Nobody is Perfick

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 9.18.40 PMWhen I was young, one of my favorite books was a collection of four short stories called “Nobody is Perfick“. I liked the first three stories, but it was the fourth one, called Nobody is Perfick, that captivated my attention. It was the story about a perfect boy named Peter Perfect. He always had sharp pencils. He always dressed perfectly. He received perfect scores on all of his tests. He had perfect manners and all of the adults in his life adored him. It’s only on the last page of the book, when a drawing of a boy with a wind-up mechanism in his back is revealed, that we realize that Peter Perfect isn’t real. The last line of the book (which I still remember perfectly to this day) is, “Nobody’s perfect, Peter Perfect.”

I remember feeling simultaneously disappointed and relieved by the moral of this tale. On the one hand, being an aspiring perfectionist, I desperately wanted to believe that perfection existed. I stepped into the book and imagined myself being Peter Perfect, receiving all of the accolades and approval that perfectionists seek. As a nearly perfect student in elementary school, I knew how delicious it felt to receive those temporary highs of approval. In fact, I lived for them. But on the other hand, I felt relieved to know that perfectionism was an impossible goal, one that nobody achieves, not even a robot. What a conflict this book produced in me! And how fascinating it is for me to sweep back over my small self through my adult eyes and explore the magnetic power that book had over me.

As I work with my clients struggling to find serenity in their intimate relationships, one of the most common themes that arises is the disappointment they experience when they realize that they’re with an imperfect partner, one that, while wonderful in many essential ways, falls short of the parnter-fantasy they developed over the years. Oftentimes this fantasy isn’t even conscious, and only rises to consciousness once their actual partner is compared to the latent fantasy partner. And even if the fantasy isn’t fully formed, most people are surprised and disappointed to realize that their partner is irritating at times, doesn’t have a similar sense of humor, and doesn’t look quite how they thought their partner was going to look.  Of course, you are imperfect as well. The hard thud to reality is in realizing that all human beings are incredibly imperfect.

The problem is that we’re not offered an accurate depiction of relationships in the West. True to the dichotomous, black-and-white thinking that defines mainstream culture, we’re presented with two extremes: on the one hand, we see the perfect, Hollywood relationship that stems from the fairy tale and Disney expectation of a perfect prince or princess coming to lift you out of the messy, uncomfortable, sometimes painful, sometimes boring reality of being human. On the other hand, we witness, sometimes firsthand in the first blueprint of our parents’ marriage, relationships that are either fraught with volatile conflict or defined by a chasm of resentment that looks like bored silence. Neither model is one that most people want to emulate.

What we don’t see is two people who love each other, come up against the foibles of being human, and work through them to the place of acceptance and true love. We don’t see a couple, for example, driving in a new city and becoming anxious about losing their way. Driving, in fact, is a situation that tends to elicit a variety of charged emotions for many couples, as it cuts to the core of our sense of safety and, thus, control. But when and where do we ever see a couple working through these agitated moments in a conscious and loving way – both inside their own mind and with each other? Even simply knowing that it’s normal to feel judgement, annoyance, or frustration while driving can be incredibly relieving to the mind that wants to assign first layer meaning to such feelings (i.e. because I feel annoyed and judgmental, that means my judgements are true and, furthermore, it means that I’m with the wrong person).

A significant part of learning to love well is practicing acceptance, which means accepting that we are all imperfect. When we let go of the expectation that our partners and love itself should be perfect, everything starts to soften and change. This is a topic that comes up every time I run my Open Your Heart program as it underlies almost all of the Love Laws and Loving Actions that I teach there, and there’s something so powerful about discussing this topic and going through the work with a group of other dedicated, passionate learners. Together we see that we’re all in a similar struggle. Together we learn to soften our judgement (fear) as we learn to accept the truths about love and fear, and accept ourselves and our partners for who we/they are. The more I run my 30-day programs, the more I see that, while the information is critical for correcting the cognitive distortions, it’s the shared experience of going through the program together, under skilled guidance, that tips the balance from insight and action into true change. Small miracles happen when we dive into the deep end holding hands. We realize, then, that we can swim.

With information and support comes acceptance, and with acceptance comes compassion. And with compassion, comes love. With a collective inhale, we absorb the accurate information that will help us open our hearts. With a collective exhale, we soften into the field of acceptance that keeps our hearts open. We do this together to heal the shame that says there’s something wrong with us for not knowing how to do this already. Then we take the work and bring it into our daily lives.

I’ll close with a beautiful email from a recent Open Your Heart participant in response to my Cycle of Healing post. With her permission, I’m sharing it here:

***

I see all the “that is so me!” comments on the blog in response to your latest post and felt compelled to share my personal version of “thank you so much, that is so where I just was” story to the mix on this one. 

For the first half of this year, things were such delightfully smooth sailing on the relationship anxiety front, or lack thereof.

 Sometimes I would pause and look around my mind and just notice, nope, no anxious “clouds” of any sort around. Just clarity, connection, ease and appreciation. When the topic of marriage came up (we’re almost 3 years into our relationship), it felt easy breezy and like, yep, of course that’s happening, and I’m super excited about that.

Then we got some news that we needed to move, and what seemed like a million and one shufflings seemed to need to transpire. And then came the anniversary of the death of a boyfriend from years past, my first “adult” love, and that heart-opening loss’s still-rippling reverberations.

And to no great surprise, the relationship anxiety – aka projection fest 2016  – rolled back into town. 

This particular anxiety storm came to a head when, after being apart for a few days, my boyfriend joined me for dinner one night.

And sitting across our tacos from one another, the catch-up chit-chat was drowned out by my inner monologue: “Oh my God — I felt so much more peaceful on my own this week. What the hell am I doing in a relationship where that’s the case? Maybe it really is finally time to cut my losses and either go back to being on my own or find a relationship I can be more relaxed in. This can’t be right.”

For the rest of that night my mind threw every logical-sounding, fear-based thought in the book about why I should prep myself to get out the door, including the final cherry on top of not only rolling over in bed in the morning and looking at my partner and feeling nothing, but even hearing, “I hate you” roll through my mind.

But the thing is, even as all these clouds rolled through my mind, my gut stayed centered where it always has in this relationship. I just kept hearing and feeling, deep in my core, this calm, clear, solid message quietly — *just* clearly enough — sending the message, “Stay.”

This clear knowing that I was still in the right place. That this was just fear talking.  That it was actually safe to just stay.  

Then thanks to the always-powerful questions you offer up to explore when anxiety strikes: “What needs attention within me right now?” I was able to get quiet, turn inward, and cut through the (B.S.) distraction tactics of the anxious voices.

I felt into this sadness — the grief — of yes, this IS still hard for me sometimes to be with someone in partnership every day after so many years of being on my own.

And yes, it’s OK for me to ask for and create the kind of alone time and quiet space that replenish me.

And I settled back into the knowing that, while those things are true, I am incredibly blessed to be in a truly supportive, loving, growth-rich partnership… just the kind I’d always dreamed of being in. And I felt once again the truth that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

I cried a few tears – hilariously, truly just a few, no dramatic fireworks – and wouldn’t you know it, I was back to “myself” in no time. Clear about how right this relationship feels to me; content; at ease. And from there, more and more open and relaxed and happy again.

The truth of “I love you” again replaced the fear of losing him that was pulling out all the stops trying to convince me of the ridiculously untrue “I hate you.”

The mind is a powerful thing, but objective, spacious awareness is more powerful.

Thank you for so many incredible tools and reminders that we don’t have to believe everything we think and don’t have to react to everything we feel.

***

Whether you’ve taken Open Your Heart once, twice, or never, whether you’re struggling with relationship anxiety or are in a solid place inside yourself yet know that there are walls and barriers that are preventing you from loving more fully, whether you’ve been together for three weeks or thirty years, I invite you to join me for this ninth round to experience the neuronal firing of magic that occurs when we decide to enter the next layer of healing together and allows us to feel more love and attraction for our partners. Take my hand and let’s begin. The next round begins this Saturday, August 27th, 2016, and you can learn more and sign up here.

37 comments to Nobody is Perfick

  • Lisa

    Great post – inspired. Thanks Sheryl

  • Angela

    Thank you so much Sheryl for sharing this insightful blog ?
    In the stream of anxiety there is always someone on here that gives you hope, certainty, strength and support.
    I too! Look at my childhood and think what books i read as a child that give me a good feeling inside and one book in particular I admired was Mr Happy. There is a collection of them still. Mr Sad, Mr giggle, Mr strong. These are little books that i related to as a child. I now read them to my preschoolers with happiness. Perfectionism is something ive struggled with and the way i see it is, I wanna do things efficiently nothing wrong with that. I just have to accept my mistakes and relax.xx

  • Mia

    Wonderful post 🙂 I love the excerpt too. I am going to be more confident in my “stay” feeling. Sheryl I just read “The Longing of Autumn” and I feel finally I can see the amazing life and future I have in front of me, and how I need mourn the loss of “other lives” I could have led and mourn the past too. I feel finally, maybe, tentatively, I can begin the transition stage and move forward and embrace everything I have to come! I know I will have set backs and I know I will feel fear and doubt, but I aim to be strong and confident. Sheryl you really have been wonderful.

    • It sounds like something dropped in for you today at a deeper level. Wonderful.

      • Mia

        I think that it did! Although I have experienced relationship anxiety before this year, I believe it was the death of my granddad that has triggered a “things feel meaningless” thought in my mind (not suicidal thoughts, thankfully), but that everything seems a bit futile. The Internet and media respond to this by saying to totally shake up your life, cut all ties, start afresh and find joy in far away places! But why not find joy right here, right now, in the place I’m in and with the people (and my wonderful boyfriend, he is so wonderful) around me already?

  • Sarah

    Definitely on point for me today. In the depths of anxiety right now. I started a pointless fight with my fiancé this weekend. We hardly ever fight- but I felt the need to lash out and simply be hurtful for 2 days. I feel like my hurt is not ‘felt or seen’ until I hurt him as well. I can’t understand it. For the first time, I told him I hated him. In the moment I felt so out of control and hurt. And then the next day I just felt terrible. How could I say that to someone so sweet to me, who loved me so much? Easing this felt very real today. The Universe is reaching out to me and saying “Look! Find perspective! Choose love!”
    What would I do without your platform and your love and knowledge Sheryl? #forevergrateful

    • I highly suggest that you read Sue Johnson’s “Hold Me Tight.” You’re describing a very typical relationship dance where one person pokes and prods in order to get a reaction from the other, often as a misguided way to feel seen and heard. It’s normal and needs loving attention so that you don’t need to replay that cycle over and over again!

  • Eileen Mulligan

    This was timely post yet again. This last weekend was the second anniversary of my Mums birthday. My brother is my only remaining family and he didn’t return my calls or texts so I projected onto my lovely husband. Everytime I get close to sitting with the loss (Im really not sure what I mean by that in a way) I go straight to transference to my husband and pick at him in my head. I know Im in a liminal state with my grief as waiting on my brother to self mums house so that I can change things in my life and have a different future with my husband.

  • Andrea

    Sheryl:

    There is just so much about this post that resonates.

    I love what you said about how many of us did not have role models for how to work through agitated moments in a loving and conscious way; both inside our own mind and with our partner. That really is key. Sue Johnson’s work on EFT that you recommended has been a life-saver. It has opened my eyes to the role both of us play and how the work involves: (1) me exploring me, (2) him exploring him, and (3) us exploring us; inside ourselves and with each other….all without blame. 😉

    As an OYH alumni, one of the most helpful components of the course was confronting my myths and delusions about love and relationships. The book you recommend on your site, Robert Johnson’s We, is one of the best books I’ve read that helped me further explore my unrealistic, destructive ideas about perfect love. I’m better able to see when I’m falling into the trap of allowing the idea of a perfect/fantasy love to color the experience of an imperfect/real-life/messy/sometimes ho-hum love. Sure, the guy of my perfect/fantasy love wouldn’t need to go to therapy with me to unravel this mess of connection and intimacy because he would “just know” how to love and would “love me right” and we would be “just so perfect” that we wouldn’t need help (LOL), but I also have a very keen awareness of just how much this journey has been a tremendous gift in my life….and, quite frankly, there is no other man I can imagine doing this with than my current imperfect partner in our imperfect relationship.

    Finally, I’m so glad a fellow OYH alumni shared her story here. I know I’m not the only one who nodded my head the entire time thinking “oh yes, that has been me word-for-word many times in my own relationship.” Sharing her own experience will no doubt quell many an anxious mind, and bring a knowing smile to those of us who have had those same hateful thoughts about our partners and yet still heard “stay.”

  • Petite8

    Sheryl,
    I really love all your work and actually took your break free ecourse last year, But I still find myself struggling. My gut still tells me I just haven’t met the right person. In my last relationship I had immense anxiety over the fact my partner was boring, we had a lovely relationship but I just couldn’t feel connected or excited when we were alone. Regardless I wasn’t willing to leave him no matter how miserable I was because to me he was perfect. I wanted more than anything to make it work. He ended up ending things with me feeling there was something missing and we weren’t long term compatible to which I was both heart broken and relieved at the same time. I always thought if I found someone who was full of life and exciting everything would work. Fast forward four months later and I met a guy who I liked the second I met him, he was spontaneous, exciting, good looking for days. All things I didn’t have with my ex and I was over the moon for about 6 weeks. One night we had a disagreement and it really concerned me we were too different in our thinking and potentially incompatible (things that were never an issue with my ex). This turned me off. A few weeks later I realized it wasn’t the differences that bothered me so much (a lot are surface level, we agree on the big stuff) but that he was very deep in his thinking and had a theory for everything or a book he has read and it was really annoying me. It’s funny because our depth and ability to talk for hours is part of what I loved initially (also something I didn’t have with my ex) but now was irritating me for days! It was almost like I found his personality now A little extreme. We got passed that but then I learned he’s very sensitive which immensely turned me off (very similar to me) and likely has relationship anxiety as well as he has a troubled past. It set w red flag off in my head that two highly sensitive people would be a disaster as we are constantly having heavy talks. The past few days that hasn’t been an issue which has been great but Now I’m annoyed that he’s so into me and happy all the time! It’s like I can’t win. A part of me thinks I’m just not into this guy anymore so everything is bothering me and that if I found someone who wasn’t as sensitive like me or deep but also fun and exciting I would be content and it wouldn’t give me these negative feelings. I also find I think about my ex a lot when things are bothering me about my new beau and how those things didn’t bother me. It almost feels comfortable to think of my ex None of it makes sense except maybe I’m trying to make this work and it just isn’t a match? He’s a super kind generous caring person and all he wants to do is make me happy but I’m really struggling post the infatuation period to return it. why am I so bothered by these things about him?

    • How many times have you gone through the course? It sounds like you’re stuck in the projection stage of believing that if you were with someone who was more ________ or less ________ you would have certainty. Certainty is an illusion. The over-focus on what your partner is or isn’t is the tip-off that you’re not willing yet to take full responsibility for your inner work.

  • Petite8

    I’ve gone through it once in its entirety but I’ve read many articles numerous times- particularly the section on the myths of love I believe it’s section 8? I wanted to put so much effort with my last partner because to me he was perfect and we had already been together for about ten months and I felt I had already made a decision. This time though I don’t have the same anxiety more just an awareness and avoidance. maybe I’m deflecting and just shutting down because I don’t have the strength to ever endure the months of pain and anxiety I went through before so why not just try it with someone else? I guess I’m not clear on what my “inner work” is. I’m clearly a HSP and am currently reading the book. I’ve had the panic attacks and anxiety with 4 partners prior to this (ever since I was a teenager). I definitely am scared of making a mistake for life. I just want to find someone whose personality and temperament meshes with mine, doesn’t irritate me, I can talk to for hours, I have fun with, is exciting and intelligent..wants the same things as me. If I get this annoyed with my partner and some of his ways of thinking/intensity or how happy he is all the time or the fact he’s so affectionate isn’t that a sign he’s not the right one?

    • If you were to answer that last question yourself by utilizing the tools and information that you’ve learned in the course, what would you say?

      • Petite8

        The course would say the “over affection” is an example of the pursuer distance phenomenon in which i am the distancer right now. The course would say annoyance/irritation is a manifestation of fear and a way to keep someone at arms length because we are scared to get close to people. It would also say annoyance/irritation is just a projection/excuse and normal- that no one is perfect. It would also say I have the “grass is always greener” syndrome. The course would say everything to justify that this is just my typical anxiety I get with everyone and that I find issues with everyone…but if that’s the case then can’t you justify being with any good person regardless if there are things that really bother you or you don’t relate to?

        • Yes, good. And how would you respond to your last question (and try to answer from YOU – from your higher, wiser self- instead of “the course would say”).

  • Sarah

    I know everyone is saying this, but you must be a bit psychic with how on point this was for me this week! As in, newly married, privately trying to face a flood of tremendous disappointment from unconsciously expecting my fantasy partner but receiving my very real and extremely decent husband, and getting in big fights about driving! It’s good to hear that many couples struggle through difficult emotions when driving together. Thank you so much for your insight. It’s the most helpful relationship advice I’ve come across.

  • Nicole

    Another forum member and I were just talking about the imperfection of relationships yesterday. Since John and I have moved to the same city, I’ve become more aware of his flaws (and he of mine, of course!) It’s easy to get wrapped up in what you don’t like about your partner or what irritates you rather than focus on the positive and remember that no relationships are perfect. For me, noticing what annoys me about him and noticing our differences does spike some anxiety. Are we compatible enough for long term? Do we get along? I love this article bc it reminds me that no relationship is perfect and every relationship requires work. What matters is that I have someone that is open to learning about love with me and open to growing our love. What more could I ask for? Relationships are a huge learning process (I learn about myself, him, love and relationships!) thank you for this article, Sheryl! It’s always like you’re in my mind and write what I’m worried about. I know you’ve written about partners and their differences, but I was wondering if you could write one day about conflict and how to handle that when you’re an HSP/anxious partner! I feel like conflict really can trigger some anxiety for HSP!

    Thanks!
    Nicole

  • Francine

    Thank you for this post, Sheryl – I found the email from the OYH course member particularly comforting and inspiring. I’m struggling today; it’s a day that ‘should’ be joyus, but it isn’t. It’s flat & that’s so disappointing. I’m trying to work out exactly why. So regularly I feel so drained like even holding the most simple of conversations is a huge task. Sigh, I’ll get there.

    • See what happens if you remove the “should” and let yourself feel whatever is it that you’re actually feeling.

      • Francine

        Thanks so much for the reply. So, remove the ‘should’ and then deal with the feeling that’s underneath? I’m guessing it’s gonna be unpleasant, and that’s where the work comes in.

  • Paige

    Hi Sheryl,

    Last night I had a dream that I was talking to myself and I said “I can’t continue to live like this and I need to break up with my partner.” After thinking that in my dream I could feel the anxiety come over me in my dream. Any idea what this could mean? & of coarse after waking up from the dream, I had major anxiety. Please Help. Does this mean anything? I don’t typically look into my dream, but this dream gave me anxiety in and out of the dream.

    • Francine

      Hi Paige, I can hear the distress in your comment so I thought I’d leave you a reply (despite my expertise). I’m sure that Sheryl would tell you not to take your intrusive thoughts and dreams for their literal content. I know myself and I’m sure many others on here have shared the same thoughts. Relationships can be very tough and sometimes it can feel as though it would be easier to escape. Perhaps try reading the ‘its not what you think’ post about ex/sex dreams. I’m sure there’s more general advice on understanding dreams in that post. If I were you, I’d ask a couple of Sheryl’s key questions – ‘ what is this thought preventing me from feeling? ‘ and ‘ if I didn’t take this thought for it’s literal content, what else might it be telling me? ‘. I am learning myself, so I hope I have given you the right advice here.

      • Francine

        Haha, I meant to say *lack of* expertise. I think there’s also a couple of blog posts called ‘ the roots of intrusive thoughts ‘ and ‘ the architecture of intrusive thoughts ‘. They might help too. Good luck xo

    • Well done, Francine ;). Unless there are true and obvious red flags in your relationship, it’s essential to take the dream images as metaphors. For example, “I can’t continue to live like this” could mean, “I can’t continue to live with my anxiety and I need to break up with the part of me that is steering my mind toward fear.”

      • Paige

        Thanks Sheryl,

        You’ve been a light in my life. I send thoughts of gratitude your way every morning during meditation. For you & your family. There’s no red flags or anything. We’ve been together 8 years, and I’ve suffered with life long anxiety. I believe I am getting better though.

  • Elizabeth

    Hi everyone,

    Among the imperfections I experience in my relationship is the one that I feel socially uncomfortable with my partner at times. It is such a mystery – we have such love and connection and then wack – he talks maybe with friends or even when its just the two of us and it feels funny and I dont know how to act.This is strange with friends because I feel like they can sense it. All I want to do is feel comfortable and be able to support my love socially but I feel like I want to run when he starts adopting this strange persona (or so I perceive it to be). I have this story going on in my mind that is like, poor Lil, her boyfriend is a bit off and boy does she know it and pretends not to. Like everyone can see I am a big lying fool with a substandard connection with my partner that isnt actually worthy or marriage or a future. And that feeling I get, well it has been there since we met and it still is three years on and sometimes I do just want to abort mission even though their is all this other amazing stuff in our relationship – a mystery! Can anyone relate to this? Any tips on how to approach obstacle would be appreciated! And Sheryl, thank you thank you, thank you x o

  • Rose

    Sheryl,

    Thanks for this post! I’m anxious and a perfectionist in general. I’ve been with my boyfriend for a couple years. My biggest struggle is obsessive thoughts about our “chemistry”. I have never felt so close to or safe with someone, but most of my past relationships have ended because I’m unable to be fully myself. I almost feel like, even though I am so myself with my boyfriend, that my relationship history is harassing me with, “you’ve never been able to be yourself, and you’re just fooling yourself into thinking this is right.” Even though we have fun together and the same sense of humor, I keep comparing our “fun chemistry” to other friendships/relationships and always get discouraged. Then it puts so much pressure on me that I inevitably don’t feel like myself – a self-fulfilling cycle. We are long distance, and that fact makes this even worse because I convince myself that once we live in the same place our love will fizzle and I’ll realize I’ve been fooling myself the whole time. Right now my anxiety is so bad that I’m having trouble feeling my love for him that I know is there. Do you have any particular wisdom about the role of distance? I don’t doubt that I love him, but I’m tortured by the thought that we aren’t right for each other and once we live in the same place it will just crash and burn. I also had a dream last night that we were in a plane crash together, which made me convinced that our relationship is inevitably going to end – which is the most heartbreaking thought to me. This man is incredible and I’ve never felt so known and loved by someone. Yet, I almost feel plagued by the “fate” that it won’t end up working and that I’m too emotionally flawed to be in a healthy relationship – kind of like I’m doomed to be single even though I want more than anything to be married and have a family. We have the same values and goals, and both love God a lot. I just can’t help but be convinced that somethings wrong, even if there’s little evidence.

  • Anna

    Hello All! I am a second year medical student and with my boyfriend a little over one year, majority of which I’ve had relationship anxiety. This is the first time I am taking the break free from relationship anxiety course. I understand it is a long process to overcome my anxiety, but going through the course as well as reading all these articles definitely help. Sometimes I feel like I’ve reached a revelation, while other times I struggle and feel like I am the “exception”. Two years ago I got out of a really terrible almost four year relationship, and sometimes I feel like I just do not know what is normal or what to expect in a normal progression of a GOOD relationship. Therefore, I questions my feelings all the time and its really taking a toll on my relationship and even school. I am grateful for so many people’s real stories on this blog and feel lucky that I am not going through this alone. Thanks to all, especially Sheryl for writing this wonderful course.