Discover more from Life with MD
compromises and concessions
why i stop seeking perfection :
One of the interview questions that I am always puzzled by is: “What are your weaknesses?” On one hand, it seems overly simplistic that an employer would willingly let a candidate prepares and decides ahead of time what they consider their weaknesses. Realistically, many of us would look to weaknesses that may sound negative but are actually a positive trait masked as an extreme character.
For example perfectionism is used often to describe oneself in these situations. I recently asked a guy, jokingly, what he thinks his red flags are. He told me that he was too hard on himself, essentially perfectionism. I found it funny because it came full circle with the work conversation.
For a long time, perfectionism and minimal weaknesses were what I care about. Every experience and every relationship I have must be as pristine and infallible as possible. If they are not to my liking even to a small degree, I am tempted to drop it - which I did many times and regretted years later.
In my last essay on how where you live can change who you are, I wrote about how I finally found a stable and consistent cadence to live and work after what seems like a lifetime of chasing one thing after another, never not being in a mental limbo. One of the gifts that came with accepting the present (which as ridiculous as it sounds, I have always struggled with) is the ability to make compromises.
Life with MD is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
I am stubborn. I like to tell black from white; no grey area is allowed. I like to jump the gun. I like to get things done before they should or can be done. My parents could probably recite an entire saga of my crazy rebellious acts or refusal to do activities that were forced upon me. I think now, they have accepted that I am a force to be reckoned with.
In fifth grade, my mom randomly made me cut bangs, against my will I need to add. After we left the salon, I immediately found a hairclip to tug them up my forehead so no one could see the bangs. When there were leftover strands on the side that couldn’t be hidden away, I took a scissor and just cut it off my left side. I had a “bald” spot for a few months after but not once regretted the decision.
In elementary school, I’d get into trouble every year for doing something I thought was so innocent but turned out to be impermissible. In third grade, I agreed to take a girl’s lunch money when she voluntarily gave it to me. In second grade, I was punished for laughing uncontrollably in class because my desk mate wouldn’t stop crack jokes. There were more but I wouldn’t bore you with the details. Even though I’m mostly well-behaved, I think I have always had a streak of rebellion.
That is to say, I don’t do compromises very often. Either it’s a yes or a no. A hell yeah or an absolutely not. Either I love it or I leave it out of my life. I went on with this mindset for 18 years and my first two years of college.
I couldn’t pin point an exact moment but somewhere between the pandemic and finishing school, I realize I would have to start compromising if I wanted to go further in life or career.
In work: I can’t expect a perfect job with good pay, work life balance, amazing co-workers and growth prospects.
In friendships: I can’t expect a single or even two or three closest friends to meet all of my emotional and social needs. Some friends are better to talk to about work, some are strictly fun and social, very few are a mix of all.
In relationships: I can’t expect a partner to be perfect in every aspect. I also realize I need to stop craving for partnership while still demanding the independence I have when I am single.
In living: There is no “one perfect city” for me to reside in. There will be always be pros and cons to the list.
When I compromise, the first thing I feel may be temporary discomfort, not knowing how to move forward or grow through this pain. In some ways, it is like meeting a friend for the first time, awkward and make you want to run.
In some other ways, compromises gradually reap sweet rewards. Friends you thought wouldn’t click with become reliable figures in a new city. Even though they might not be best friends with whom you tell everything, they become people who you could reach out to occasionally to hang out with. Jobs that you thought would hamper your growth give you a new sense of purpose in a way that you never expected a job could. A city where for a few months you want to run away now grows into a “love city”.
Last Friday, I went to Mozart’s Coffee after sun down with my college best friend Minjae. They had live music and it was one of the most chill venues I have ever been to. May be because of the ambiance, we opened up like books. We talked at length about everything: from our childhood, high school and life across two countries as both of us are international students - Minjae is from South Korea and me from Viet Nam. I share how it is funny that the friendships I was so fervently attached to in the beginning tended to fizzle out after a few years while the ones where we learned to respect our independence last much longer.
I met Minjae in my third year of university. A very kind counselor connected us because we both went to business school at the University of Minnesota and from her words, we were both “motivated”. I think what she meant was slightly preoccupied with performances. Through ups and downs, a whole pandemic, me being away from America for close to two years, and now that Minjae recently moved to Austin with her boyfriend, there is virtually nothing in our friendship that I could have ever expected.
Learning to be better with compromises and concessions have helped my mental health a lot. I learn to lower expectations, live in the moment and be patient for the possibilities. It also makes me more appreciative of the every day. As some of my friends have reached out and told me recently that I seem happy, I really am.
I am no psychology researcher but I solemnly believe that compromises can breed love. No love is pure adoration and obsession. If that love was real, it would be ephemeral. True love is when you know the entirety of something or someone, accept both their good and bad, and still have the heart to care for them.
I would be lying if I said instant rewards aren’t amazing - like a good ice cream, skipping a workout, giving up on a project because I get bored or lazy. But I would be a worse person if I don’t advocate for the fact that joy from delayed gratification, long-time efforts and consistent work are ten times more fulfilling.
So, next time you are on the verge of giving up because an experience is not perfect, give it a second thought. Would this experience or person might be beneficial or positive for you at some point in the future? Are they really annoying or were a waste of time, or do you only say so because you feel uncomfortable?
Thank you so much for reading this week’s essay. If you had not yet subscribed, please do so to support my publication - I am so close to hitting 100 readers!
Let me know what your thoughts are on my words as always by commenting down below.
Please share this with a friend if you like it too.