This is part 7 in a blog series on why we are so afraid to be ourselves, how that fear keeps us broke and invisible – and how to stop that shit.
Previous installments can be read via the links below.
Flaws? They’re the worst.
Or are they?
This tossup comes down to perspective (a theme throughout this blog series, if I’m being totally honest).
They are just as much a part of you as are your assets. You won’t ever be able to change every single one, but you really shouldn’t want to either. And honestly, I’d rather embrace something I’m stuck with than think about how shitty it is.
I swear a lot.
I get wrapped into work a little more than I’d like.
And I am quite a freak when it comes to control. Ask anyone who works with me and they’ll tell you: I have a particular way of doing things that makes me comfortable with the amount of work I put out into the world every month.
It took an awful lot of trial and error to figure out what worked for me.
I fought each of these things, trying to say shit less and give-fewer-fucks about my need for a clear working schedule. But every time I resisted, I found myself stressed out and unable to cope, losing time with my kids and time at work. Obviously, I had to find a different way.
My solution didn’t involve changing my filthy mouth.
I could go on about a few other habits some might see as problematic, but the point is the same regardless.
It’s never necessary to change yourself, but it’s always helpful to shift your perspective.
Will I ever stop loving profanity? I can’t answer that, but I can tell you the world hasn’t ended because I sling around words some people get offended by.
Once I realized there was nothing to be ashamed of, I felt a freedom inside of my own decisions. If you can see how defects can be turned into resources, it makes living with the quirks much easier.
For me, knowing these things doesn’t hinder me anymore. I’ve created workable, consistent systems my clients and colleagues have grown to expect and accept. And I’ve made peace with things I used to think would keep my bank account empty (and my friends list short).
However, if there’s something you really want to change about yourself, or you haven’t yet found the silver lining in, it’s probably best to attempt to find a path of most acceptance.
I know I did.
Through releasing a few blocks, more and more (though smaller) crept in, and I had to put myself in check about them. Otherwise, I’d be back to square one. (A place you can’t really go back to, because everything that happens in your life and business propels you further.)
If you want to stop finding the flaws in yourself, you can’t go around hunting for them in others.
By avoiding negative behaviors like this, it sure as shit makes it easier to stop doing it to yourself.
Think about it.
There’s nothing positive about listening to a friend nit-pick the women who walk by while you’re having lunch. In fact, it can get unbearable to listen to criticism of others. I know I judge the person judging everyone else.
Mean girls. Bullies. Overbearing bosses. None of them are people you want to hang with. But if you’re mentally criticizing anyone you come into contact with, you’re going to get a new label.
And when you’re one of those, you can’t exactly shut down the negativity enough to cut yourself the slack you need about your own imperfections.
Once we name something, we give it power (in others or ourselves). It takes shape in our lives in ways we hadn’t anticipated.
Labels are something we all want to avoid, yet we label everyone by using words with terrible connotations.
Why? Cultural habit.
That shit has got to stop.
The point is if you want to entertain the possibility of being someone other than your own worst critic, it’s time to stop criticizing everyone you meet.
Besides the fact that the habit makes you a raging douche…
It also makes it damn difficult to not treat yourself in the same awful way.
Yes, it can feel really, really normal to want to critique your biggest competitor’s lifestyle or business model. But all the comparison does is show you weaknesses in both your own business and theirs.
You might find something to work on in your own model because of a hiccup you see in theirs. But do you really want these epiphanies to happen only when you’re trying to downplay your insecurities by bringing someone else’s business (or life) down to your stoop?
That has gross written all over it.
Instead of fixating on something as simple as a negative word, call your flaws something else.
Yes, this might seem ridiculous.
But being quirky or having tendencies sounds kinder than being flawed, right?
Finito. Absolved from your agency (you). Gone.
Intricacies and quirks are often seen as admirable, making you unique (which you are). They make you YOU. It feels good to embrace that shit. Because being without them makes you celery (bland, boring, a garnish). Intricacies and quirks get you friends and show people why you’re special.
No matter how minuscule this change seems, it can do wonders for your mindset.
We fixate on things we think are the worst of us, instead of focusing on how they make us different and human. Will a change in word choice help you flip the script on this conversation?
Yes, it will.
I know plenty of eclectic people who I think are fabulous. There’s this quirky chick I know who lights up my course’s private Facebook group with her posts (and doesn’t apologize because she’s nothing like anyone else in there). Seriously, everyone loves her and nobody else is anything like her.
I have a friend who has the tendency to walk around barefoot, claiming it helps her feel grounded when she’s coming undone.
Cute and smart, right?
I sure think so.
The first thing you must do if you want to stop criticizing yourself is change your word choice. It’s as simple as that.
Then challenge your negative beliefs. (Silence your inner bitch.)
This step gets a little more in-depth and difficult, but the trial and error should be fun.
Are you a terrible poet? Write poetry about your struggle with words.
There once was a girl from Nantucket.
Who couldn’t write poetry, so she said “Fuck it.”
She wrote all day, ignoring her dismay.
And if you don’t like her words, she’ll tell you to suck it.
Can’t dance to save your life? Head to the club, lady.
Sure, you might feel ridiculous at first. But you’ll notice the crowd around you is more focused on making sure they look great than they are on your Elaine Benes-style seizures.
My point: Just because you aren’t the expert in something doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Or (gasp) even like it. Being bad at something doesn’t mean you can’t change your skill level.
There was a time when I wouldn’t do anything I wasn’t good at. Bowling? Fuck you. It takes a lucky strike for me to bowl a game over 100 points, a small score that embarrassed me in front of family and friends.
No, this isn’t really that big of a deal, but the problem was that I’d made such a problem out of being bad at something that I couldn’t even enjoy the time we were sharing.
Had I continued bowling and ignored the self-created shame, I would have become better and better every time I face my differentlyabledness.
Seth Godin tells us it takes 10,000 hours to be considered an expert in any area. If you haven’t given yourself any of that time, how the hell can you expect to be good at something?
Think about putting these beliefs to the test.
Explore the possibility of changing weaknesses into strengths (or, whoa, something you enjoy about yourself).
Stop worrying about what people are going to say about you. But if you can’t, then come up with a few key comebacks for what those germs might say, so you’ll be prepared to respond – downplaying the severity of their words and your supposed weakness. It’s a win-win.
The acknowledgement of your weakness makes it easier for both of you to digest.
“Hey, Becky, the dance floor has enough space for us to grind our way in. Wanna get out there?”
“It looks like a full-on orgy out there, but I’m afraid I’m not so great in the dance department. Want to help me out?” you say in response (yes, your name is Becky in this hypothetical situation).
“Girl, I’ve got moves you’ve never seen,” your friend says.
And then, not only are you less self-conscious as you shimmy your way to the center of the floor, but you have a friend who just offered to help you stop squirming like a fish (to start grooving like Misty Copeland).
It shows you’re humble. It shows you’re trying. And those things alone are both great in terms of building character, something we should all continue working on in adulthood.
You know who does this well?
In terms of the Hollywood standard, there are a few areas she could work on to be a leading lady, but Schumer uses her apparent flaws as a talking point. She satirically pokes fun at herself to put the media and society’s beliefs straight back in their faces.
She’s making money doing it, by the way, laughing all the way to the bank.
It’s likely that being a celebrity while not meeting Hollywood’s standard could be so heinous anyone would understand why she’d quit.
Instead, she’s seen as an honest, hilarious and hot-ticket comedian. Yes, even when she flubs up and makes mistakes.
Notice positive reactions to your imperfections.
Once you put your weakness out into your public life, you’ll probably see a lot of people have positive reactions to them.
By hiding, you suppress chances to make friends or try new things. You don’t learn to love your whole self.
Befriend some people who have the same flaws as you and talk about them as something you share in common.