The Gifts of Imperfection
I have always, always cared about what others think of me.
In some ways, this is not such a bad thing. I care about being punctual and take pride in getting my responsibilities done before they are due. I care about my appearance. I care about how I come across to others, and I know that my perpetually aloof looking face needs a smile to convince people that I don't disapprove of them.
But, honestly, this intense caring about others' opinions of me can be kind of crippling. I'm the type of person who will type out something vulnerable on social media, but erase the draft because people will probably think it sounds corny or stupid. I spend too much time in the morning choosing what to wear because I think about all the possible people I may run into during the course of the day and I want to be prepared for them to size me up well. I even make it a point to not skip wearing mascara because I've been told by a few that I look tired when I don't wear it, and I don't want to look horrifically tired.
My caring about what other people think of me effects, quite literally, how I live my life in many ways.
I recently read a book called the Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown and it kind of shoved this reality into my mind when it usually just morphs into the habits of my day without me thinking about it.
As I was reading the first few pages, I realized that, although I am usually quick to judge, I hardly ever waste my thoughts thinking over how I disapprove of people. I don't waste my own time sizing up how my friends looks, what someone posted as their status, or the way that a a friend handled a situation. I usually assume that everyone around me has their sh&t together and I'm mentally taking notes for how to replicate it.
If I don't drain my own mental energy constantly judging others, why do I automatically assume that they waste their mental energy on me?
Maybe some of them do, but I would venture to say that most of the people I encounter don't waste much time sizing me up. People, including me, are a little too selfish to spend their own thoughts on everyone else. Let's face it, we're usually thinking of ourselves and our own issues and problems and dreams.
In fact, when I do notice things in other people, it's usually the little vulnerable or quirky things that they do or say that make me take a mental sigh of relief and think, oh thank God, me too. I notice someone's crooked teeth or exasperated venting or crumpled up shirt or runny mascara and, if I'm being honest, it makes me happy. Seeing others' little gifts of being imperfect and human make me smile. I feel solidarity that I'm not the only one who is having a dramatic day or struggle or mismatched outfit.
Most especially, I truly enjoy [and I mean truly enjoy] seeing my friends be bold enough to be vulnerable with me willingly and living out their dreams with some fearlessness and boldness. I don't judge their words or contributions as trivial or stupid; most of the time, I see some imperfect beauty in another and it inspires me to be a little more courageous.
If they can do it, why the hell can't I?
The things that I feel the most insecure about, I think, are the things that others see as relatable and vulnerable. I rejoice seeing them in others but I shy away from sharing them myself because I fear being judged for a standard that doesn't really exist.
I always knew that comparison is the thief of joy, but reading this book made me realize that it's not others comparing me that steals my joy, but it's my own comparison game that robs me of a natural contentment.
"Choosing to be authentic means cultivating the courage to be imperfect." I read that and I knew that I need to allow myself to be imperfect and to release myself from the mental bondage of constantly trying to measure up. Easier said than done, I know. But again, it's not about achieving that perfectly, but rather about practicing it in a way that actually makes me a bolder and more authentic human being. Brené Brown calls this living wholeheartedly, and I like that a lot.
I constantly ask myself now, "Will I want my child to be acting and thinking like how I am acting and thinking right now?" And the reality of setting an example for a new human has been a huge reality check for how I chose to go about my life. It's not just me anymore, playing mental games and giving my insecurities fuel to burn. When I think of modeling bravery for my little boy, I suddenly find myself caring almost not at all about what other people think of my baggy eyes or vulnerable writing. Because what really matters is that I choose to live in such a way that doesn't standardize my success based on the fleeting impression of a stranger.
Because I want to live in such a way that makes others think, ugh, thank God, me too.
Choose to be a little braver, and care a little, or a whole lot, less. If you have a passion or talent or hellish day or awkward situation or insecurity: OWN IT.
So, I challenge you, try to care a little less about what I or anyone else thinks of you. Because "you have to be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs."