Yep, you read that right – there is a phenomenon known as Perfect Moment Syndrome (the other kind of PMS), and you've probably experienced it at some point in your life. Ever felt overwhelmingly disappointed after a birthday or like you couldn't settle and relax at the much-awaited family Chrissie party? Here’s how to combat it and take back the joy in those special moments.
It was I Quit Sugar’s original founder Sarah Wilson who first coined the term in her book, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, outlining this unbelievably common experience. Have you ever found yourself trapped in a cycle of high expectations, stress and the crushing feeling that the night needs to be perfect? If so, you may be familiar with what bestselling the other kind of PMS – perfect moment syndrome. This mental state can hinder your ability to relax and fully enjoy occasions like birthdays, weddings, parties and all those events we put up on a pedestal.
As Sarah put it in her book, it’s comes down to expectations “that birthdays are always happy, that a week in Thailand is meant to be relaxing, that a long-awaited date with your partner at a special restaurant will bring you closer together."
The reality isn’t quite so simple.
Photo Credit: @sarahwilson on Instagram
What is Perfect Moment Syndrome?
Perfect Moment Syndrome is a psychological condition in which individuals set unattainable expectations for special occasions and life events. They believe that these moments should unfold according to a predefined script, resulting in happiness and perfection. For example, thinking that a birthday should be a day of unblemished joy, or that a vacation should be 100% relaxing – if one thing goes wrong, the day is ruined. While it's natural to desire happiness during special events, Perfect Moment Syndrome can lead to several pitfalls:
- Unrealistic Expectations: Setting sky-high expectations often leads to disappointment when reality falls short. This can generate stress, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy.
- Inability to Enjoy the Present: Perfect Moment Syndrome causes people to focus on an idealised future rather than appreciating the present. This robs them of the joy that can be found in the here and now.
- Increased Stress: The pressure to make every moment perfect can be incredibly stressful. It can create a fear of failure or the need to constantly control situations, which only adds to one's stress levels.
- Missed Opportunities: When you're caught up in achieving perfection, you may miss out on the spontaneous, imperfect, and beautiful moments that life offers.
Combatting Perfect Moment Syndrome
Breaking free from Perfect Moment Syndrome is an important step toward living a more fulfilling life – and it is possible. If you’re keen to take back the fun, spontaneity and enjoyment of the present moment that can make special occasions so, well, special, here's how you can combat it:
Mindfulness: Is there anything mindfulness doesn’t help? From mental health to improving circulation and gut health, this simple and free activity is an underrated tool for life’s ups and downs. In the case of Perfect Moment Syndrome, it can help you stay in the present moment and let go of those expectations and worries. The result? You’ll appreciate what's happening now instead of dwelling on expectations for the future.
Flexibility: Embrace imperfections and allow for spontaneity. Recognise that beauty can be found in the unexpected – look back at some of your favourite life moments; were they perfectly planned or spur of the moment?
Manage Expectations: Set realistic expectations for special occasions. Understand that they may not always go as planned, and that's perfectly fine.
Let Go of Control: Release the need to control every detail. Sometimes, the best moments happen when you let go and allow things to unfold naturally. We know, easier said than done, but if you’ve got a problem with perfectionism, it could be worth seeking out therapy to get to the heart of the issue.
Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that it's okay not to have everything perfectly figured out. Nobody is perfect, and that's what makes life interesting.
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