By Peter Dominique I. Panga, 18 Ateneo de Naga University
There are moments when, while trying to fall asleep, I would recall my junior high school days. As if stuck in never-ending nostalgia, I would ponder over those moments, to the point that my life would flash before my eyes. That gave me a clearer vision of how my starry-eyed idealism ended a friendship I once treasured.
For almost five years, I pinned my faith on my friends. We treated each other like family. Birthday surprises became part of our routine. We tried our best to resolve every conflict. Yet one day, they all grew tired. We were in Grade 10 when we bade farewell.
It was, indeed, a painful experience for a young boy who only wanted to maintain a healthy friendship. But I kept my emotions bottled up.
I thought I was a good friend for being too loyal. Our friendship ended because I was trying to make everything perfect. I wanted them to be more than loyal, too. I wanted everyone within our group to be the best version of themselves. Never did I think that, for them, the rules I was trying to impose made things toxic.
Two things resonated in my mind. I questioned my nonviable standards. I questioned how egoistic we were and how that led to the ruining of our friendship. Curious, I tried to find answers to these questions.
It took several months, however, before I was enlightened. I realized that I was searching for answers outside myself, but the real answer was within me—I was living a discontented life.
Many people believe that it is a good thing to be a perfectionist. They assume that it leads to success. They think that perfectionism makes one reliable for not settling for mediocrity. Although perfectionism is not really wrong, there’s a darker side to it: It can destroy you and damage relationships that you build.
As American poet Robert Hillyer puts it, “Perfectionism is a dangerous state of mind in an imperfect world.” It’s an all-or-nothing mentality that paves the way for dissatisfaction. If a relationship fails to satisfy them, chances are perfectionists will find another that will make up for what is lacking. Their self-imposed rules are often misconstrued by others.
Unfortunately, this attitude leads to unhealthy relationships or it sabotages good ones.
This holds true for any form of relationship, with acquaintances, with friends, with family, with that special someone, you name it. Perfectionists look for an ideal person who is willing to stay, through thick or thin—a girl who always understands, a guy who gladly devotes time, a family who untiringly stands by your side, or a friend who willingly puts you first.
But these are usually self-imposed criteria we want to have in life. We constantly demand for quality time, for perfection, because that is how we believe a healthy relationship should be.
Perfectionism, it seems to me, is like staring at a blank piece of paper while carefully thinking of words and ideas that would best fit my interest.
Every wrong stroke of my pen would lead me to crumpling or tearing up the paper, starting again from scratch. It consumes my time, while also adding to the pile of crumpled papers that are now just trash.
This is what happened to me. Giving up on people if they do not meet all the criteria on my self-imposed list is something I have done over and over again. I’ve befriended and unfriended a lot of people in my life because I thought I can recreate this “perfect world” of mine. But as the saying goes, perfection is only in our imagination. I realize now that it doesn’t make me happy anymore.
As we chase after our quixotic relationships, we detach ourselves from reality. We constantly imagine how it’ll make us genuinely happy, but the reality is, the more we expect, the more we get frustrated.
There is no one who can fulfill your standard 24/7. Even so, there is a way to be content. The secret is acceptance. In the case of my high school friends, our friendship ended because I could not accept what I perceived to be our weaknesses. If only I did not restrict them from socializing with other groups or, at least, appreciate their presence, rather than complaining when they were not around. They could still have been my friends to this day.
I learned this a year ago when my sister, Melody, advised me to accept people’s shortcomings, otherwise they will not understand me. It’s a truth that slapped me on the face. But she was right. The more firmly I held on to my idea of perfect relationships, the smaller my world became.
I guess it’s okay to add a bit of excitement or challenge in the lives of your loved ones. But do not forget that we are, by nature, diverse. Do not expect that the perspective of others will be the same as yours. Confining them to your whimsical world, to fit your narrow worldview, will only suffocate them and that’s what makes a relationship toxic.
A healthy relationship, on the other hand, is filled with contretemps, frustrations, and compromises. These are the things that can make us grow if we know how to handle and accept the flaws that exist in our imperfect world.
After all, as the saying goes, no one is perfect. What matters is the ability to understand, which will bind us together despite the problems that will inevitably surface in the course of any relationship .
Peter Dominique I. Panga is an incoming Grade 12 HUMSS student and associate editor of Kurit BULAWAN, the official student publication of Ateneo de Naga University Senior High School.
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