Education

Happily imperfect!

On many counts, we all fail to measure up. While you are an above-average student, you are never among the star performers. Or, you excel at academics but are not an all-rounder like some of your more popular peers. Everything may be going well for you professionally, but you sure would like to shed those extra pounds that put you squarely in the overweight category. You have a great family life, but at social gatherings, you are always at a loss for words. Why can’t you speak as glibly as your brother?

We may feel inadequate either because someone belittles us, or, more often than not, when we put ourselves down. On The Quick & Dirty Tips website, psychologist Ellen Hendriksen provides some tips to help us feel more comfortable and composed when we hear these critical voices.

First, she asks us to recognise that everyone has their insecurities. Perhaps, the friend who is critical of how much weight you have gained is insecure about the fact that she is earning much less than most of her peers. In fact, those who tend to put people down are often contending with their own inner demons.

Not yet

Second, Hendriksen asks you to embrace a growth mindset popularised by psychologist Carol Dweck wherein you believe that skills, knowledge, talents, and traits are amenable to change.

So, if you aren’t satisfied for having reached a particular goal, you can tell yourself that you are “not yet” there. In fact, Hendriksen says that a school in Chicago gives students who haven’t passed a course the grade of “Not yet.” This way, you don’t have to beat yourself if you haven’t shed those extra pounds or made partner in your law firm yet.

Next, Henriksen’s asks us to broaden our vision for a successful life by defining it on our own terms. Instead of succumbing solely to societal standards. She exhorts us to chalk out our own criteria for a meaningful life. Even though society tends to value money, fame, power, and relationship status, remember that each of these rings will be hollow if your internal needs are not fulfilled.

So, instead of simply benchmarking yourself by conventional standards, ask yourself if you spend time doing things you love. Are you learning something new everyday? Are you extending yourself in unexpected ways? Do you feel your relationships with people are energising? Are you able to utilise your signature strengths in ways that matter to you?

Just as we redefine success on our own terms, we also need to be watchful of depending on external sources of feedback to feel good about ourselves. Contingent self-esteem refers to a tendency to alter our perceptions of ourselves based on what others think of us. Hendriksen says that it is the “most fragile form of self-esteem” as it waxes and wanes according to ephemeral criteria.

Further, with people projecting their best selves all the time on social media, there is perpetual pressure on us to be our best. And, that includes looking good, feeling good, doing good, and winning accolades all at once. But, no one can possibly be their best self incessantly. So, forget about showcasing your best self all the time, and as Hendriksen sagely says, “just be your self.”

Finally, Hendriksen urges us to give up the idea of wanting to be perfect. Apart from the fact that nobody is really perfect, perfection itself may not be a goal worth striving for. In fact, when everything is perfect, “there’s nowhere else to go.” And, clichéd as it may be, don’t we all want to keep journeying through life?

The author is Director, PRAYATNA. arunasankara@gmail.com


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Printable version | May 23, 2022 8:30:10 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/education/happily-imperfect/article25918510.ece