.
Pain avoidance is such a human desire. If I can’t make things better for myself, I want to extend a hand to my companions. I told them that it was surprising to hear because they seemed so happy. It turned out they had thought the same about me, even to the point that one friend was close to asking what my secret to happiness was. I often get described as being cheerful which is strange to me. After all, I live with myself and am present and accounted for when it comes to every single passing thought and feeling in my mind. I know it intimately and it isn’t always a pretty place to be. This, my friends, is the human spirit. We are resilient and brave beyond measure. We continue to march on through seasons of continuous, unrelenting struggle.
The second incident happen within my relationship with my partner. He was out of sorts and had disclosed some private information to a person who had no business knowing it. I had always seen him as someone who had it together or at least more so than me. Someone I could rely on, learn from, always be sure of. I was disappointed because what had occurred was so out of character and strange for him. It made me feel doubtful of myself and my decisions. At the same time, it allowed me to see him more honestly, as an imperfect being. Not to accept bad treatment but to allow him to not have it all together. In a strange way, I’d kind of been looking at him as some sort of God- not a suitable way to see any person, really.
How hard will I fall off this pedestal that I have so proudly perched myself on? This is a question I think we’ve all asked ourselves at some point. Sometimes it’s okay to fail miserably, to see uncomfortable versions of ourselves and others. At the end of the day, as long as we aim to show changed behaviour, to progress, we are doing okay. It is my hope that when my image of fabricated perfection falls away completely once and for all, I am loved more for being vulnerable and authentic. Mature love for ourselves and others looks like recognition. Recognition of the fact that we are who we are, not an ideal- and no less worthy for it.
We enter new territory when we fall in love with someone or reach out and make a new friend. Perhaps we see that person in a glowing light. Their good qualities can serve to dominate the foreground of our perception whilst their negative qualities recede softly and seamlessly into the background, so much so that they may appear nonexistent. This temporary state of apparent grace is known as the act of putting someone on a pedestal. We typically idolise spiritual leaders and gurus as it’s widely believed that they hold ancient or superior knowledge and have unlocked fact banks that are inaccessible to the average person through their walk of life. We have all seen this notion play out in some way or another, perhaps through a honeymoon phase in a romantic relationship. There’s nothing to say we can’t enjoy this for time it lasts. What’s crucial to remember however is that healthy relationships evolve. The lust and infatuation that comes with early romance will be preceded by true knowing and understanding of a partner. This commitment takes time to develop but the strengthened bond you’ll have as a result will outlast any feelings typically equated with a mere crush. We must always check ourselves to ensure that we aren’t relying too heavily on our projections to satisfy and quell any ill feelings we may have towards another or a situation.
Everybody we know, at any given moment, is going through something- we each have problems, flaws and blind spots that are undeserving of comparison. Entertaining the illusion that someone is perfect is most dangerous as we don’t allow them room to do what it is that they do best- to be human. Therefore, when they make an error in judgement or behave in a way that contradicts the ideal way we wish for a situation to play out, we become disillusioned. We may struggle to control our anger or distance ourselves from them, whether consciously or unconsciously, in response. In the end, they hold no responsibility for the fact that we idealised them. Granted, they may have found enjoyment in the way we perceived them to be so high and mighty but we are the ones who chose to believe in this illusion. Going through this process time and time again can teach us an important lesson in humility and understanding of one another.
Most people seek to show up as their highest self and take consistent action in accountability until they reach a stage they are pleased with but facts stand. Nobody is capable of perfection. At the end of the day, we are a dazzling combination of divine and human qualities and we each have our time in the light. When we afford the people we love this same gentle awareness, we allow for a much greater intimacy than when we held them aloft on an airy and distant throne. The cloudy fog of idealised perfection begins to clear as we finally allow ourselves to see loved ones for who they truly are. We cannot truly connect with a person when we idealise them. In life, there are no real pedestals. We all walk the same ground together, just at different paces. When we realise this, we can finally own our humanity as much as we do our divinity. This is the key to balance and a sense of wholeness and fulfilment within ourselves and our relationships.
I myself have been a pedestal maker just as much as I’ve been a pedestal inhabitant. I speak from experience when I say that both positions present a problem. When you’re the one being looked up to, the danger is in feeling as if you must hide or camouflage your imperfections to live up to other people’s picture of you. On the other hand, if you’re vulnerable enough to show a less than stellar side, you risk being judged, ostracised and the like. Off the pedestal you go. Sigh. On the other hand, when you’ve allotted someone a pedestal and you notice traits and actions on their part that fail to align with the part you’ve assigned them, you feel forced to put them down a notch or two or perhaps even reevaluate the part they play in your life. Alternatively, you might pretend to be none the wiser, telling yourself that their fall from grace was imagined. At some point though, the inevitable wins out and anybody seen as perfect risks falling from an unfairly steep height. After all, there’s only one place to go and that’s down. What goes up must come down again. The most natural of earth’s laws state as much. Gravity, oh gravity.
Let’s face it- everyone steps off the pedestal at some point as you come to know them better and are let inside of their lives, whisked into a world obscured to most others. Nobody has it quite as together as we might have thought initially as we embraced a budding romance, friendship or business relationship. They, much like us, have insecurities, fears, hangups and more. A good front is just that. A picturesque frame that we insist on living vicariously through. At some point though, whatever they wish to put aside will come out of hiding. We must never be too proud or egotistical to let imperfections mar our relationship. Forgiveness is not just for significant transgressions but for the daily aggravations of life as well. Acceptance covers the situation when you arrive home late, weary after a tough day at work, only to find that your partner has forgotten to take the bins out or cleaned the kitchen bench sloppily after preparing a meal, leaving residual mess in hard to clean spots here and there.
Judgement is as judgement does. When it boils down to it, we judge others for their imperfections just as frequently as they do ours. Neither person can forever live up to the expectations of others, particularly as needs evolve and change with the years. After all, who could? Who is perfect enough to never, even temporarily for a split second in time, step off the pedestal we’ve placed them on? It is a toxic habit and one that can only breed contempt and misunderstanding of one another. Perhaps we go as far as to place someone in a pit, to blacklist them upon first meeting or after they’ve fallen off the pedestal. We block them from reaching our hearts and let no sense reach our own ears. We stand firm in our misguided decision to not associate with this person as they are not good enough for us, whether by a fault of theirs or a trait and characteristic that will stand whether we approve or not. In this situation, we could refer to the bible- “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone!” and “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” When we look beyond ourselves for someone to cast judgement and condemnation upon, we forget that technically, we share sin and are in that very moment acting wrongfully.
Rather than placing others on or off of pedestals, perhaps we’d both be better served by accepting people as they are, including the flaws we see through our clouded lenses. Are we really in a position to cast the first stone? Perhaps the mirror in front of us is the very tool we need to use when we itch to judge others. We must ask the tough, gritty, messy question and be prepared for honesty to prevail and come flowing forth. How does the judgement we lay upon another apply to us as well? A beneficial endeavour when you get down to it. It is surprising how often and readily we can discover truths and untruths about ourselves as we stop looking out there and turn a deep, long gaze inwards. Then we’d be in a better position to level the playing field and rid ourselves of deadly pits of judgement. We would then see change effected in the only place it really can, ourselves.