What Is Perfect Moment Syndrome And How Do You Deal With It? We Asked A Psychologist

Many people tend to over-romanticize exciting life events and even everyday experiences, whether that be setting high expectations for the perfect date or imagining an ideal outcome for a stressful work presentation. However, some individuals take this typically harmless behavior further by compulsively devising specific milestones or idealized narratives that they expect their social gatherings or events to follow. More often than not, these experiences fail to pan out exactly as they envisioned in their mind, and this is referred to as "perfect moment syndrome."

While perfect moment syndrome is not a diagnosable condition, it's a concept that has resonated with many on TikTok thanks to best-selling author Sarah Wilson's self-help book, "First, We Make The Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety." As such, to better understand the psychological basis behind this tendency, Gliz spoke exclusively with Dr. Kelly Vincent, a licensed psychologist and the owner of Nourished Wellness Group. According to Dr. Vincent, "[It] refers to the tendency of individuals ... believing that everything must align perfectly for them to truly enjoy or appreciate the situation." Ultimately, though, Dr. Vincent said, "This mindset can lead to dissatisfaction or disappointment when reality inevitably fails to meet impossibly high expectations." Therefore, if you struggle to enjoy or feel content with everyday life experiences due to unrealistic romanticizations, it's probably time to address the root issue.

Why does it happen?

In most cases, an individual who frequently experiences perfect moment syndrome likely does so for a core, underlying reason. "From the perspective of a psychologist, underneath 'perfect moment syndrome' is really an individual who may be struggling with perfectionism, an inability to accept the present moment for what it is, a lower capacity for stress or overwhelm due to nervous system dysregulation, a history of negative or adverse childhood experiences, and many other potential factors based on the individual's life experiences, attachment style, and conditioning," Dr. Kelly Vincent exclusively explained to Gliz.

These personality traits and emotional obstacles serve as valid reasons for falling into the "perfect moment" mindset, as it can be challenging for those with nervous system dysregulation or traumatic past experiences to cope with unknown situations. That said, individuals who fall into this category may struggle to shift their thought patterns without support and may, therefore, benefit from working alongside a mental health expert. Exploring the root cause underneath this black-and-white pattern of thinking can help you recognize unattainable or unhealthy expectations to minimize the sense of dissatisfaction or sadness you feel in the moment.

Is social media also to blame?

Another reason why it's easy to fall into this type of mindset is the constant use of social media, where people often choose to share glizorized and often inaccurate snapshots of their lives with others. "Social media and other platforms often showcase curated versions of people's lives, leading individuals to compare their own experiences unfavorably," Dr. Kelly Vincent exclusively told us. "This constant comparison can perpetuate the belief that one's own moments are inadequate or should look and feel like something else."

According to Dr. Vincent, societal standards, personal desires, and past experiences can all lead to the trap of idealization. "This idealization sets a high bar for what constitutes a perfect moment, making it difficult for reality to measure up," she said. What's more, comparing yourself to people on the internet, especially in terms of appearance and perfection, also impacts your self-esteem and self-worth. This further cements the belief that your life should follow a certain path for fear of missing out (FOMO). "The fear of missing out on perfect moments or experiences can create pressure to constantly seek out and capture those moments, making it challenging to fully immerse oneself in the present," Dr. Vincent added.

Implement mindfulness practices

If you're ready to address your perfect moment syndrome tendencies, Dr. Kelly Vincent recommended practicing being in the moment and getting out of your head. "Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts and emotions in the present moment," she exclusively told Gliz. "By focusing on the here and now, individuals can learn to appreciate the beauty in everyday experiences."

Similarly, strive to cultivate gratitude with the positive aspects of your life by learning to appreciate the small things in life, including the people you enjoy spending time with, and the memories you've already had the opportunity to make. Rekindle the joys and passions you may have felt through hobbies, activities, and personal pursuits. To incorporate mindfulness into your schedule, you can start by dedicating a few minutes of your time every day to write in a gratitude journal, for instance, and practice whatever form of micro-meditation suits your needs.

Retrain your thoughts

Developing mindful habits — such as journaling, deep breathing, and micro-meditations — is a great way to help you regulate your thoughts and expectations. Sometimes, however, you need a more direct approach. This is where positive self-talk and self-awareness come into play to help you recognize and reframe unhealthy patterns. For instance, stepping back and consciously retraining your perfectionist thoughts as you experience them allows you to reduce the negative emotions associated with perfect moment syndrome. The more you practice steering your thoughts away from unhealthy or catastrophic cycles, the easier it will be in the long run. Remember that forming a new habit takes time and effort, but the payoff is worth it if you learn to feel happy or satisfied with your everyday life experiences.

"Instead of striving for perfection, set realistic expectations for yourself and your experiences," Dr. Kelly Vincent exclusively told us. "Understand that not every moment will be extraordinary, and that's okay." Shifting your unproductive thoughts through self-talk and implementing mindfulness-based techniques will help you embrace imperfection as a natural aspect of the human experience, Dr. Vincent explained. "Allow yourself to find beauty in the imperfect moments," she said.

Stop comparing yourself to others

Social media exposure is inevitable in this day and age, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's a healthy or beneficial way to spend your time. To combat perfect moment syndrome? "Limit exposure to social media or other sources of comparison that may fuel feelings of inadequacy or FOMO," Dr. Kelly Vincent exclusively recommended to Gliz. In other words, take accountability for yourself and control the forms of media that you consume.

Moreover, take the time to learn your personal values and stand by them to reduce the compulsion to compare yourself to others. "Remember that people often only share the highlight reel of their lives, and reality is much more nuanced," Dr. Vincent added. And practicing acceptance is paramount. "Accept that life is unpredictable and that not every moment will go according to plan," Dr. Vincent said. "Learn to embrace uncertainty and find peace in the midst of chaos."