Do you ever get the feeling that you aren’t measuring up? That you don’t like something about yourself? That you aren’t as great as you could be?
If you’re like me, a mere human with anxiety, then you might have these thoughts anywhere from 2 times a day to 2 times a minute. It’s OK to have these thoughts, it really is. It’s OK because you’re flawed, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
To be flawed is to be human. Join the club and embrace the awkwardness of life.
The challenge is learning to accept your flaws. If you’re living, you’re constantly learning — and to learn about yourself is one of life’s great joys. Identifying where you are weak shows you just how much potential you have to develop the most strength.
If you perceive yourself to be imperfect, you are. But again, there is nothing wrong with that. If you think you are a bad public speaker, you probably are. That doesn’t define you as a person, it’s not your identity. It just means that speaking well in public is important and that you have some work to do in that regard.
More important, it means you should ask yourself: Why do I care about how I look when I speak in front of a group in the first place? What insecurities are bubbling to the surface when I stand in front of my peers? What am I afraid they might see in me?
Being flawed is not showcasing your failures. Being flawed is an ongoing opportunity; if you recognize a flaw, it means you have the opportunity to learn. And if you have the opportunity to learn, you have the chance to become a better person. Learning and growing is a huge part of what makes life so exciting. If you only do what’s safe, you will wrap yourself in a cocoon of complacency and boredom.
If you’re feeling flawed, it’s because you have a goofy human brain. This human brain is capable of producing limitless thoughts, emotions, plans, and goals. That’s an amazing thing, but it can also be a seriously overwhelming thing. The silver lining of this gooey mass in our head is that we all have one (I think), and so we all approach the world in a similar way.
If you’ve ever felt insecure, you can bet that your neighbor, your boss, your sister, the cashier, the IRS agent auditing your tax return, even your adorable cat Scratchy, has felt that way as well. (But Scratchy’s insecurity is fleeting; you know your undying affection for that fur ball extinguishes all existential malaise, yes you do.) We all have fear and self-doubts. It’s part of the experience of being alive.
People have brains, and brains are capable of wondrous things. But they can also fill the mind with disastrous scenarios. No one wants to appear foolish, so no one talks about these things. But if you are having an awkward, uncomfortable thought, you can almost guarantee that you are not the first person to have that though. Take a chance. Share what you’re feeling with others, and you might be surprised. I know I have been.
Here’s the thing about your shortcomings, the areas where you feel that you come up short. It doesn’t mean squat. It’s just your anxious brain trying to make you worry about stuff. At one point in the history of humanity, constant worry was helpful but not so helpful anymore in our fast-paced, workaholic world filled with instant gratification and unlimited technology. Society tells us that we need to be in control and that we are failing if we don’t appear self-sufficient.
That’s the wrong way to go about it. Instead of building walls around your flaws to make you look as approachable as a rusty shipping container, poke some holes in your ego. Let some air out. If you’re puffed like a blimp, you have no hope of coming down to earth and forming a meaningful connection with anyone. Better yet, let some air flow through your sails. Be more like an Inflatable Wacky Waving Tube Man. You may feel goofy and exposed most of the time, but people will have a hell of lot more fun being around you.
Think about your flaws. Look back at your failings. Are you feeling ashamed about them, or have you been able to move on?
If you are feeling ashamed, this may be another area that you need to work on.
If you have been able to move on, how did you do it? Are there skills you used then that you could apply to any current feelings of anxiety? Is there any reason why your detachment from past shortcomings could not also be applied to current feelings of anxiety?
If anxiety is a result of our perception not matching the reality we want, then clearly assessing anxiety for what it is tames the wild feelings that can run our minds. When you face down your unruly thoughts, you begin to see them for what they are — just thoughts.
It is by taking a step back from your cluttered mind that you can identify what you are experiencing. Getting some distance from your thoughts is healthy. Being wrapped up in them can suffocate you. When you slow down and acknowledge your uncomfortable anxious feelings, you possess a key to unlocking a door of a wider and more flexible range of emotions.
When you befriend the parts of yourself that make you uncomfortable, you transform anxiety from foe into a friend. It never feels comfortable when you’re in it, but the times during which you struggled the most become the signposts that reveal who you are and where you are supposed to go in life.
If you push through it by letting your uncomfortable feelings be your guide, you learn that you are much stronger than you thought. And when you look back at the path you trekked, you see lessons in your footprints. Facing life the right way, by leaning into what makes you anxious, imprints these lessons onto you. You internalize the teachings, and that blazes the trail for others.
Rather than letting your flaws control you, acknowledging imperfection lets others know that you don’t take yourself too seriously. Becoming a walking flaw is not as terrifying as it sounds. There’s something funny about being a wobbling mass of fragility. When you flash your weaknesses to the world, you demonstrate your willingness to be vulnerable. This doesn’t make you weak; this makes you approachable. This makes you human. This broadcasts to others that nothing will break you, that there is wisdom in every step.
Originally published at medium.com