“I, myself, am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions”. – Augusten Burroughs
Raise your hand if you agree with the idea that “We’re all our own worst critics”.
Everyone’s hand up? Yes? I thought so.
It seems to be part of human nature that we all give more weight to our flaws, slip-ups and inadequacies than our good choices and successes. It’s not an entirely bad thing; we do need our brains to tell us right from wrong so that we learn the correct lessons in life. The issue, however, is that the mechanism rarely stops there and too often flows into destructive self-criticism.
“Hey”, your brain whispers as you lie awake in bed at night, “Remember that totally awkward remark you made the other day? Other people don’t say that kind of stuff. Your social skills are the literal worst. In fact, YOU are the literal worst”.
That unyielding type of self-criticism has documented ill effects that impact our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. It robs us of a sense of content and leaves us feeling overwhelmed, guilty, and very much alone. Sadly, we create our own isolation by refusing to give ourselves grace… and that allows us to talk ourselves into believing that imperfect means unlovable.
That’s so ironic, because our flaws reflect our essential humanity. It’s our quirks, struggles, and insecurities that make us relatable to others and have them rooting for our success.
Here’s the truth; you’re going to make mistakes. So am I. Like, every day. So, I propose that we try to learn from our mistakes, but we also do our very best to recognize that character flaws are not fatal.
We all have flaws.
No matter what lies your devious little brain tries to tell you, the fact is, we are all flawed. The “perfect” person that exists in our mind’s eye does not exist in real life, no matter what appearances suggest. Perfection is a LIE. The fact is, we’re all living in the same world, and we’re all just playing the hand we’ve been dealt…sometimes we handle things beautifully, and sometimes, not so much.
And lest you think that everyone is doing a better job of fixing or hiding their flaws than you, think again. You’re not alone in your struggles, and you’re not uniquely flawed. The world is made of people who are facing similar circumstances, and are dealing with the same hurts, fears, and struggles.
We’re all going to screw up. And guess what? We’re all still worthy of love.
Our flaws are a product of our experience.
Life gives us different paths, and they shape the people we become. While that person sitting next to you may not struggle with anxiety like you do, I guarantee they struggle with something. And just because you don’t see the same faults in them that you see in yourself doesn’t mean they are unflawed; they’re not better than you, they’re just different.
It’s also important to remember that our history forms us, and in doing so, creates unique beauty.
Think of it this way: the Washington Post has an article headlined “The Hope Diamond was spawned in the most hellish depths of Earth”1. I’d say that wording is at least slightly suggestive of the idea that it was formed in adverse conditions- and if you read the reports compiled by independent diamond evaluators, the consensus is that it “shows signs of wear”, and has a clarity of VS1, which means “very slightly included”.
Inclusions, by definition, are flaws- so do these things make the diamond any less beautiful?
Hint: I was just at the Smithsonian and saw the Hope Diamond, and the answer to that question is no. It’s arguably the most famous gem in the world and considered one of the most beautiful.
The principle holds in a human context, too.
Flaws provide common ground.
We’re so busy trying to hide our flaws from the world, we often forget that these are the things that connect us to it. I, for one, do NOT see myself reflected in someone who seems to have it all together (Is that REALLY a thing?), and I’m never completely at ease with them. There’s absolutely no way my messy edges will ever fit with their neat ones.
I seek out the people who are forging through the demands of life on a wing and a prayer, and with a sense of humor. Their foibles and ridiculous stories give me life. I love them in their imperfect glory, because I see myself in them.
I’m a firm believer that it’s our quirks and eccentricities that make us interesting; without them we’d be… dull, insipid… and one-dimensional. I wouldn’t want to spend time with someone like that, and I certainly don’t want to BE that person.
Maybe the flaws and fractures we have simply show how we’ve broken and been mended. And maybe this brokenness is our gift to others; a way for them to see themselves in us and know they are not alone.