“I’m too fat.”
“I’m looking old.”
“My legs look like a chicken’s.”
Mindfulness is not just being in-the-moment or paying attention. It’s also about letting go of perfectionism and doing what works, rather than what our minds tell us we have to do. Last week I talked about men’s perfectionistic standards in sex and relationships, and picked on some men’s ridiculous search for women who are “Perfect 10’s”. But women are no less vulnerable to romantic and sexual perfectionism than men. The primary way women “do” romantic perfectionism differs from men in that, much of the time, women’s hyper-criticism is of themselves: rather than searching for a “Perfect 10,” women wish they were a “Perfect 10,” in their own eyes. It does not appear to matter so much to many women whether men think they are beautiful or sexy. Perfectionistic women have their own, often unattainable standards, and hold themselves to these stringently, regardless of how much positive attention they may get from men or how much envy they may get from other women.
This state of affairs is just the flip side of men’s foolish quest for the “Perfect 10” and has the same origins, namely that we are constantly bombarded by images of women’s bodies in the media, and these images do not represent anything resembling the average healthy woman’s body. Women and men alike are sold, and have bought, the notion that only thin women can be beautiful, and that not being beautiful is shameful. Often women so grossly underestimate their own attractiveness that they border on being delusional. A woman may have dozens of men express interest in her, and her girlfriends may assure her she looks like a movie star, but she may still believe that her nose looks funny, her belly is not flat enough, her breasts are too small, and so on. Women who would be rated by the average man in America as highly physically desirable frequently worry that that they will never find a spouse, that they cannot attract the right man and that this problem is due to their inadequate looks.
So, first, women often hold the false belief that they are unattractive to men simply because they do not meet their own internal standards of beauty. Women are doubly deluded in that they often believe that their looks are what is holding back their relationship life, when in fact it is their very perfectionism that is causing the problem.
“He’s nice, but…”
Women’s romantic perfectionism, while focused most often on the self, is not limited to self-criticism. Remember all those fairy tales you read as a child where the prince and the princess live happily ever after? How about all those teen movies about perfect love and flawlessly ecstatic sexual encounters? These have poisoned women’s minds just the same as men’s. Women believe that they should have very intense feelings about their partner, and that he should be some combination of James Bond and St. Augustine. They pass up countless excellent mates in favor of an abstract perfect love that is in all likelihood never going to materialize.
If you are a woman and goal is to find a life-partner, the take-home is focus less on how your body or other aspects of yourself aren’t perfect. Focus less on how your boyfriend (or girlfriend for that matter) isn’t perfect or your feelings for him/her aren’t superlative all the time. Instead, focus on whether this person would make a good life-partner. It sounds simple and isn’t, admittedly. This brainwashing we’ve all endured runs deep. But ask yourself: would you rather try to be perfect, or would you rather be happy? You can’t have both.
Post by Joe