Facebook. Pinterest. Twitter. Blogs. We have become adept at remotely keeping tabs on our peers–and our peers have become adept at presenting us carefully edited versions of themselves, their relationships, and everything else. Logically we know we are seeing mere snapshots of a life but we still buy into the fantasy and and can become bitter over our own lack of perfection.
Speaking of perfection, do you remember the premise of Ira Levin’s “The Stepford Wives”? The story is fascinating and terrifying as it chronicles the strange town of Stepford where all the women eventually become single-minded, beautiful, meek versions of themselves, wholly focused on cleaning their homes and catering to their men. We know little of the men’s actual thoughts on the process, but we do see that they actively submit their wives to this transformation (the book is unclear on what must be done to achieve the result) but we do see them walking through a process of increasing dissatisfaction with their wives. The process seems to start when the local illustrator draws a picture of the woman, presenting her as a flawless version and creating a “blueprint” for who she will become. From there, the men slowly separate sexually, emotionally, and with their time as they put the blocks in place to achieve their goal of having the “perfect” wife.
As I read the descriptions of the transformations I found my mind wandering to the potential blueprints of ourselves we alternately pine after and project on our social networks. We rush to pin and share pictures of perfectly manicured homes, clothing, and tips to become ever more the domestic goddess/fantastic parent/perfect wife and so forth. Has the Stepford fantasy become something we confuse with reality?
In Levin’s tale, the men become enamored with a fantasy over a real, flawed relationship and life. It is easy to fall into that both in our relationship with ourselves and with others. So much perfection is presented to us as being attainable it becomes easy to become angry with ourselves when we don’t measure up. We are now the ones drawing the picture of who we should be and (figuratively) killing ourselves to achieve the fantasy. That dissatisfaction can spread into our other relationships and show up in frustration when the people around us don’t conform to the life we are trying to create.
There isn’t anything wrong with striving for improvement (sometimes it is needed and achievable), however, when that striving causes us to resent the mixed bag of messiness and happiness that make-up healthy relationships things are heading down a slippery slope. (Please note, I am not addressing the need for change in relationships with unhealthy patterns, but individuals in basically healthy relationships.) While I doubt any of my readers would replace their spouse or child with an animatron in pursuit of perfection, we can often lose out on enjoying the good things in our relationships because of our desire for perfect things.
If you find yourself on the dissatisfaction slope, perhaps it is time to stop looking at the imperfect that surrounds you and focus on the good. Complement yourself. “Catch” your spouse being helpful and thank him or her. Remind yourself that children’s noise and messiness can be a sign of a happy and active imagination. True satisfaction does not come from perfection but from embracing the good within the natural flaws of life.
So, next time you look at an image of a perfect house/child/body and begin to regret your own life, remember that perfection is rarely reality and consider its potential price.