Several years ago, I was sitting in my therapist’s office for our weekly meeting.
At the time, I was working on coping with and processing my father’s death many years prior.
When he died, I did something that I now recognize as unhealthy.
I refused to remember any flaws that he had and I vowed to only remember the good memories and good aspects of who he was.
In doing so, I chose to push under the rug a lot of the pain he caused me in childhood and through his struggle with, and eventual death from, alcohol addiction.
At the time of his death, my coping strategy was simple:
Remember him only as a Saint-like being.
Years later, I started seeing a therapist.
Week after week, I worked with my therapist to dig up and process this lifetime of repressed pain. Again and again, I was confronted with having to accept that my father was not at all the Saint that I wanted to remember him to be.
He had good qualities, yes.
But he also had flaws.
That afternoon, my therapist paused, and said to me,
“Sarah, each person is comprised of both good and bad parts. It’s balance. No one is perfect. Everyone must have flaws to even out the great parts. You have flaws, I have flaws, we all do. It’s what makes us whole.”
My homework assignment that evening was to identify the balance within my father. To write out both the things that made him great, and the things that made him not so great.
I had to rebuild my memory of who he was, and when I did, I realized not much had changed.
When I identified flaws, I didn’t immediately turn him into a villain. In fact, quite the opposite. I saw instead that he was a man trying to do his best, despite obstacles.
There’s value in learning to acknowledge and accept flaws, both in yourself and in others.
At first, it’s easier to begin acknowledging and accepting the flaws of those around you, the people that you love, in order to gain a more complete understanding of their experience and struggle.
But soon, there comes a time when you need to turn within.
In order to love yourself, you must love all parts of yourself. You must love the balanced being that you are - both the great parts, and the not so great parts.
In healing circles, this is often called shadow work. It’s looking into your shadow self. The part that you’d rather not examine, the opposite of that which you consider your greatest aspects.
We’re both Light and Dark.
We’re both flawless and flawed.
This is what makes us whole.
And to love the whole self, we must love it all.
We must find value in all parts of who we are - and this is the importance of accepting both our great assets, and those aspects of us that we perceive as flawed.
When we begin to integrate acceptance of our whole self into our sphere of what is okay to love, we realize that it’s okay to love it all.
We realize, just like I realized with my dad, that flaws don’t make anyone unlovable.
Flaws make you real. Flaws make you human. Flaws make you balanced.
How can you start accepting your flaws?
Loving yourself completely only comes when you accept yourself completely.
To do that, it’s important to realize what parts of you are in need of acceptance.
You need to bring it outside of yourself and in front of your eyes in a tangible way.
Step 1. Make a List.
Two Columns, One Paper.
At the top of one column, write: “Assets”
At the top of the other column, write: “Flaws”
And start writing and filling in the columns with those things you perceive as Assets and those you perceive as Flaws.
Step 2. Integrate
As you write, begin to think of matching points in the assets and flaws columns. Find areas of balance.
For example, for me a flaw might be: I talk too fast and with too much voice inflection.
A matching asset could be: My voice is an artifact of being raised in New Jersey, a childhood that without it, I may not have the quick wit and humor that I do now.
Boom. Flaw matched with an asset.
If you can’t do this while you write, it’s essential that you come back to the list later, and examine your flaws.
In what ways can you turn them into positive aspects of you? Things that make you a unique and special individual?
This is the process of integration. As you do this, and transform your flaws into acceptable aspects of you worth being respected and valued, you heal.
You become whole.
Imagine that the assets are vanilla ice cream and that the flaws are chocolate, or any other great flavor.
Right now, the flavors are in 2 separate dishes. Perhaps the vanilla is now favored over the chocolate, and then, the vanilla gets eaten and adored, while the chocolate withers away.
The chocolate is no less respectable of a flavor, but in a separate dish, apart from the vanilla, it’s hard even to eat both bowls and appreciate both flavors for what they are.
When you integrate your flaws into the you that you consider to be acceptable and valuable, you create the ice cream masterpiece that is the vanilla and chocolate swirl cone.
You create balance. Both parts become adored, gobbled up, and respected. Nothing is wasted, no part of you withers. All parts are valuable.
Accepting and welcoming your flaws is essential to overcoming your insecurities and healing deep aspects of yourself and pain that may have arisen from your own self-criticism and the criticism of others.
It’s essential to be happy with who you are as a whole, balanced person and loving yourself, flaws and all.
LAST UPDATED: April 12, 2015