You know the ones you see scrolling through your Facebook feed, where we laugh hysterically at someone slipping on ice or tripping over their own two feet.
As a society, we seem to love these snippets where others are shown as flawed human beings. On one hand, we could judge this as “I’m horrible for getting this much joy from some other person’s misfortune.”
However. The other side of this (and the one I like to believe is more accurate) is that we identify and connect with others who err and fall flat on their faces. Literally and metaphorically.
As therapists, we work with people who grapple with the idea that they are supposed to meet some expectation set on them by various people and environments throughout their lifetime. Those with anxiety and depression in particular will beat themselves up for being unable to keep plans with friends or meet basic self-care needs everyday. The thought process for this is usually something along the lines of, “What is wrong me with, why can’t I get myself together? Everyone else around me seems to be just fine.” We compare and contrast our shortcomings to people who may not have the same setbacks or experiences as we do. We hide away physically and emotionally to avoid having our errors used against us by others.
Stop me if this is sounding familiar.
I stop here because before going through my own therapy, those self-defeating thought patterns ran rampant through my head. I would beat the hell out of myself for not being able to hold things together that weren’t even close to realistic for where I was in my life. The thought pattern specifically was, “If I can just be perfect for everyone and everything, then nothing can go wrong.”
I think about it now and imagine my Higher Power doubled over in laughter at my part of this cognitive fail video. Because I would guess that simultaneously the people around me experienced similar thoughts and wouldn’t share out of that same fear.
My favorite thing I’ve learned to share with my clients is the idea that the idea of “perfection” is a load of crap. Those expectations are not our own to carry any longer, and the goal is to set healthy realistic expectations for where we are in life and recovery.
Over the past two years, I’ve stumbled (haha punny) upon the work of author and researcher Brene Brown. One of my favorite quotes from her happens to be, “The last thing we need in the midst of our struggle is shame for being human.”
I want to offer others what was gifted to me as I became a therapist: the power of the phrase “I’ve been there, and I hear your hurt. I’m here for the healing too.”
Because in a social media run world of “perfect” bodies and lifestyles, what we really need to see to help us have genuine relationships with others are those failures and stresses. What helps get us through the rough patches is not being held to unattainable generalized standards, but rather to share in another’s struggle and know we’re not alone.
Even if it’s as simple as a video showing us we’re not the only ones who trip up now and then.