“I am not clever enough, I put my foot in my mouth sometimes, I make mistakes but… I should be perfect”… And the list goes on…. What is your internal dialogue like? Are you expecting perfection from yourself? What happens when you fail to meet your high standards or you make a mistake? Perhaps you punish yourself and go over and over what happened. Perhaps you are fearful of how others might respond to you.
My mission in life is to encourage others to embrace their imperfection and learn to accept those darker shades of personality that feel so uncomfortable. By darker shades of personality, I mean those aspects of yourselves that you may be frightened of, such as anger. If you grew up in an environment where expression of anger was a violent outburst or expression of any negative emotions was forbidden or discouraged.
You may have other qualities that you think will make you be and feel less than other people. You may even feel that having emotions makes you lesser than others. Perhaps you were repeatedly told to just get on with and not acknowledge your feelings.
You may even seek to improve, alter or change the external parts of yourself in a hope to reduce the shame of the darker shades of yourself.
This post is really about learning embrace and love ourselves with warts and all. Today we live in this often very shame-based culture where there is always someone looking for another person to blame or shame, or we blame and shame ourselves. Therefore, it is import for our well-being to lessen the burden on ourselves, learn to embrace and accept even the parts of ourselves that we are not proud of.
What is the function of aiming for perfection?
Imperfections make us human. We may try to cover them up by, for example, shutting our feelings and isolating from others, emotional or controlling eating, drinking, impulsive and/or excessive shopping or perhaps trying to control others or blame them. We do anything to try to numb the pain of shame of “there must be something wrong with me”.
Perhaps you are fearful that if you learnt to embrace your imperfection you would, for example, become lazy and you need to be aiming for perfection to keep you going towards your goals. Or you may feel that something bad would happen to you or your family, if you started to embrace your imperfections rather than make yourself sick in trying to get rid of your imperfections. Embracing your imperfections does not mean not continuing to work on self-development and taking responsibility for your actions. Simply it is permitting yourself to be human.
We, humans, have an innate need to feel connected and if we feel that something might stop that connection with others, we might feel shame and try to cover up this quality. You may be interested in reading about shame and it’s meaning in our lives. Previously, I wrote about the shame and other painful feelings that aiming for perfection might be covering.
Many reasons may have contributed to you having this feeling of shame such as Childhood emotional neglect or childhood trauma of some kind. Shame could have helped you to survive as a child. Perhaps blaming yourself for the critical words of your parents or aven abuse was an easier way to make sense of it rather than tarnish the image of the attachment figure.
How can we learn to embrace imperfection?
Brené Brown in her book “The gifts of imperfection” talks about how the gifts of imperfection are courage, compassion, and connection, and our vulnerabilities make use these wonderful tools for our living. These are daily practices that help us on our journey of life.
Make friends with the parts of yourself that you are ashamed of – You will always keep running (hiding, masking, blocking out of your awareness) as long as you see the uncomfortable parts of yourself as something to be ashamed of. All the parts of you make who you are, not just the parts that you are proud of and comfortable with. Start to notice what kind of parts of you are at play at different times. Psychotherapy is a great place to explore and learn to accept those shadow parts of you.
Practising self-compassion – Self-compassion includes three parts. Treating yourselves like you would treat a dear friend. Acknowledging that suffering is a part of being human and a shared human experience. You are not alone with your suffering. Being mindful of the feelings that your suffering brings up.
Sharing vulnerabilities with trusted others creates deeper emotional connections. Being accepted by those who we trust can help us to accept our imperfections. I have seen many clients share vulnerability in therapy; then go and be encouraged to test out or share it in the outside world with their trusted loved ones. When we share our imperfections with trusted and compassionate other, we feel truly seen and feel a deep connection. As humans, we are social animals, and thrive we feel connected with others.
Feel the fear and do it anyway! – See the value of your unique contribution to the world If you are held back shame of your imperfections in life, acknowledge your fear and find the courage to put our unique message out in the world. The world can only become a better place when we all embrace our fears, show up with warts and all, live authentically and share our unique talents and messages with others. What message or talent have you always wanted to share but you have been held back by trying to be perfect rather than embracing imperfection and putting your unique contribution out there?
“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think no matter what gets done and how much is left undone I am enough, it’s going to bed at night thinking yes I’m imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid but that does not change that the truth that I am also brave, worthy of love and belonging.” Brené Brown, PhD.
If you are being critical of yourself, I hope this got you thinking. I hope the idea of embracing our imperfections got you thinking about what a unique individual you are and how important your contribution is to the world and your fellow humans. If we wait for the perfect moment to take action, it may never come and we will forever live in a place of “once….then….”.
By writing this piece for you, I am embracing my vulnerabilities and putting myself out there, because I want to share this message of embracing your imperfections with you.
If you are looking to work towards embracing your vulnerabilities in therapy, please take a look at my services page.