March 19, 2014

On Settling for Less

Recently, I heard that most people choose significant others that are around the same level of attractiveness as they perceive themselves. One example of this effect, called the matching hypothesis, is that we are more likely to choose partners who are within one point (+/-) of how attractive we perceive ourselves on the famed 10 point scale. I know this is old news in the psychology world, but I was so fascinated! 

Learning about the matching hypothesis served as a catalyst to a barrage of thoughts on aspects of settling. In Perks of Being a Wallflower, the broader impact of settling in relationships was conveyed with “We accept the love we think we deserve.” 

I’m not suggesting that you should choose your significant other based on how hot they are or break up with your loving boyfriend because he never takes out the garbage when you ask him.  I wonder, though, how many people accept less because of skewed self-perception?

I have a whole lot of love for people – it is part of the reason I adore Humans of New York, why I’m the first person to chat up a cashier or bartender, and why I tear up at every one of those “restore your faith in humanity” photos that circulate Facebook. I like to be open to meeting all kinds of new people, but sometimes this allows the wrong kind of people to enter my life. For example, I somehow attract pathological liars and sociopaths on a semi-regular basis (kidding…kind of). While it’s lovely to want to see the best in people, when someone shows you who they are…believe them. Red flags pop up in our minds for a reason.

Settling has a snowball effect. You start with a simple compromise, and somehow it leaves you feeling less-than in so many more aspects of your life. Here’s the problem with choosing the comfortable path – we are dealing with a finite amount of time. If you are with someone you aren’t crazy about, you are closing yourself off from meeting someone that does give you the cliché butterflies. If you settle for a job that you dread every morning, you are exchanging hours of your life that could be spent inspired.  If there are people in your life that display one of those aforementioned “red flag” behaviors, you’re setting yourself up for an unhappy ending.

You can pour positive energy into your job, love into a relationship, and time into a task, but at some point serious evaluation is needed to determine if it’s worth it. If you determine something simply is not working despite all your valiant attempts, stop settling.


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