“Underneath all that polite bullshit we’re all running on caveman software.” — Winton, The Five-Year Engagement
We like to beat ourselves up. Which is dumb because others do that to us all day long. Regardless, there’s no denying that we’re often our harshest critic.
This actually has its advantages — it pushes us to go farther. To learn. To grow. To be the best that we can be.
But it’s possible that we can be too hard on ourselves. We strive for perfection because who wants to be anything less than perfect? Who wants to admit they fuck up at least high double digits, or low triple digits, every single day? (Even though we ALL do.)
I’m notorious for wanting to portray perfection. It’s been a part of my life ever since I was a kid. I didn’t get my first B until 7th grade. Hell, I never scored below a 95% until then.
I hate this about myself but I’m aware and trying to work on it. I purposely write about my imperfections as often as I can, because it’s wildly uncomfortable for me and I’m forced to show my flaws.
We’ve all got to remember — myself included — that we’re only human. And deep down “we’re all [just] running on caveman software”.
These are my latest thoughts on perfection, mistakes, and cutting yourself some slack:
Striving for Perfection Breeds Anxiety
One of the biggest anxieties in my life today is the feeling that I didn’t do enough, that I left more on the table than I should have.
The internet is awesome for so many things, and the world is without a doubt a better place with its existence. But it makes it painfully easy to compare yourself with the rest of society. And it’s usually the best of the best we’re making comparisons with.
We see entrepreneurs and “successful” people hustling 16 hours a day, banging out article after article, while those like me selfishly lay on the couch watching Money Heist on Netflix.
Even though I put in several hours of hard work earlier that morning, by the evening I can’t help but feel like a slouch. The warm, fuzzy, accomplished feeling I had earlier in the day almost completely erased by my own desire for perfection and making the wrong comparisons with the top 0.5% on the internet.
To combat this, I set reasonable and achievable goals for myself each day, along with the simple rule that I must always make progress, no matter how small.
This moves the needle on my ambitions, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to prioritize things like having a life, recovery, and general happiness.
So every day I ask myself, “Did I do enough today?” And I make sure to be incredibly honest with myself in how I answer.
As long as I met my own standards, I force myself to feel satisfied. And trust me, it takes a lot of force, because settling for “good enough” clashes heavily with my primal drive for perfection.
Wanting to FEEL Perfect All the Time Also Fosters Anxiety
Last thought on perfection and anxiety, I promise.
We haven’t completely figured out how to adapt to this new, stress-heavy, technologically advanced and distracting world. And maybe we shouldn’t be trying so hard.
As far as the history of the Earth and humans go, we have next to no experience in dealing with this. We’re all just learning for the first time.
There are so many inputs and stressors revving our caveman anxiety software every day, yet we don’t get to expel it like our ancestors did (running for their lives). At least not unless we willingly subject ourselves to strenuous exercise.
Which explains why the vast majority of us have to navigate through some sort of anxiety. And the fact that we even have anxiety gives us anxiety.
But at the end of the day, it’s just a part of the learning curve. Oddly enough, if you allow yourself to feel anxious and don’t beat yourself up over it, anxiety isn’t so bad.
The problem is WE HATE IT. We hate how anxiety makes us feel. And worse, we feel weak for falling victim to it in the first place, for being less than perfect.
Don’t beat yourself up for being human. It happens. Let’s all learn to manage together.
We’re All Just Inherently Lazy Anyways, Right? RIGHT!?
Nowadays, I feel like my whole life is about finding “hacks” and ways to trick myself into doing the things I need (or want) to do.
Deep down there’s a huge resistance to do anything that actually matters, and I’m pretty sure it’s because all humans are inherently just lazy assholes.
At least I hope that’s the case, because it certainly is for me.
Each day is a battle to convince myself that it’s OK for me to feel this way. Most days I lose, but I like to think I’m getting better.
Everyone Fucks Up
We all make mistakes. People drop the ball at work. People can’t drive for shit. People make wrong or bad decisions all day long. Heck, people who insist they have the right answer at trivia are devastated when they’re actually dead wrong.
It happens all the time.
But who cares? If everyone makes mistakes then why do we hate ourselves (or others) for messing up? It’s really only a bad thing if you hurt someone or don’t learn from your screw-ups.
We should cut ourselves some slack. I mean, think about the sheer volume of decisions made in a single day. Even the amount in just a single hour is daunting.
All-day long your brain is cranking out one decision after another. From deciding what to wear in the morning, to choosing when to finally get up to pee, to making that left turn with a dangerously fast-approaching car.
Hundreds. Thousands. Every hour.
You’re bound to mess up based on percentages alone. So cut yourself some slack.
Don’t Hate the Asshole. It Just Makes YOU the Asshole.
Knowing how many mistakes are made hourly, that means there are a lot of people perceived as assholes. Hourly.
I feel like one at least several times a day, and I like to think I’m on the better end of the non-asshole spectrum.
That’s why when someone makes a mistake, I try not to get on them or assume it was intentional. I give them the benefit of the doubt. If I didn’t, that would be rather hypocritical of me.
I mean, how can I berate someone for screwing up, when I do it as much — if not more — than them?
So don’t hate the asshole. It just makes you the asshole.
The whole point of this rambling was to remind you that we’re all only human. We need to remember this as often as possible. I feel like the people that are happy — and truly happy — are those that have this concept figured out.
These are the people who have found ways to thrive given our inherent limitations, not despite them.
Deep down we’re all running on caveman software. And we’re all just doing the best we can.