Enamored with seeing others embrace their flaws.
I have a friend. She unapologetically accepts what may be deemed her personal failings, without judgment. The traits aren’t labeled “good” or “bad,” they just are. There is no shame involved. In fact, the exposition, or confirmation of her potential shortcomings is usually offered through self-proclamation.
“I need a lot of attention.”
“I think I know it all.”
My friend offers declarations such as these in a very matter-of-fact manner. Characteristics to which others may take offense if applied to them, she applies to herself. In doing so, she takes away your and everyone else’s ability to hurt her with the accusations.
I realized one day that this was something about her I coveted. Historically, I have hidden or tried to fix those parts of myself that might be considered generally undesirable. The problem with that is, the target is always moving. If I work to be more responsible, the issue becomes my not being fun. In striving to be more outspoken, one could then be deemed too cocky. There will always be a new defect if we design ourselves within the confines of external approval.
My friend would just say, “I’m a bit irresponsible.” Period. She’d take away your power to throw it in her face or use it against her. She’s even taken mine away! You can’t hurt a person with knowledge that they themselves have made known. There are no revelations to uncover. Every possible dark place has already been illuminated.
It sometimes makes me angry that she can be so dismissive about things that may negatively impact others. There have been times where I didn’t feel as though I could mention how I felt about something she did, because she already knows. She understands who she is. The challenge falls to those around her to deal with it, or not.
On one hand, I think that personal development is vital to our relationships. I don’t necessarily agree with the ‘take me or leave me’ approach. I believe that if the way we are leaves people that we love deeply wounded, we have a responsibility to them, but mostly to ourselves to work on that aspect of our being. Without empathy, self-love can create toxic environments and serve as an excuse to not improve upon ourselves. Or, it becomes a cop-out to avoid apologizing and taking accountability for the manner in which our actions have affected someone else.
On the other hand, what I envy about my friend is that she is not afraid to be flawed. She doesn’t believe it makes her any less deserving of love and acceptance. There remains within her a strong conviction that she is worthy of all that she seeks. I wish I could be so forgiving of myself. Her outlook is one that I’ve never had, to my own detriment.
I’m a recovering chronic perfectionist. One of the ways that Dr. Ilene Strauss Cohen describes this is, always coloring inside the lines and giving yourself the metaphorical whip if you screw up. Overall, I see it as an unhealthy, unrealistic obsession with being faultless. I’ve always needed to make the best possible decision and do everything exactly the right way. I’ve tied my determination of value to how perfect I can be.
Telling me that I’m flawed (though I know I am) or that I’ve hurt or offended someone (though I know I have) would upset me, profoundly. I’m more disturbed by the idea that I’ve caused someone pain than having it inflicted upon me. It’s been difficult, I think mainly because I work so hard to be the ideal friend, partner, sister, daughter and aunt, to accept that I may have fallen short somewhere.
I know that if I just aim to be the best that I can be in every role, with the expectation that I will fail sometimes, because I’m human and blemished but that doesn’t define me — The inevitable disappointment wouldn’t weigh on me so heavily. If I could own my deficiencies out loud, one of which is believing people are supposed to care about my disapproval because I care about theirs, I would set myself free. I’d be free to be imperfect and from the precedent I may have set that perfection should be required of me.
So, I look at my friend, who carries on as though being even half of who people want her to be is enough. She strikes me as a person who has been loved unconditionally. Her upbringing must have never called for her to earn adoration or endorsement. Thus, she has no motivation to do so. I look at her, and I wish it were that simple for me.