Sometimes we put others on pedestals – this often happens in new relationships, whether with a love interest or new friend. You know, that’s the wonderful feeling that this person is “so wonderful” and all we see are the good parts. And then when we see a “not-so-perfect” trait of that person, we are disappointed in them. They are not at all what we expected or what we had imagined when looking at them and seeing them as somewhat perfect. And sometimes, of course, they also put us on a pedestal... leading up to the same results.
I myself have been a pedestal-maker and pedestal-inhabitant for a lot of my life. Both positions present a problem. When you’re the one being looked up to, the danger is to feel as if you must hide or camouflage your imperfections to live up to other people’s picture of you. If you let others see your “not so perfect” side, then you risk being judged – and off the pedestal you go. Sigh.
On the other hand, when you’ve put someone on a pedestal and you notice traits and actions on their part that don’t fit the part you’ve assigned to them, you either “put them down a notch or two” and out of your life, or you pretend that you must have imagined what you saw -- allowing you to keep your image of them. The problem when someone is seen as “perfect” is that there’s usually only one place to go: down.
What Goes Up Must Come Down...
Oh, let’s face it! Everyone steps off the pedestal at some point as you get to know them better. No one is as perfect as we might have thought they were at the beginning of the romance, friendship, or business relationship. They, like us, have insecurities, fears, “hangups”, issues, etc. etc. And while they may be putting up “a good front” and not letting others see their “imperfections”, at some point what they are hiding will come out.
Now we may fall into a problem if we let these “imperfections” mar the relationship. Forgiveness, also known as acceptance, is not just for the “big stuff”. It’s also for the little stuff, the daily aggravations of life. Acceptance covers the situation when you call friends on a week night and you find they’ve once again been drinking (in your opinion, too much). It also covers the persons who are just aloof with you once they’ve seen some of your peccadilloes. It covers the persons you don’t want to have contact with anymore because of their “whatever you’ve judged them for” imperfections. It covers the persons who’ve “done you wrong” (and who have, of course, fallen off the pedestal).
Judgment Is as Judgment Does
So what does it boil down to? We judge others for their imperfections, and they judge us for ours. Neither person lives up to the expectations of the other. After all, who could? Who is perfect enough to never step off, even temporarily, from the pedestal we’ve placed them on?
And then there’s the other side of that equation. Sometimes we place people in a pit... either when first meeting them, or after they’ve fallen off our pedestal. This is when we “black-list” them from our heart and/or from our lives. We’ve decided, for some reason, that this person is “not good enough” for us, or at least not for us to want to associate with them. This includes conscious and unconscious rejection of the person – whether for their personality traits, their looks, or their behavior.
So the situation that comes to mind is the one referred to by Jesus in the bible: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone...” It’s so easy to see the “wrongs” in someone else, and sometimes even easier to judge and condemn them for it. What’s the other expression, also in the bible? "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
Perfection: The Perfect Illusion
Ah! Perfection! We seek it, we think others should be living it, and yet it doesn’t exist! Why? Because perfection is a personal judgment. What I feel is “perfect”, you may think is crazy, and vice versa. Take for example the anorexic models that have graced our advertising media for so long. Is that perfect? Or is perfection the look of the 50s with the much more rounded curves of the female anatomy? Again, personal judgments or preferences.
Our ideas of perfection, whether physical or other, change with the times, and change as we progress in life. So a trait that we considered perfect in the past is no longer perfect today... The question is: Was it ever perfect? Or was it just our perception, our opinion.
So rather than placing others on or off of pedestals, perhaps we would best be served (and they as well) by just accepting people as they are – including the flaws we see through our clouded lenses. Are we to throw the first stone? Perhaps the mirror is the tool we need to use when we find ourselves judging others. Asking ourselves how the judgment we are laying on others applies to us as well would be a more beneficial endeavor.
It is surprising how often we can discover truths (and untruths) about ourselves when we stop looking “out there” and look “in here”. And perhaps we can then level the playing field and get rid of our pedestals and “pits of judgment”. We would then effect change in the only place we really can, ourselves.
Tiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself: 40 Ways to Transform Your Inner Critic and Your Life
by Lori Deschene
A collection of vulnerable reflections and epiphanies from people, just like you, who are learning to love themselves, flaws and all. The book combines all of the elements that made the author's first book, Tiny Buddha, compelling -- authentic, vulnerable stories; insightful observations about our shared struggles and how to overcome them; and action-oriented suggestions, based on the wisdom in the stories.
About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com