MARCH 2017: Imperfection

Greetings, All! Hope you're having a great day, because we’re about to talk about how awful we all are!

This is because March’s theme will be Imperfection, which is a subject I both love and loathe.

In the years I battled anxiety and depression, I was riddled with insecurities. I have always been an overachiever; to me, perfection was not the goal, it was the standard. In everything I pursued as a teen, whether it was theatre, a school project, a relationship, or a competition, I was never satisfied with being average. Everything needed to be meticulously rehearsed. Although my need for perfection has granted me many highs, it has also been the cause for almost all of my lows.

For example, I have been insecure about my looks since I was nine years old. I remember looking around my fourth grade classroom and thinking, “How is everyone so effortless? Why am I so unnatural?” These thoughts entered my brain constantly, and the only way I could silence them was through achievement. So, I aced every test, hit every note, won every contest. For awhile, I felt full--but sooner or later, it wasn’t enough, and the cycle would repeat. Not only that, but after I began winning, loss became unbearable. To this day, I do not handle failure maturely; something as simple as losing a contest can crush me for weeks and kill confidence that took years to build. While I do try to learn from my mistakes, I am incredibly self-critical. When perfection becomes the standard, failure is not an option. So every time I suffered a loss, I felt more like a failure--and therefore, more insecure.

But I am not the only person who experiences a fear of flaws. For most teens, insecurity is a part of everyday life. In a time where everything is changing--our bodies, minds, and lifestyles--it can sometimes feel like a competition to see who can be the prettiest, the smartest, the most “put together”. It becomes a balancing act of pretending to be someone we aren’t while trying to find who we really are.

What’s particularly frustrating about insecurity is that there’s no age where these feelings magically disappear; adults can feel inadequate too. We often try to hide our flaws by checking off the boxes of life (marriage, homeownership, career success). But under the mask of achievement often lies fear, self-doubt, and unresolved conflicts. We continue the balancing act of overcompensation and invalidation, setting a negative example for our teens. We need to ask ourselves, how do we make flaws not only acceptable, but welcomed among people of all ages? How do we stop pretending? How do we take off the masks?

As I mentioned, I both love and loathe imperfection. I loathe it because of how terrifying, annoying, and devastating it can be. But I love it, because when I learned to own my flaws, I learned to love myself. Through my speaking career, I’ve made the bold and brutal move to tell thousands of people about my biggest flaws. But instead of being met with rejection, my audiences grant me the warmest empathy, time and time again. They see the parts of myself that are messy, wounded, and anxious, and they still love me nonetheless.

And I think the reason this happens is because at heart, everyone is a little messy, wounded, and anxious. We all have skeletons in our closets, but I’ve found that the best way to let people in is to open the door as wide as we can. We must show others our true, imperfect, honest selves, and tell the world, “here I am.” This is no easy feat, because being honest means leaving our comfort zones. It means doing scary things. But the only thing scarier than leaving your comfort zone is realizing you’ve spent your entire life as someone else.

So this month, I invite all of you to find the Joy of Realness. We’re going to be our imperfect, messy, awkward, awful selves and we’re going to embrace it. And the first way we’re going to do that is to realize that flaws are not wrongs. Flaws are normal. To quote my own TED Talk (my first flaw: narcissism): “No one is perfect, thus no one could relate to a perfect person--but everyone has flaws”. This month we will realize that it’s okay to be a little rough around the edges, because chances are, everyone else is too.

The next way we’ll embrace our flaws is by practicing honesty.To me, honesty is the root of all problem-solving, and problem-solving is the root of all happiness. You want a friend? Tell them who you really are. You want confidence? Tell yourself what you really need. You want love? Tell them how you really feel. If you learn to solve problems by being honest with yourself and others, the result is a happier, more fulfilling, funner life. Happiness is a by-product of honesty--that's what I believe, anyway. I believe in speaking up for what we need and admitting when we are wrong.

The final way we will learn to embrace our flaws is by admitting them. I was recently reading the masterpiece that is Glennon Doyle Melton’s blog, Momastery, when I decided to flip to her very first post. In that post, Glennon shared 25 things about herself that were both beautiful and brutal--some people may refer to a few of them as flaws.

Much like Glennon’s first post, today I would like to share some things about myself today. The catch is that all of these things are flaws. But this is not a pity party--this is me being honest with you. I'm hoping that by telling you who I really am, you will open yourselves to me. This blog is a place where people should feel open to share anything and to be free from judgement. I’m hoping by making myself vulnerable to you, you will be inspired to share your own imperfections not just here, but in the world outside this screen. Because it’s not just about having flaws--it’s about overcoming the flaws that make us insecure, and the first step to overcoming any problem is admitting that there is a problem. From there, you can do so many things--but if the first step is never taken, you can never start the journey.

So, put your walking shoes on, because we’re starting now.

It’s time to be proud losers and hold the Flaw Flag high! Let’s admit our icky selves to each other in hopes of becoming shinier, cleaner, brighter people. I’ll volunteer as the first tribute.

Without further ado, here are some Awful Things About Me:

  1. I have a narcissistic side. This is something I have worked on A LOT through the years, but occasionally I still find myself being egotistical in my own head.

  2. When I'm not narcissistic, I am incredibly insecure. I freak out about my weight, my skin, my jawline, my teeth. I’m an advocate for loving oneself, yet many days, I do not love myself. There’s a lot of cruel irony in this crazy world.

  3. I’m getting progressively worse at college, and if I could, I’d drop out and make writing and speaking my full-time job. But right now I don’t have the finances or enough paying gigs lined up to make a decision like that.

  4. I worry way too much about running out of money. I have to remind myself constantly that most of the world is hungry, and I’m warm, well-fed, and educated, and that I should be grateful to even have money to worry about rather than being scared of not having any.

  5. I’m very self-conscious about the fact that I’m twenty and have never been in a long-term relationship. More on my tragedy of a romantic life to come!

  6. When I’m nervous, I get short with people. And I get nervous a lot.

  7. I regularly bite off more than I can chew for the sake of looking smart and then freak out when the workload is too heavy and end up quitting the project. A big part of me learning how to be happy is learning that I don’t need to be the leader of everything, and that I don’t need to try to prove my intelligence by taking on too many responsibilities. Still, I’m currently working on quitting at least two extracurricular activities I got involved with last semester.

  8. I date the wrong people.

  9. I break up with those people, feel empowered for a while, start missing them, get depressed over them, and then date them again. This has happened more than once. More than twice even. Three times. With separate people.

  10. By dating and re-dating the wrong people, I’ve brought a lot of emotional pain and mental distress onto myself. Re-watch my TED Talk for proof. I’ve let people hurt me a lot more than I should have. And in return, I’ve hurt people too. I’m trying to teach myself that part of loving someone else is learning to love myself, and I hate making excuses, but I’m nineteen, and sometimes I act really stupid. I tell myself that someone is perfect, that I’m the weird one, or that whatever they’re doing is okay even if it’s hurting me. Or, I do all of that to them. Or I allow my mental illness to twist my thoughts to where I can’t be with someone anymore. I have a problem finding a balance between dominance, submission, and self-respect in romantic relationships. And just like everything else on this list, I’m working on it. I have to remind myself that I’m in no rush to find the love of my life (even though I wouldn’t mind if he got here soon). Enough about dating--that’s the last of it, I promise!

  11. I am easily discouraged by criticism or rejection.

  12. I’ve pretended to like certain TV shows, music, and movies just to get people to like me. I’ve also never seen Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The Goonies, Doctor Who, and I can’t get into Friends, The Walking Dead, the Big Bang Theory, or Game of Thrones. I don’t really consider these things to be wrong, but every time I admit it, somebody yells, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!”, so I’m gonna put it here. Trust me, I have tried, but the fantasy and friend-y sitcom genres are just not for me. I apologize for not partaking in certain cultural phenomena. On the other hand, if you’d like to talk in-depth about The Office, The Shining, Swan Lake, Ned Vizzini, or Silver Linings Playbook, I’m your girl!

  13. I had a hard time writing this list because I like myself more than I probably should. I guess this goes back to narcissism, and I hate myself for that. I really hate how much I love myself, but I hate hating myself, and basically my life is this weird cycle of feeling guilty over my ego and then realizing it’s not an ego, it’s just self-respect, and then feeling like I sound arrogant all the time. (I’m really sorry about all this.)

  14. I get really lazy and unmotivated when it comes to writing even though it’s what I need to survive. Words give me life. I’ve loved a lot of different things and looked at a lot of different career paths, but writing has always been the constant love of my life. Sentences hold me together when I’m ripping down the middle. But I’m insecure about my writing. I overuse certain words, I get paranoid about being cliche or not having enough imagery, or I only write short-term projects because I get too bored to carry on with the same characters forever. I don’t even like to write about characters! I like to write about me! And that, again, makes me feel self-centered. But it’s not just about myself, it’s about what I learn and how I hope others can learn from my own experiences. I really am doing this for the good of the world, and I get worried that people read my work and think otherwise. Writing is wonderful, but God dammit, it’s hard--it’s draining and I honestly hate the process sometimes, but the product is what I live for, and when it turns out good, I’m reminded why I put myself through the stress and anxiety of creating each work. Because it is beautiful, it makes sense to me, and it brings me joy.

I think it’s funny how I try to end on a positive note even when I talk about negative things, like flaws. But I guess I’m okay with that, because I don’t like to leave sourly. And you know what? I’m really okay with everything on this list. I struggle with lots of them every single day, but I’ve accepted that I’m a bit of a hot mess. I think we all are--hot messes, that is. That’s why I’m okay with it. I don’t expect anyone I meet to be perfect--so why should I expect it of myself? This is something that took me twenty years to figure out, but it’s a principle I now practice in life and preach to my audiences. Yes, flaws suck. Being wrong sucks. But we can’t be happy until we learn to accept ourselves. This message is repeated to us over and over again on Oprah, in books, from our mothers--but that’s because it’s true. When we start believing we are adequate just the way we are, we can start focusing on the real beauty of life. So let’s shift our focus now, and forget about our flaws--know that you are always enough, always adequate, and always needed in the world. Always.

That’s all for today, my fellow hot messes. Have an A+ Day!

- Amanda


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