Perfection Doesn’t Mean Happiness
From the moment we take our first steps, society seems to impress upon us the importance of being the best, excelling in everything we do, and achieving nothing short of perfection. While striving for excellence is undoubtedly valuable, we should also recognize that perfection does not equate to happiness. As someone who has personally experienced the detrimental effects of this mindset, I’ve come to realize that true contentment lies in embracing imperfection and finding beauty in the messiness of life.
A Familiar Tale of Parental Pressure
Growing up, I was familiar with the stories of “tiger parents—those parents who seemed to push their children relentlessly to achieve excellence, often at the cost of their well-being. It was a very common concept where I grew up. Parents are very hands-on when it comes to raising their children, micromanaging every little detail of their lives. It doesn’t stop even when you’re an adult and have your own house and a job. You’re still not totally free to make your own decisions, or you’ll risk being called ungrateful. Personally, I had to literally fight for my independence, and it’s still an ongoing battle. But I guess that’s a topic for another day.
My parents weren’t far from this archetype. My tiger parents, fueled by the belief that only the top spot would secure a good future, pressed me to excel in academics and extracurricular activities. Their well-intentioned pressure turned into an oppressive weight that felt impossible to bear.
The memories of my parents’ well-meaning, albeit pressure-packed, advice still echo in my mind. “Always strive to be number one,” they’d say, their faces lit up with hopeful expectations. That message brought with it a heavy load to carry, especially for a young child. It was as if my worth hinged on that coveted spot. I remember that sinking feeling, the knot in my stomach that formed when I wasn’t the best. It’s like I was handed a ranking card for life, and if I wasn’t at the top, I might as well be invisible. That’s where the notion of “not good enough” seeped in, becoming a thorn that wouldn’t budge.
When Perfection Turns Toxic
Listening to my parents and their friends discuss their children’s accomplishments—academic achievements, music recitals, sports victories—I started to form the idea that anything less than perfection was a failure. It was as if I needed to paint a flawless picture of my life for the world to see. So, I became a control freak, meticulously planning every detail and getting upset when things didn’t go my way.
Picture this: every detail of my life mapped out; every eventuality planned for. It wasn’t just a desire for order; it was a demand for precision. My morning routine had to be executed with military precision, and the slightest deviations irritated me. I once threw a mini-fit when a surprise rainstorm disrupted my perfectly planned picnic. I was upset because my plan to have fun was ruined.
Can you imagine, having to plan out FUN? It’s sad, but also a little funny to think about. And yes, it was very suffocating, and the worst part was that I was the one doing it to myself. We could’ve danced in the rain, or we could’ve just done something different—maybe watch movies in my apartment. Anything would have been better than letting a little rain ruin our day. The more I tried to control things, the more things spiraled out of control, and the more miserable I became.
The Paradox of Perfection and Happiness
Have you ever noticed that the pursuit of perfection is like chasing a mirage? The closer you get, the further it seems to slip away. I had trophies, accolades, and a meticulously organized life, but genuine happiness felt elusive. It’s like trying to catch a soap bubble—the more you grasp, the more it slips through your fingers. What I thought would bring everlasting joy was actually a recipe for discontent.
Then I became independent, and as if suddenly, I was in charge of everything in my life. It was very freeing, and it has remained a very rewarding experience even now. But naturally, my responsibilities increased exponentially, and I was overwhelmed. No prior experience could’ve prepared me for the initial shock of adulthood and independence.
At first, I just did what I’ve done all my life—planned out everything in an attempt to take control. But life just has a way of getting away from us. Nothing was going as planned, and I felt like the whole world was against me. I was constantly miserable, mad at myself for being incompetent, and mad at the world for picking on me. This went on for a while, but then I realized something important.
Yes, life will always throw us curve balls, but things have a way of working themselves out! I’ve had many experiences like this where something unexpected would happen, disrupting my plans. But then, eventually, things will work out fine—sometimes even better than I could’ve hoped!
Just recently, my apartment got flooded during a bad storm. I talked about this in a previous article. Here’s a link if you want to check it out!
Anyway, here’s a quick summary. Suddenly, I had to move out and find a different place. It was very difficult; it was very last minute, and I had to find a place where I could see myself living for at least a few years while considering my current budget. After hours of searching online, I found the perfect place, or so I thought.
It turned out to be a scam. I was cheated out of my money and still had no place to move. I was heartbroken and desperate. But then, that same night, I saw a new apartment listing. The unit was newly built and just opened for viewing; the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Long story short, I was able to secure the place the next day. It’s the place I’ve always wanted, with a few compromises. It’s within my budget, it’s quiet, and it has a great view!
This incident is a perfect example of how things work out when we just learn to let go of our plans and let life happen. I mean, I wish I wasn’t scammed, but still!
Releasing Control for a Lighter Heart
Letting go of control was like dropping a heavy backpack I didn’t realize I was carrying. It’s an ongoing journey, mind you. There are still times when I catch myself slipping into that “I need to control everything” mindset.
But I’m miles away from where I started. If the cake doesn’t turn out picture-perfect, well, it’s still delicious, and that’s what matters.
A Journey to Wholeness
In the pursuit of perfection, I learned the invaluable lesson that true happiness doesn’t hinge on reaching an impossible level of flawlessness. Our journey toward fulfillment encompasses embracing imperfection, relinquishing the illusion of control, and finding joy in life’s candid, unscripted moments. It’s a journey that all of us have to go through. Slowly, we’ll have to learn to let go of societal expectations and create our own paths that lead to a beautiful, imperfect existence. And for those like me who’ve felt the weight of “tiger parents,” it’s a liberating journey toward reclaiming our lives and discovering happiness on our terms.
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I write because this world is too complex and challenging to be experienced in one lifetime. We all wish for healing from unspoken wounds, pains, and scars, a reprieve from unrelenting storms, and peace and calm after everything we’ve been through. Life doesn’t stop for anyone, but I hope my words can bring you comfort when you need it most. If there’s something I know, it’s that everything will be okay again- we will be okay.