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perfect imperfection

Perfect Imperfections: Can You Love Them?

When I’m dissatisfied with someone, I can often trace the feeling to a dissatisfaction with myself.

So, if I could truly love myself, would I more easily love those around me?

perfect imperfection

What I Get From My Dad

I’m critical. I get that from my dad. He always wants to make things better — a good trait. But here’s what would happen when I showed him a school project or essay. He’d look at it or read it over, tell me it was wonderful, and then come up with 3 ways to improve it.

And at the same time, he’s my biggest cheerleader.

What I Get From My Mom

My mom, on the other hand, is a supermodel for loving unconditionally. She always acts as if my sisters and I are three of the seven wonders of the world, exactly as we are, in whatever we are doing. Even though she doesn’t give advice, we always find answers to problems when we bring them to her. She gives the space and confidence to solve our own problems, which we feel empowered to do.

I suppose both my dad’s and my mom’s way of loving have made me a mostly-functioning and mostly-happy adult. I’m grateful to both.

What If?

What if I could love myself wholly and unconditionally? Would that help me love others more fully? I love two people, and they love two people, and they love two people…and so on. Here’s what I can do to start a love chain.

  • I love my hair — even the wave.
  • I love my green eyes, with one of them being nearsighted and the other farsighted.
  • I love my skin, the way it protects me and heals.
  • I love my mouth, the way it experiences and expresses.
  • I love my arms. They embrace my loved ones and amaze me with their strength.
  • I love my stomach. I love the way the organs inside nourish me.
  • I love my heart. It loves well and causes flow for the rest of me.
  • I love my lungs. With them I bring in life force and release all that no longer serves me.
  • I love my tushy. (This is admittedly hard to type.)
  • I love my legs. The support me and move me forward.
  • I love my height and weight.  (Breathe.)
  • I love myself.

What imperfection about yourself can you declare your love for?

More on Perfectionism

Image courtesy HeatherandLace via Creative Commons 3.0.

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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18 Responses

  1. Real big disagreement with the premise here; my experience with people dating back to having been the object of bullying in Jr. High is that it is not lack of self-love that makes people not loving and cruel to others, it is lack of empathy for anyone but oneself. Sometimes there is plenty of self-love, with no real feeling left over for anyone else. This smacks of blaming the victim for not perfectly loving everyone, rather than recognizing real abuse from some people who are perfectly fond of themselves.

    The narcissists I have known abundantly love everything about themselves and feel that entitles them to the obedience of others who exist as minor players in the drama of which they are the star.

    There is nothing wrong with improving one’s own self-esteem by not hating things about oneself that cannot be changed, but I really do not see this translating to loving others or even being kinder to others. These are two very separate issues.

    Also, about those traits we are less than delighted with about our physical appearance, I would say acceptance is a more realistic goal than love, and just on a practical level, learn to emphasize the strong points, pretty eyes for example or great legs, and play down the not so pretty, fat butt or limp hair. Do the best you can with what you have, then let it go, as nobody is perfect. You do not have dwell on what is less than perfect, but you do not have to love it either, nor do you actually have to love people you do not like; just have to treat them with respect as human beings, and do no harm. I do not think it possible to either love everything about oneself or to actually love everyone you meet in a meaningful way. Sometimes “tolerate” or get out of the way is the best one can do. But then, I am not aspiring to sainthood, just trying to live a decent life.

  2. I can see Maryanne’s point, but I also see your’s. I’ve had many a mentor who has pushed me to improve on things solely because they want me to succeed so badly. It does come from a place of love. Just as bullying comes from a place of hate.

    But we also need to remember that there is a fine line between love and hate, thus drawing criticism is having someone care enough to feel the need to offer it. That’s worth acknowledging.

    And I’ve met many a narcissist. They may pretend that they are perfection, but one needs to realize that it comes from a place filled with overwhelming self-doubt and hatred. Narcissists are not at peace, hence why they criticize. It a very awful existence.

    Finally, I’m working on the self-love. Making peace with a body that is less than perfect. Acceptance is the goal at the moment. But you are right about seeing the good. Otherwise the drive to change can be overwhelming.

  3. I think people that judge themselves harshly also tend to judge others harshly, and people who are self-accepting (I don’t mean self-absorbed or narcissistic) tend to cut others slack as well. It’s definitely been true in my own life.

  4. Christy, I am not talking about constructive criticism which can indeed come from a place of love and concern, even when it it upsetting to hear at the time. When it comes to real bullying, there is no “close line of love and hate”. It is all about power and control, like rape which is not really about sex and has nothing to do with love.

    I read somewhere about a study of bullies that they were not deficient in self esteem, they were not miserable; they just got pleasure out of frightening and humiliating others. Nor do I believe true narcissists are “filled with self-doubt and hatred”. The only thing that upsets them is being thwarted in getting everything they feel they are entitled to, and not being the center of attention at all times. Like a certain very popular political candidate at the moment:-) Generally they are very much pleased with themselves, and really do not care how others feel or how their actions affect others.

    Perhaps loving oneself more can help in dealing with these toxic people, mostly be avoiding them and not getting sucked into their games, but it will not change the bullies or narcissists one bit.

  5. Maybe, when it comes to how one treats oneself and others, respect is more important than love. Also perhaps, harder to achieve.

  6. I do think it’s interesting that the people I struggle with the most are people who remind me of things I dislike about myself. We share this same, unwanted trait, and my instinct is to push them away in order to also get away from that trait that I dislike in my own self (since I can’t run from myself). That said, I will throw in there that I am trying to like my voice. It is something I’ve always been self-conscious of and I’m reminding myself to love it because it also helps me to convey ideas.

  7. When my husband is being particularly unfair (hypercritical, etc) and I call him on it, he uses this as an excuse (he may be hard on me, but he’s harder on himself). I don’t buy it. So I lean more towards Maryanne’s view – not loving yourself is not necessarily connected to how you treat others. I seem to see more of the opposite – people with extremely low self-esteem go out of their way to be liked by others. They’re happy with even the slightest hint of approval.

    On the other hand, I do not suffer from self-esteem issues. I am very confident in myself and I’m incredibly impatient with other peoples’ insecurities and issues. I think that when you’re possessed of an abundance of confidence, you end up the opposite of Mel. Things that you do easily (things like arriving on time) that other people can’t seem to manage irritate you beyond measure.

    To me, there’s nothing wrong with being dissatisfied with other people. It’s how you express that dissatisfaction that affects relationships.

  8. Thinking more about this subject, I think I am the opposite and tend to have more sympathy for people who remind me of the things I do not like about myself, because I understand where they are coming from. An example, I do not like that I have always been sloppy and disorganized, it is a huge effort to keep things in order, and not an effort I often make. So I tend to cut other messy people a lot of slack, but be annoyed/intimidated by the hyper-neat kind of person. So when I find I am annoyed with someone it is not that I see the bad things about myself in the other, or feel particularly bad about myself and project it outward, but am annoyed by the things that are not like me, that I would not or could not do and do not understand the motivation for.

  9. I think loving the things about yourself that could be seen as flaws (and acknowledging the things that are points to be proud of) is a beautiful practice. Someone says something nice about my appearance and for some reason always follow it up with something crazy that’s unrelated but on the negative side. Ex: My mom said I looked way younger than 40, and I followed that up with “that’s because chubbiness fills in the wrinkles.” REALLY? Why couldn’t I just accept the compliment and say, “yes, thank you, I wear a lot of sunscreen and love my eye cream?” Argh. So I think self-love is a good thing, not for narcissism but for finding value in all of yourself.

    I like how Cristy said that critical words can come from a place of love — you want to help someone improve. Sometimes I hear criticism leaving my mouth when I talk to my husband and I cringe because I realize I’ve done more of that than complimenting. Interesting to think on your dad’s critical eye and your mom’s superpositivelove and how those two things came together to influence your take.

    I do think most bullies are struggling with issues of their own and they feel they need to break other people down in order to build themselves up, so it’s not necessarily that the person being bullied needs to love themselves more (although bullies find self-esteem weaknesses and exploit them), but that the bullies need to find a way to love themselves, too. This from a middle school teacher’s perspective.

    Lastly, some love declarations of my own — I love my laugh lines (the ones the chub didn’t fill) because they come from happy times. I (try real hard to) love my flubby middle because it means I enjoy cooking and eating good food with my husband (and he likes a curvy lady).

    And I love you (not an imperfection but I wanted to say it anyway!) — your honesty, your thoughts, your wisdom.

  10. Interesting conversation! At the risk of sounding wishy-washy, I think both things are true: that we have more patience with the small imperfections or differences of other people when we practice acceptance, but that there are some things that no amount of self-love and practice of acceptance will wish away … people still cause harm, even if we can find it in ourselves to forgive their faults. Bullies, unfortunately, so the research says, are people who have been left out at some point in their lives, feeling unloved. It would be nice to go back in time and undo all of that, but not always very possible. Sometimes we can make small headway before it’s too late.

    That said, those of us without an abundance of self-confidence (er, me?) would do well to engage in the practice. 🙂

  11. I love this post. I see self-love not as a narcissistic act, but as one of self-acceptance. I’ve worked hard on learning that. It has made me much more open and sympathetic to others. So for me at least, I see the truth in your post.

    I think I’d have to go and think about my imperfections – it might be hard to love any of them!

  12. I SO needed to read/hear this right now. I’m so frustrated with myself, for a myriad of reasons, and I’m finding it’s spilling over to those around me (much for the reasons Mel mentioned). Thank you for giving me a gentle reminder to rethink how I react to imperfections.

    So, in solidarity, I declare my love for my creativity. It doesn’t matter if a bazillion people took the same picture, or wrote the same ideas – no two snowflakes are exactly alike, after all.

    I also declare my love for this post, and your creativity as a whole – you are truly inspiring, Lori.

  13. I love my baby bump flap flab. I worked hard to get it!… And you know I always say what I truly believe… I can’t imagine a critical bone anywhere in your body… Not that you don’t strive for excellence but critical of others? Don’t see it… My parents (unconsciously I’m sure) –played that “not good enough” card all of the time too. “You got a 95 on your test?! That’s great. Maybe next time you’ll get 100%.” I always felt they were supportive with reservations. My father would never say he was proud of my work but then, when he retired to Florida, all of his friends at the pool would tell me how he always bragged about me. Apparently he carried a few of my newspaper articles in his pool bag so he could parade them around.

  14. I think that people who are happy and content with themselves will be healthy socially, emotionally, and physically. Having a logical and reasonable way of thinking is also essential. Also, if someone is having a hard time with some aspect of life, self-improvement and therapy are a good idea. If bullies got psychiatric counseling, the world would be a better place. I have seen too many people in my life stay mentally unhealthy, and it is extremely sad.

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