I was recently chatting with someone in my tai chi class, and she made a reference to my perfect life. I actually laughed out loud. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great life; our kids are healthy and get along more than they fight, and I still enjoy being married to my husband (most days!) but… perfect? I don’t think so!
What made it even more laughable was that she said this to me right after I finished telling her what a difficult year 2015 had been, with the extended recovery from my elbow dislocation to the failure of our business, and all the chaos that ensued after that and how difficult the process was, and how stressful and upsetting it all had been.
Then I realized… her fantasy about my life was so much more inspiring to her than my reality. And then I realized that I fantasized about how perfect I thought other people’s lives were, too.
For example, I know a woman who is super wealthy, married with great kids. It would be pretty easy to get caught up in the fantasy around this one, except that both she and her husband have had pretty significant health challenges over the past two years, and are also having legal troubles. Or the woman I know who is drop dead gorgeous, with the perfect marriage, and appears super chill to boot? Whose marriage fell apart, is strapped for cash, and yells at her kids? I figured she was the one who would have never yelled, but she told me recently that she does, indeed, yell at her kids. Or the family with the two parents who do truly adore each other, and two perfect children who also adore each other? That one is really perfect, right? Wrong… financial issues and sick kid. Fantasies shattered!
It’s a version of our internal dialogue… you know, that infernal ticker tape that just won’t quit! It’s usually the one that tells us we don’t look good in that outfit, or our hair is too short (or too long, frizzy, straight… you know what your personal critique is).
But the fantasies are also a way we bring ourselves hope. Perhaps I haven’t mastered always taking a deep breath before speaking, but someone has, right? Or perhaps my body doesn’t look exactly how I’d like it to, but someone’s does, right? It’s a way of looking outside ourselves for reassurance that our goals really are attainable.
And, in reality, our goals ARE attainable.
However, our fantasies about others are not REAL. The blind spot is in believing that our fantasies about others are, in fact, true, and not recognizing them for the fantasies that they are. Once you recognize that they are made up and not real, you then have the choice to use your fantasies as a source of inspiration, or diminishment. Beware! Unless your fantasies are consciously used as methods of inspiration or as opportunities to do something better/faster/more effectively, they almost always become ways that we make ourselves wrong, diminish us, and don’t serve as catalysts for our greatness.
As a human being, it’s inevitable that we end up making up stories about others (good, bad, and indifferent!).
The question is what you do with those stories. Do you use them as a source of inspiration and goal setting, or as a source of self-criticism?
It’s all a matter of choice.
Choose inspiration! I promise, if it doesn’t work out, you can always go back to criticizing yourself! But the coolest risks are the ones in which you have nothing to lose, like the choice of making your fantasy a source of inspiration that causes you to bring your “best self” out.
So go on, enjoy your fantasy!