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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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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