When we look in the mirror, we should see the things we love about ourselves. Yet all too often, we pay attention to the things we wish we could change. With time, though (and a little bit of self-compassion), we can come to accept these “flaws” — and eventually see them as perfect imperfections that make us who we are.
We asked members of the Thrive community to share the personality traits or physical characteristics they once considered flaws, and how they came to love and celebrate them over time. While is no quick fix to overcoming our vulnerabilities, their stories show how embracing our “imperfections” — and evicting the obnoxious roommate living in our heads — is one of the most empowering and freeing things we can do.
A facial feature became a point of connection across generations
“I always wanted a nose job. When I was young, my nose took up a lot of my face. Even though I grew into it, I always found fault with it. When I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy, I immediately saw that he had my family nose. It was just beautiful on him, and he has grown into a handsome young man. I never considered a nose job again.”
—Natalie Bonfig, writer and speaker, St. Paul, MN
Anxiety transformed into creative energy
“Without my anxiety transforming into creative energy, my writing wouldn’t be as creative as it is today. It might be a demon for me at times, but when I’m writing, it is nothing but a strength!”
—Kristina Mazhindu, law student, London, U.K.
A unique hair color became a signature feature
“I am a redhead, and as a child, I hated the color of my hair. I always felt like the oddball in a family of dark brunettes. In college, I tried to convince hairstylists to dye it for me, but thankfully, they all refused. As I entered adulthood, I came to love my hair color, and the fact that it is unique. It’s very much a part of who I am.”
—Cindy Joyce, executive recruiter, Boston, MA
An introverted personality paved a pathway to success
“From my childhood through my adult life, I relied on two traits that my parents, spouses, and managers considered flaws: I smiled too much and avoided verbal communication. They were correct in both observations — I smiled far more often than I frowned, and I relied on writing more than speaking. Thanks to various sources, I learned that both ‘conditions’ are the result of my temperament — I’m an introvert. Gradually, I embraced and utilized both ‘flaws’ to my benefit. I am living a life I love, am viewed as a friendly person, and am now a published writer.”
—Michael Ivers, writer, filmmaker, and consultant, Lake Stevens, WA
A poor sense of direction spurred improvement
“I used to be awful with directions, but I also loved traveling. This was a challenge, because navigation is a critical part of traveling — especially the kind of off-the-beaten path adventuring I enjoy. So I worked at it. By the end of every trip, my maps were always tattered because I constantly took them out to ensure I was still on track. Eventually, I learned how to navigate, so much so that I am now the go-to guide among family and friends. That ‘flaw’ reminds me that we can get better, as long as we care enough about the why.”
—James McConchie, researcher and evaluator, San Diego, CA
A quiet temperament made for great listening skills
“The words ‘stay sweet and quiet’ are etched throughout my senior high school yearbook. I hated that everyone thought that I was quiet. I especially hated that teachers punished the quiet students for ‘lack of participation.’ I thought being an introvert was a curse, because I felt excluded from the norm, but I have since learned to embrace it. I’m a great listener, and I know how to hear things that people don’t say with their mouths. This has served me well in my career in developing relationships with people with various backgrounds.”
—Kanette Worlds, membership coordinator, Detroit, MI
Sentimentality helped maintain long-distance friendships
“Ever since I was in high school, I would make mix tapes for friends, overly cherish their birthdays, and go out of my way to show those in my life that I cared. In my late 20s and early 30s, I began to view this as a flaw because I became overly attached to friends who did not reciprocate the same care for our friendship. Now, at age 40, and living overseas, I have learned to embrace this, and it has become paramount in maintaining friendships.”
—Tricia Wolanin, clinical psychologist, Bury St. Edmunds, U.K.
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