Can Our Idealism Cause Us to Miss Out on Happiness?
As Sam Keen wrote, “Love isn’t finding a perfect person. It’s seeing an imperfect person perfectly.”
It’s never a good idea to settle for less than we deserve. This can lead to a lifetime of boredom, unhappiness, and dissatisfaction.
Unfortunately, some people become so scared of settling for “not good enough” that they miss out on “just right”. We develop unrealistic expectations and become disheartened when no one is able to meet them. We begin to doubt ourselves. We begin to doubt the very concepts of commitment and romantic love.
Our very idealism, in the end, can be what causes us to turn cynical.
Carrying this mindset, from a purely objective standpoint, is not necessarily a bad thing. A study conducted by Columbia University and Swarthmore College found that job seekers who set out to find the ideal job – rather than settling for one that was “good enough” – did, in fact, secure positions with higher salaries. Unfortunately, this goal-oriented measure of success did not translate to greater happiness. In fact, these students were found to experience more stress and anxiety, as well as a lower level of job satisfaction.
This mindset, it seems, does produce the initially desired results. They just might not be the results that ultimately benefit us as human beings.
A similar study found that, during an economic game, those with this idealistic and perfectionist mindset did win more money than their less ambitious counterparts. However, they were less happy with the amount of money they had earned – even though it was objectively a greater amount.
Have you ever experienced a similar dynamic in your relationships?
Setting high standards is undeniably a good thing. However, when it comes to our relationships, this ambition needs to be countered with a healthy dose of realism. When we expect perfection, we put undue stress on our partner and our relationship. We second-guess our choices and create a sense of regret where it doesn’t need to exist. We become caught up in the opinions of others. We begin to wonder what’s wrong with our relationship when it doesn’t seem to measure up to someone else’s.
In doing this, we can lose our sense of perspective and personal identity. We miss out on the good times, because we are too busy holding out for a perfect moment that likely will never materialize.
We may spend so much time searching for the perfect partner that we end up missing out on someone who is perfect for us.
Just because someone looks perfect on paper does not mean your personality will mesh well with theirs. It should come as no surprise that, according to a University of Texas study, these ambitious perfectionists are less likely to get married, and more likely to get divorced if they do. Even more troubling, they report being less happy in their relationships overall – no matter how perfect they seem from the outside. This may be why, according to a UNC-Chapel Hill study, people with this personality type are more likely to cheat on their partners.
Does this mean you should settle for someone who isn’t the love of your life?
Absolutely not! What it means is that we need to keep our idealism and expectations in check against reality. Stop searching for the perfect partner. They don’t exist, and even if they did, you would probably still not be truly satisfied. Instead, shift your focus to finding a partner who is perfect for you. Build a perfect love together. Live your own version of a perfect life – even if others would call it “just good enough.”