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Why is it important to accept your flaws? How does hiding your flaws eat away at your chance of finding happiness?
No matter how hard you try, you’re never going to be perfect. We all have our flaws and insecurities, and that’s OK. What’s not OK is being preoccupied with hiding them in an effort to project a false image of yourself to gain social approval.
Here’s why it’s important to accept your flaws and embrace who you are, as flawed as you may be.
Culture of Scarcity
We all have flaws and weaknesses. Some we can work to improve, while others may stay with us forever, and that’s OK—we are all human after all. However, we live in a culture that makes it difficult to accept ourselves the way we are because its main focus is on our inadequacies.
According to Brené Brown, in such a culture—a “culture of scarcity”—everyone is preoccupied with what they lack. As a way of control, we hold up an idealized image of ourselves, our lives, our days (in other words, Instagram-worthy), and when reality doesn’t hold up, we experience suffering. From a cultural standpoint, this creates problematic results:
Manifestation #1: Shame
Shame is characterized by fear of not being worthy of love, connection, or belonging. In other words, it’s the internalized manifestation of “never enough” culture.
For example, sometimes one generation will shame another generation for their mistakes or perceived inadequacies. Consider the way the “Boomer” generation sees the “Millennial” generation as not being responsible or hard working enough (or vice versa, with Millennials viewing Boomers as not being flexible or adaptable enough).
Manifestation #2: Disengagement
Disengagement is lack of connection, whether it be a lack of willingness to connect, or an inability to connect. It is a type of burnout that arises from unsuccessfully seeking meaningful presence within a culture that is profoundly focused on what is not present.
For example, students and teachers alike struggle to meaningfully connect with one another, whether it be due to large class sizes that don’t allow for personal engagement or material taught for the purpose of passing a standardized test.
Manifestation #3: Comparison
To compare is to rank someone or something against another, and allow that ranking to determine value. Scarcity culture breeds comparison, because everyone is always comparing what they have (or lack) to what others have (or lack), whether that be material or emotional.
For example, you are bombarded on a daily basis with messages and images that encourage you to compare who you are, and what you have with that of others. Consider the woman who is obsessed with fixing her physical imperfections because she is comparing herself to pictures of women in magazines.
TITLE: Daring Greatly
AUTHOR: Brené Brown
Accepting Yourself Wholly and Unconditionally
Living in a culture where everyone is preoccupied with their inadequacies, accepting yourself wholly and unconditionally—including your flaws and insecurities—is especially difficult. However, it’s important to accept all aspects of yourself, no matter how much you don’t like them—selective self-acceptance only exaggerates the focus on your flaws and makes it harder to be happy with yourself as you are.
For example, you might wish that you felt more confident interacting with others. Not accepting this part of yourself makes you feel more self-conscious about how confident you appear—you judge yourself according to how well you perform in individual interactions. After confident interactions, you feel good about yourself and you feel happy. After unconfident interactions, you feel bad about yourself, uncomfortable about this part of yourself, and unhappy. This leads you to conclude that your unconfidence is the cause of your unhappiness and it impels you to reject this aspect of yourself—for example, by projecting a false image of confidence.
On the other hand, unconditional self-acceptance keeps your self-judgment consistent regardless of how confident you feel in each interaction. You’ve already accepted yourself, so you don’t look to others to decide how you should feel about yourself. As a result, you don’t feel impelled to mask any aspects of yourself and find it easier to maintain a feeling of happiness regardless of your flaws or what others might think of you.
Additionally, being able to accept your flaws is important because you can only change what you accept. You can only find the motivation to change only when you accept the reality you dislike. For example, you’ll only act to improve your self-esteem if you accept that you have low self-esteem. If you deny that you have low self-esteem, why would you try to change it?
TITLE: The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem
AUTHOR: Nathaniel Branden
Being kinder to yourself can help you accept your flaws, rather than punish yourself for them or work desperately to hide them. When you think or talk about your flaws, mistakes, or struggles, try to do so without a tone of shame or criticism.
For example, try to avoid such thought patterns such as “making this mistake makes me a bad person” or “if I didn’t have this flaw, I’d be worthy.”
Instead, frame your flaws in a tender and compassionate way. For example, tell yourself, “My flaws don’t define me or my worth,” “I don’t need to achieve perfection: I just need to do the best I can under my current circumstances,” or “It’s okay to be imperfect; everyone is.”
TITLE: The Gifts of Imperfection
AUTHOR: Brené Brown
Let Go of Chasing Validation
When your happiness is tied up with how you perceive others’ reactions to you, you feel impelled to hide your flaws and project a pleasing or impressive image of yourself. You make decisions about how to look and behave, your career, and your possessions to support this image.
As a result, you never feel like you’re good enough to receive the validation you crave because there are always new expectations to meet or ways that others appear to be doing better than you. Overall, you spend more time chasing validation and less time feeling happy with who you are.
Instead of chasing validation, focus on feeling happiness. You can free yourself from the need for validation by shifting the focus from how others perceive you to what you need to feel happy. This shift in thinking encourages a cycle of happiness: Self-acceptance inspires you to align your behaviors and decisions with what makes you happy. This alignment encourages positive self-judgment and influences you to make decisions that further increase your happiness.
TITLE: The Happiness Equation
AUTHOR: Neil Pasricha
Modern culture—with its focus on lack and obsession with perfection—makes accepting ourselves wholly and unconditionally very difficult. However, unwillingness to accept your flaws will always stand in the way of being satisfied and finding real happiness. If you’re going to be happy, you have to learn how to accept yourself in all your flawed glory.
If you enjoyed our article on how to accept your flaws, check out the following suggestions for further reading:
In The Happiness Trap, therapist and life coach Russ Harris argues that humans are hardwired to relentlessly pursue happiness. But this instinct makes us miserable today, leading to widespread anxiety, stress, and depression. We’re caught in a happiness trap, where the harder we try to be happy, the less happy we become.
Harris contends the answer to happiness and fulfillment is practicing the techniques of ACT, or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. The techniques—rooted in behavioral psychology and mindfulness—help you escape the happiness trap by accepting painful thoughts and emotions as part of life, while clarifying and living your values.
Most people lead fragmented and unhappy lives full of suffering, driven by a variety of conflicting impulses even as they yearn to be true to their real selves. But fortunately, there’s an infallible expert on the subject of who you really are: you. You’re the only one with firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be yourself.
In The Untethered Soul, spiritual teacher Michael A. Singer, founder of the Temple of the Universe meditation center and a pioneering figure in the world of medical software, teaches you how to use your direct self-knowledge as an intuitive tool for spiritual awakening. Combining powerful principles with practical techniques, he shows you how to free yourself from false identities and live an enlightened life of peace, joy, creativity, and divine love.
Radical Acceptance is a meditative practice wherein we acknowledge what we’re experiencing—positive or negative—and welcome it. It’s a powerful tool that allows us to be fully present in each passing moment. It helps us avoid getting stuck in our own heads.
Tara Brach, a practicing psychologist and devout Buddhist, discusses how we can use Radical Acceptance to live our lives more fully by always bringing our full attention to the present moment and accepting it for what it is. You’ll learn how we get trapped in the stories we tell ourselves, and how Radical Acceptance can bring us out of the trance.
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