The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise. – Alden Nowlan
Since you’re reading The BridgeMaker, I suspect you’re a thoughtful and reflective individual wanting to become the person that you know, deep down, you can be. Perhaps this is a realisation that’s arisen gradually – or perhaps a specific experience has encouraged you to look at your life for a different perspective.
Over the past few years, I’ve become more and more interested in personal development and growth. I’ve always had an interest in trying to “do my best” and to become a better, more patient, more loving, more joyful person.
There are times, though, when I feel like I’m going nowhere: when I find myself stressed and feeling as though I lack control in my own life. I have a huge amount of freedom over my schedule – but I still sometimes end up crowding out the things that are important: reflective time; my boyfriend; my fiction writing. It’s all too easy to become self-critical: after all, I read inspirational and practical material each day, and I even write for a number of blogs on personal development and self-improvement topics.
So why don’t I have it all sorted? Why don’t I feel unending joy when I’m working towards my goals? Am I just wasting my time trying to nurture that little seed of the person I believe I can become?
No-One Has a Perfect Life
Depending on which blogs and magazines you read, which television programs you watch and who you follow on Twitter, you might think that all the people you look up to have perfect lives. Perhaps they never seem to get irritable or stressed. Perhaps they run a successful business. Perhaps they’ve written several published novels.
It’s taken me a bit of time to realise that no-one has a perfect life – it’s just that few of them admit it! I was comforted to read words from three brave souls who don’t try to pretend that they always have everything sorted.
Tim admitted that life coaches aren’t perfect and don’t always have it all together:
[The life coaching industry] is full of people with flaws, people that make mistakes, have imperfect lives and worst of all, have multiple-personalities. In short, it’s populated by a bunch of nut jobs, and yes, I’m one of them. – Tim Brownson, Is Life Coaching a Scam, The Discomfort Zone
Naomi wrote about a really crappy day:
Now, I well and truly lose it. The weeks of virtually non-existent internet access, the disappointed customers, no phone, no clean clothes, missing my mother horribly, it all comes crashing in. I am standing on Yonge Street, crying my eyes out. My shoes are soaked from the rain and the dirt that is perpetually coating my skin is mixing with sweat and raindrops and rendering my eyes useless. I am crying so hard I can barely breathe. – Naomi Dunford, This Just In: Entrepreneurship Makes You Impotent, IttyBiz
And even Charlie has an unproductive morning once in a while:
I wasted three hours coming up with solutions to problems I really didn’t have. Three hours, when I look at what my creative time is worth, converts to at least $300. Furthermore, it’s not like it was just thirty minutes – there are a lot of things I could have completed in that three hours: a pillar post; a guest post; a few sections of the thing I’m working on; a new design; one of the books I’m most of the way through; that FAQ about my coaching service that I’ve been meaning to write. – Charlie Gilkey, One of Those Days (Episode One), Productive Flourishing
How to be Imperfect and Happy
I’m learning to accept that my life is a journey and that as I learn and grow, I’ll find bigger and deeper possibilities. There’s never going to be a time when I’ll be able to say “Right, that’s it, I’m perfect now. There’s no more work to do.” Frankly, if I did get to that point, I think the rest of my life would be pretty dull!
So I’m finding ways to be happy about my imperfections, to accept that my life is a work-in-progress. Things that have helped me, and which might help you, are:
Accepting What I Have Accomplished
If I look back over several years, I can see that I’ve come a long way in many areas of my life. I eat much more healthily (and am a healthy weight as a result); I exercise regularly; I’m a lot more confident; I’m much more self-disciplined.
What have you accomplished over the past three years? How have you changed and grown?
See Yourself as a Friend
This one might need a bit of explaining. Ten years ago, as a young teen, I came across a few words in a how-to-write book that helped me turn around a lot of negative self-talk. In response to the common writer’s fear that “I’m not good enough”, Watts wrote:
If there was somebody else with exactly the same qualities as yourself, would you dismiss them thus? If not, what gives you the right to judge yourself by a different criteria? – Nigel Watts, Teach Yourself: Writing a Novel and Getting Published
Since then, when I find myself thinking “I’m not good enough”, I try to think objectively about it. If I had a friend with the same ambitions and qualities, I’d be encouraging them all the way … and there’s no reason I should treat myself any differently.
Give It Time
I’m the sort of person who likes things to happen quickly. “Patience” is definitely something I need to work on! But I’m learning that the most important things in life take time – and often multiple efforts. It takes time to re-establish a neglected relationship. It takes time to fully adopt new habits.
Give yourself time, and give yourself the kindness and support that you’d offer to a friend. Recognise that you are making progress, and that you are simply human, loved and unique, like us all, in your imperfections.