The Beautiful Imperfection of Being Human

The Beautiful Imperfection of Being Human

Being human is complicated. Even if we came with a set of instructions, seriously, who would read them.  This is a good thing. The only way to do ‘human’ is in our very own way. It is the imperfect things we do, and we all do them, that are such an essential part of being human. We don’t want to lose them, as much as they might roll us from time to time. 

They are the vulnerabilities that exist at our edges with a realness and a rawness that can feel overwhelming at times. It is easy to feel as though we are the only ones who wade in the messiness of them all but we’re not. We never are. We might do them at different intensities and with different impacts and levels of awareness, but we all do them. It is the beautifully imperfect art of being perfectly human. Here are ten of the plenty. 

  1. We are all scared of something.

    Spiders. Snakes. People who act like snakes. Bad dreams. No dreams. And the big one – loss. Loss of love. Loss of the people we love. Loss of hope. Loss of health. Loss of life. The closer we get to fear, the braver we get. The only way not to be scared of anything is to shrink away from challenge or risk or anything else that has courage as an essential ingredient. There will be times to retreat from fear to somewhere tender and bundled, and there will be times that the only way through will be fiercely through the middle. At some point, most likely many points, we are all faced with the decision.

  2. We all feel insecure sometimes.

    Our insecurities are as much a part of our human-ness as breathing and owning a kidney. Sometimes our insecurities will take our voice, our power and our balance. But they don’t have to. The more we can own them and acknowledge them, the more we can soothe them back to small enough. The experience of insecurity is what fuels our empathy, our compassion and our realness. We ‘get it’ when we see it in others because that vulnerability happens to us too. But our insecurities have a dark side. They can also make us arrogant, brash and toxic. The difference lies in our awareness and how open we are to their existence. Think of it like being in a dark room full of ‘stuff’. You’re going to bump into things. You’re going to bruise and buckle. Eventually you might stop feeling anything at all. When you turn on the light none of the ‘stuff’ disappears – the insecurities are still there – but you can navigate around them without tripping.

  3. We will all feel the pain of a broken heart.

    What a cruel thing it is that the very thing that catapults us to dizzying, glorious heights can turn on us so quickly and have us feeling as though we have been dropped into a vat of toxic junkyard waste. Humans love love but it doesn’t always love us back the way we want it to. There are so many ways to a broken heart, and we will experience at least one of them. The person we love who doesn’t love us back. The deep but forbidden love. The love that has run its course. A broken heart is devastating. It does something to all of us that makes simple, everyday life things feel too hard for a while. As in ‘splitting an atom with a chainsaw’ too hard. A broken heart isn’t the exclusive territory of the one who is left. Sometimes love just isn’t enough and for other reasons, relationships end. Whatever the reason, and whatever your role, it hurts. It’s deep and it’s lonely and it’s one of the worst parts of being human. 

  4. We have experienced a loss that has changed our normal.

    Loss changes people. We’re talking about big loss. Irreplaceable, soul-clenching, heartbreaking loss. Whether it’s a person, a love, a career or something else entirely, the gap between the old normal and the new normal is excruciating. Loss might deliver itself under the guise of ‘making us stronger’, and though it might, there is some pain is not worth anything that comes from it. We might learn the strength of the human spirit. We might grow. We might learn about resilience, kindness, compassion. But there is some loss that, for the rest of forever, we would trade everything and anything for things to go back to the way they were. 

  5. We will be disappointed by the people we love.

    Every relationship has a make it or break it point. Something that will tip us towards being angry, sad and forgiving, or being angry, sad and done. The difference between a good relationship or friendship and a bad one is how we feel on balance, and whether it feels good more than it feels bad. People will make mistakes. One of the greatest ways to sabotage people is to refuse to let go of the mistake. At some point, for the sake of the relationship we need to decide whether to let go of the relationship or to let go of the hurt that has come from the mistake. The two will have trouble existing together. 

  6. And we will disappoint them.

    We judge. We criticise. We shame. We hurt the people we love. We get it wrong. Sometimes the ‘wrongness’ of what we do is volcanic. It is so important to invest in our relationships when we can. Ultimately, inevitably, there will be times we need to draw on the bank of goodwill, good feelings, good heart and good history. We all have it in us to be jerks – the breakage that comes with that often comes down to a question of intensity and regularity and our own willingness to respond to the damage that has spilled from our not-so-adorable moments. 

  7. We will compare ourselves to others. For better or worse. 

    The tendency to compare ourselves to others is in all of us, but some of us will do it more. Comparison doesn’t need to be unhealthy but it can be. It can clue us in to how we’re doing, how we could be better, what we need more of or less of. Sometimes it can be easier to see truths when we see them being worn by someone else. We can’t do everything. There will always be someone with more of something we want. This can motivate us, inspire us or suffocate us. Whether comparison grows us or grinds us is ultimately our decision to make. 

  8. We will have our secrets.

    Secrets don’t always mean deception. Sometimes secrets are like a playground where we indulge our fantasies and keep the frailties of us safe and hidden until their ready enough to stand out there on their own. Whether it’s the dream you’re working towards, the friend you’re madly in love with, the things that wake you at 2am, the stuttering ache you have to leave your relationship or your job, your guilts, shames, regrets – whatever it is, we all have a them. Secrets don’t have to cause breakage, but they can chew away at intimacy or the capacity to move on, depending on what the secret is and the force with which it pushes to come out.

  9. We will have our regrets.

    The adventure we said no to. The person we didn’t kiss. The job we didn’t go for. The move we didn’t make. The person we chose as forever. The career we locked ourselves to. The city that is clawing at our spirit. Regret happens because time changes reality. It gives us knowledge we didn’t have and the opportunity to experience the path we decided on. The problem is that we can generally only experience one path at a time. Time has a way of polishing the alternative path until it sparkles. 

  10. We have all been ‘that’ person to someone.

    We have all been that person that someone can’t stop thinking about. We won’t always know about it though. Whether it’s because of the unforgettableness of a moment, the rare and inexplicable combination of us and another, something we said, something we did something we were. The point is that we all have the power to influence and to leave a mark. It can be good. Or not so good. 

Being human is a beautiful messy business and we are beautiful, messy beings. The sooner we can own our own imperfections, the sooner we can stop judging and honing in on the imperfections in others. There is a calm and a sweet relief that will come from this. We’re not perfect. We’re not even close. What we are is enough. So much more than enough.

12 Comments

wendy Pachter

Wonderful and insightful. Written from the heart. Thank you for writing about being human…in a “human way”.

Reply
Sophie

Your article was just what I needed to read right now with lots of change happening in my life. You have helped me to see straight and relax with my decisions. Many thanks! Sophie.

Reply
david

Thanks to a beautiful person.

“There is a calm and a sweet relief that will come from this. We’re not perfect. We’re not even close. What we are is enough. So much more than enough.”

this is where I am so much. I have finally arrived. the road feels smooth now, after all the pot holes.

Thanks my dear perfect imperfect human.

Reply
Kat

One of the most beautiful articles ever written regarding the human condition. Thank you for reminding me of so many things.

Reply
Alice

Beautifully said. I love this phrase “Time has a way of polishing the alternative path until it sparkles. ” … This article resonated with me and spoke to all our whole being. Thank you!

Reply
Turenne

I used to feel like I am two in one. One who is very fine with just who I am the way I am from the inside. One who needs to be perfect for the outside in order to feel loved and accepted. I’m well in finding my way out to show up always, with whoever and wherever with my only unique and beautiful imperfect self.

I enjoyed reading this article. It’s like chatting with a friend about real things and knowing and learning and affirming that, hey, we are OK!

Thanks Karen!

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Sometimes needs will come into being like falling stars - gently fading in and fading out. Sometimes they will happen like meteors - crashing through the air with force and fury. But they won’t always look like needs. Often they will look like big, unreachable, unfathomable behaviour. 

If needs and feelings are too big for words, they will speak through behaviour. Behaviour is the language of needs and feelings, and it is always a call for us to come closer. Big feelings happen as a way to recruit support to help carry an emotional load that feels too big for our kids and teens. We can help with this load by being a strong, calm, loving presence, and making space for that feeling or need to be ‘heard’. 

When big behaviour or big feelings are happening, whenever you can be curious about the need behind it. There will always be a valid one. Meet them where they without needing them to be different. Breathe, validate, and be with, and you don’t need to do more than that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days and some things are rubbish, and that sometimes those days and things last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. 

But the learning comes from experience. They can’t learn to manage big feelings unless they have big feelings. They can’t learn to read the needs behind their feelings if they don’t have the space to let those big feelings come back to small enough so the needs behind them can step forward. 

When their world has spikes, and when we give them a soft space to ‘be’, we ventilate their world. We help them find room for their out breath, and for influence, and for their wisdom to grow from their experiences and ours. In the end we have no choice. They will always be stronger and bigger and wiser and braver when they are with you, than when they are without. It’s just how it is.♥️
When kids or teens have big feelings, what they need more than anything is our strong, safe, loving presence. In those moments, it’s less about what we do in response to those big feelings, and more about who we are. Think of this like providing a shelter and gentle guidance for their distressed nervous system to help it find its way home, back to calm. 

Big feelings are the way the brain calls for support. It’s as though it’s saying, ‘This emotional load is too big for me to carry on my own. Can you help me carry it?’ 

Every time we meet them where they are, with a calm loving presence, we help those big feelings back to small enough. We help them carry the emotional load and build the emotional (neural) muscle for them to eventually be able to do it on their own. We strengthen the neural pathways between big feelings and calm, over and over, until that pathway is so clear and so strong, they can walk it on their own. 

Big beautiful neural pathways will let them do big, beautiful things - courage, resilience, independence, self regulation. Those pathways are only built through experience, so before children and teens can do any of this on their own, they’ll have to walk the pathway plenty of times with a strong, calm loving adult. Self-regulation only comes from many experiences of co-regulation. 

When they are calm and connected to us, then we can have the conversations that are growthful for them - ‘Can you help me understand what happened?’ ‘What can help you so this differently next time?’ ‘How can you put things right? Do you need my help to do that?’ We grow them by ‘doing with’ them♥️
Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare

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