In real life, there’s no such thing as perfect. Normative daydreamers figure this out early on, but immersive and maladaptive daydreamers have a much harder time of it. Having total control over our daydream world means that we can make it perfect, and many of us do. I don’t think there’s a problem with that, provided we recognise that perfect is just a fun fantasy. It isn’t meant to translate into real life.
The problem comes when we get too dependent on our perfect daydream world. If we are happy in the daydream world but not so happy in real life, we can start to think that the people, places and events that make us happy in our daydreams are the only things that can make us happy. We think we must have these things in order to enjoy life. But for many of us, our daydreams can’t literally come true – we aren’t going to save the world or sail off into the sunset with our celebrity crush. No matter how many times we’ve lived that perfect moment in our heads, we know that in real life it’s just not going to happen. End of. And that’s a depressing realisation when you’ve convinced yourself that that fame/recognition/romance is the only way you’re ever going to be happy.
But the problem with perfect is that it doesn’t go anywhere. How many times have you played that perfect scene in your head? And how many times have you daydreamed about what happens next? There’s a reason so many fairy tales end with the words “…and they lived happily ever after”. Because the story stops there. Happily ever after isn’t really happy – it’s monotonous, boring, and ultimately unfulfilling.
The value in life comes from its imperfections. We appreciate the good times because of having gone through the bad. The achievement means more because of the challenges we overcame. We celebrate our successes because we learned from our failures. It is by going through difficult times, solving problems, finding the right path, that we can become more than we ever dreamed possible. Our best life comes precisely from the fact that it isn’t perfect.
Many daydreamers are perfectionists. It’s easy to see why when we can conjure up perfection in an instant. But perfectionism can go two ways. We can view “perfect” as the goal we will forever be aiming for, we can let it inspire us, and we can be motivated to discover how close we can get and what we are capable of. Or, we can view “perfect” as the goal that’s so far out of reach there’s no point aiming for it; we can abandon the idea of moving towards it because we know we’ll never really get there, and allow ourselves to get stuck in the resentment of thinking that “perfect” is only for other people.
Which type of perfectionist would you rather be?
But how does that work when your perfect daydream life can’t ever be a reality?
You need to separate your real life from your daydream life. There doesn’t have to be just one “perfect”. You can have one “perfect” in your head while aiming for a different “perfect” in your real life. That’s OK. You don’t have to give up your perfect daydream world. That will always be with you. But work towards building something perfect in the real world too. Where do you want to be a year from now? Five years? Ten years? What are you doing to get you there? What could you be doing? And how could you enjoy the journey?
We’re so used to jumping ahead in our daydreams to that perfect final destination, that we forget that in real life most of the value comes from the journey. Knowing we are building a better life, looking forward to the rewards that will come from our hard work, noticing and being grateful for the little things as well as the grand gestures, taking pride in our accomplishments, reflecting on how far we’ve come, and knowing that we made it happen. All of that can be deeply satisfying.
Take inspiration from your daydreams. Let them show you what you value. But accept that you might need to express those values differently in real life. Daydreams are instant gratification, real life is a journey. Both can be fulfilling. Both can make you happy.