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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Growth doesn’t always announce itself in ways that feel safe or invited. Often, it can leave us exhausted and confused and with dirt in our pores from the fury of the battle. It is this way for all of us, our children too. 

The truth of it all is that we are all born with a profound and immense capacity to rise through challenges, changes and heartache. There is something else we are born with too, and it is the capacity to add softness, strength, and safety for each other when the movement towards growth feels too big. Not always by finding the answer, but by being it - just by being - safe, warm, vulnerable, real. As it turns out, sometimes, this is the richest source of growth for all of us.
When the world feel sunsettled, the ripple can reach the hearts, minds and spirits of kids and teens whether or not they are directly affected. As the important adult in the life of any child or teen, you have a profound capacity to give them what they need to steady their world again.

When their fears are really big, such as the death of a parent, being alone in the world, being separated from people they love, children might put this into something else. 

This can also happen because they can’t always articulate the fear. Emotional ‘experiences’ don’t lay in the brain as words, they lay down as images and sensory experiences. This is why smells and sounds can trigger anxiety, even if they aren’t connected to a scary experience. The ‘experiences’ also don’t need to be theirs. Hearing ‘about’ is enough.

The content of the fear might seem irrational but the feeling will be valid. Think of it as the feeling being the part that needs you. Their anxiety, sadness, anger (which happens to hold down other more vulnerable emotions) needs to be seen, held, contained and soothed, so they can feel safe again - and you have so much power to make that happen. 

‘I can see how worried you are. There are some big things happening in the world at the moment, but my darling, you are safe. I promise. You are so safe.’ 

If they have been through something big, the truth is that they have been through something frightening AND they are safe, ‘We’re going through some big things and it can be confusing and scary. We’ll get through this. It’s okay to feel scared or sad or angry. Whatever you feel is okay, and I’m here and I love you and we are safe. We can get through anything together.’
I love being a parent. I love it with every part of my being and more than I ever thought I could love anything. Honestly though, nothing has brought out my insecurities or vulnerabilities as much. This is so normal. Confusing, and normal. 

However many children we have, and whatever age they are, each child and each new stage will bring something new for us to learn. It will always be this way. Our children will each do life differently, and along the way we will need to adapt and bend ourselves around their path to light their way as best we can. But we won't do this perfectly, because we can't always know what mountains they'll need to climb, or what dragons they'll need to slay. We won't always know what they’ll need, and we won't always be able to give it. We don't need to. But we'll want to. Sometimes we’ll ache because of this and we’ll blame ourselves for not being ‘enough’. Sometimes we won't. This is the vulnerability that comes with parenting. 

We love them so much, and that never changes, but the way we feel about parenting might change a thousand times before breakfast. Parenting is tough. It's worth every second - every second - but it's tough. Great parents can feel everything, and sometimes it can turn from moment to moment - loving, furious, resentful, compassionate, gentle, tough, joyful, selfish, confused and wise - all of it. Great parents can feel all of it.

Because parenting is pure joy, but not always. We are strong, nurturing, selfless, loving, but not always. Parents aren't perfect. Love isn't perfect. And it was meant to be. We’re raising humans - real ones, with feelings, who don't need to be perfect, and wont  need others to be perfect. Humans who can be kind to others, and to themselves first. But they will learn this from us. Parenting is the role which needs us to be our most human, beautifully imperfect, flawed, vulnerable selves. Let's not judge ourselves for our shortcomings and the imperfections, and the necessary human-ness of us.❤️
The behaviour that comes with separation anxiety is the symptom not the problem. To strengthen children against separation anxiety, we have to respond at the source – the felt sense of separation from you.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person, there will be always be anxiety unless there is at least one of 2 things: attachment with another trusted, adult; or a felt sense of you holding on to them, even when you aren’t beside them. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it needs more than an adult being present. Just because there is another adult in the room, doesn’t mean your child will experience a deep sense of safety with that adult. This doesn’t mean the adult isn’t safe - it’s about what the brain perceives, and that brain is looking for a deep, felt sense of safety. This will come from the presence of an adult who, through their strong, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for them, and their joy in doing so. The joy in caretaking is important. It lets the child rest from seeking the adult’s care because there will be a sense that the adult wants it enough for both.

This can be helped along by showing your young one that you trust the adult to love and care for your child and keep him or her safe in your absence: ‘I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.’ This doesn’t mean children will instantly feel the attachment, but the path towards that will be more illuminated.

To help them feel you holding on even when you aren’t with them, let them know you’ll be thinking of them and can’t wait to be with them again. I used to tell my daughter that every 15 seconds, my mind makes sure it knows where she is. Think of this as ‘taking over’ their worry. ‘You don’t have to worry about you or me because I’m taking care of both of us – every 15 seconds.’ This might also look like giving them something of yours to hold on to while you’re gone – a scarf, a note. You will always be their favourite way to safety, but you can’t be everywhere. Another loving adult or the felt presence of you will help them rest.
Sometimes it can be hard to know what to say or whether to say anything at all. It doesn’t matter if the ‘right’ words aren’t there, because often there no right words. There are also no wrong ones. Often it’s not even about the words. Your presence, your attention, the sound of your voice - they all help to soften the hard edges of the world. Humans have been talking for as long as we’ve had heartbeats and there’s a reason for this. Talking heals. 

It helps to connect the emotional right brain with the logical left. This gives context and shape to feelings and helps them feel contained, which lets those feelings soften. 

You don’t need to fix anything and you don’t need to have all the answers. Even if the words land differently to the way you expected, you can clean it up once it’s out there. What’s important is opening the space for conversation, which opens the way to you. Try, ‘I’m wondering how you’re doing with everything. Would you like to talk?’ 

And let them take the lead. Some days they’ll want to talk about ‘it’ and some days they’ll want to talk about anything but. Whether it’s to distract from the mess of it all or to go deeper into it so they can carve their way through the feeling to the calm on the other side, healing will come. So ask, ‘Do you want to talk about ‘it’ or do you want to talk about something else? Because I’m here for both.’ ♥️
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