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Published on April 17, 2020

How To Be Perfect If You Feel Ashamed of Your Flaws

How To Be Perfect If You Feel Ashamed of Your Flaws

One of the biggest traps that us self-improving humans fall into again and again is the pursuit of perfection. This includes getting bigger muscles in the gym, trying to cultivate a mind that is free of negative thoughts, or starting a new endeavour in our lives. Sometimes if it isn’t perfect, we feel like it isn’t worth doing.

Because perfection is the goal for many people, that means that whatever stands in the way of perfection is an enemy to be eliminated. That might be other people, other obstacles that you encounter, or perhaps most tragically, yourself and your own flaws. Not only this, but being a perfectionist has been shown to be terrible for your health.[1]

There are two facts that you must know that, although they may seem obvious, are actually incredibly slimy and make you believe they aren’t actually true. The first is that everyone has flaws. The second: perfection doesn’t exist.

Therefore, if you plan on functioning as a relatively healthy human being for the rest of your life, it is probably time to come to terms with these facts. Unfortunately, a guide on how to be perfect full-stop doesn’t exist because perfection itself doesn’t exist. Instead, here is a guide on how to be perfectly imperfect, especially if you feel ashamed of your flaws.

Why Perfection Is an Illusion

It can be a surprisingly difficult thing to accept. Hopefully, you had a decent childhood where you would watch Disney movies, cartoons, and play with your favourite heroes and heroines.

Humans tend to find these sorts of things entertaining because they are easy to follow and give us some sense of purpose and direction. You rarely find a conflicted character in a Disney film: there is the clear good, and the clear bad. There is the extremely perfect hero and the extremely imperfect villain.

This idea of perfection is something that you subconsciously cling to as you enter adulthood. The world is immensely strange, complicated, and downright impossible to understand. Things are a lot easier to deal with when you make things black and white. Good and bad. Perfect and not perfect.

This is a common mistake and one that holds many people back. There is no one perfect policy, political party, action to take, or partner to be with. Every action ultimately involves a trade-off with another action[2]. Even inaction comes with its own set of costs.

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Even if you believe yourself to be taking the perfect action in a certain situation, you don’t know how that action will affect someone else, the world, or even yourself down the line.

Waiting for the perfect partner might lead to a life of loneliness and an existence far from the happiness that you set out to achieve. Accepting the imperfections of a partner might lead to a life of happiness and, ironically, a life closer to “perfection.”

There is no perfection in this life, only trade-offs that you have to make. The simple act of recognizing this can take you extremely far.

The Consequence of Pursuing Perfection

In one word: unhappiness.

As we have already established, perfection is an illusion, and therefore trying to chase it is a mistake that will only lead to misery, restlessness, and discontentment in your life.

Pursuing perfection is the same as kidding yourself that you will be happy when you find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s a moving target that doesn’t really exist but is quite often nice to think about.

As famous, modern-day thinker Naval Ravikant said:

“Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.”

The same can be said for happiness and the pursuit of perfection. Too many people force themselves to be unhappy until they reach a vain metric — sometimes perfection — before they will allow themselves to be happy.

You have a natural desire for more. You have a natural desire for improvement. You have a natural desire to be a better person. Everybody does. But improvement and the journey itself is the whole thing. There is no magical destination that will solve all of your problems.

Perfection doesn’t exist. Don’t ever fool yourself and trade in your happiness thinking that it does. It’s a lousy, foolish pursuit.

Embracing Flaws Is the New “Perfection”

You’ve probably tried hiding your flaws  from other people or maybe even from yourself. Everybody has at some point. Maybe you feared being judged or rejected, or were worried about the opinions of other people, or were too afraid of what you might think of yourself if you dug too deep.

You’ve also probably revealed some of your flaws to close friends and family. This is part of life and where vulnerability is healthy. As you get to know people better, you start to open up, get comfortable, and effortlessly allow your true self to shine forth.

Think back to that awkward time you met your best friend and how silly you are together now. Think back to the awkward first date with your partner that is now a key part of your life. Think back to a time when you were extremely embarrassed about something and your family brushed it off like it was nothing. Because after all, it was nothing, really.

During all of these instances and many others in your life, you have had flaws that you were self-conscious of, parts of you that you weren’t particularly proud of, or hang-ups that you could never seem to completely shake off.

But look at where you are now. Look at how many of these things haven’t even mattered in the end. Most likely, you were pulled even closer to those that you love in your life after you revealed your flaws to them, rather than feigning some sense of perfection that was never really there.

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The same is true in reverse, too. You are touched when a friend opens up to you and asks for life advice. You feel great when you can help out a family member who has asked for your help with one of their flaws.

Despite what you make of them in your own head, flaws and openness and acceptance are all key parts of life and bring people together like no form of perfection ever could. You are perfectly you. Nobody has the complete “you” package like you do — strengths, weaknesses, and all.[3]

When you become who you are and not who you think you should be (or who someone else thinks that you should be), life gets much better. Your relationships deepen, people like you (or don’t) for who you are, and you know that the ones that are sticking around are there for you, not a facade that you sometimes call “you.”

Embracing flaws is the new perfection. They bring people together like no perfection ever could.

What to Do With Your Flaws

Now that you are starting to understand that maybe perfection isn’t so great and that maybe your flaws aren’t so bad, it can still be difficult to know what to do with them. After all, flaws don’t just magically disappear overnight. Here are some of the steps that you can take to reset your relationship with your flaws and say goodbye to the myth of perfection forever.

1. Accept Them

Perhaps the most straightforward and most effective path that you can take is to start accepting your flaws. This is the ideal route to take, especially if everyone else is pretty chilled out about them apart from you.

Most likely, your flaws will only be minor things like how your tooth is a bit wonky or how your walk is slightly strange. Most people’s flaws are things that only they see and that no-one else really pays attention to. Therefore, for your own peace of mind, it’s usually best to just accept them for what they are.

If you are surrounded by good people, they tend to love you because of your flaws, not despite your flaws, so why worry?

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2. Change Them

You never need to seek perfection, but if your flaws are standing in the way of your mental health, physical health, or relationships and accepting them isn’t doing anyone much good, then the next step is to try and change them.

Like with any change, though, it is important to not expect too much too soon, and to continue working towards the change in small steps, day by day. You wouldn’t expect to become a pro-golfer in a matter of weeks or even months, and this skill is no different. It is perhaps even more difficult.

3. Forget Them

If you can’t accept your flaws for whatever reason and are unable to change them, then a viable last resort is to simply do your best to forget about them. You will have had plenty of moments in your life where you weren’t thinking about them and felt completely happy. Maybe somebody told you a funny joke. Maybe you were in awe of a shooting star. Maybe you had an essay that had a creeping deadline.

These moments of not dwelling on your flaws, not being worried about perfection, and living in the moment have happened to you. They’re real. If you can’t stop your mind from focusing on your flaws when you are at rest, then take your mind off them by doing something else.

Build up enough of these “tactical distractions” and you might begin to realize that you can actually live your life despite these flaws, and then, paradoxically, they start to either become accepted or fade away altogether.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, throughout this article, you have come to realize that perfection isn’t a real thing and that the pursuit of perfection is a sure-fire way to live a life of misery and never feeling good enough. Perfection is shiny but made of nothing substantial.

On the other hand, flaws are something that you have, just like everyone else. If you don’t think that somebody has flaws, you obviously don’t know them well enough. However, flaws are nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, they are something to be celebrated. They bring you closer to the people that you care most about and are a part of your whole essence. Flaws aren’t shiny but are made of something whole and pure.

Perfection should be shunned. Flaws should be celebrated.

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More Tips on Accepting Your Flaws

Featured photo credit: Nihal Demirci via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Daniel Riley

Daniel is a writer who specialises in personal development and helping others become the best version of themselves.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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