In my last post, I made the point that striving for perfection and not presence will get us into trouble with ourselves; it will impact our self-esteem as we derive fuel from a critical place (“it’s not good enough.”) I specifically chose the title of that piece, “Presence, as Opposed to Perfection, Within,” because I knew at the time that I wanted to write a second part. I knew that I wanted to provide commentary on the ways the perfectionist voice can impact how we exist among the relationships that encompass our worlds.
There is a good (if not great, if not definite) chance that we will experience sensations inside of ourselves that embody the “I can’t get it right” feeling within the context of a relationship, whether it be platonic, familial, or romantic. I’d like to just say, “that’s okay that that happened,” and move on, but in reality it feels pretty lousy to know that we may have disappointed someone else. And so that is the trap when we even try to get it right: that we stand a relatively good chance of not getting it right. Because getting it right for us may be something very different from what the other person is needing, and what we would need if we were in their shoes.
What if there was some other way? Some other solution to the friend’s problem? What if we didn’t even have to think about getting it right, because the other person doesn’t need that? Wouldn’t that be great?
In all likelihood, the other person is not needing for you to get it right (or how we might hear it, “I don’t need you to solve my problem for me!”) Because if you consider this sort of situation, what person in any sort of distress wants you to be perfect? If anything, they want you to join them in their distress! Now, I’m not advocating that you become equally distressed, as that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere positive, but rather to join. And in order to join, we have to have presence, where we are, and where they are. Once we can locate that, we can produce empathy for the other person, and that is really, truly, what feels best for everyone.
The tricky part is that when we are with someone else, and we are prone to a perfectionistic tendency, the resulting “failure” can feel even more magnified, because we will hear it from the other person. We will hear, in one way or another, that we didn’t get it right. Let’s skip that part all together and not even give ourselves the chance to fail. And if we do end up hearing, “you didn’t get it right,” presence will be able to respond, “okay, sounds like I didn’t, so I’m here for you now, what is it you need from me?” My hypothesis is that it will sound more soothing than whatever would come out of your mouth without having that presence.
In my practice, I work with clients to develop more self-awareness and presence, using different techniques. I have found Focusing to be the most useful one, as it helps a client to sit with and attune to his or her own experience, and develop and much more “textured” vision of that experience, as uncomfortable as that could be. But with that comes the ability to attune to others.