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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‘Brave’ doesn’t always feel like certain, or strong, or ready. In fact, it rarely does. That what makes it brave.♥️
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #parentingtips
We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they should – respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first. 

We can’t stop difficult people coming into their lives. They might be teachers, coaches, peers, and eventually, colleagues, or perhaps people connected to the people who love them. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognise that person and their behaviour as unacceptable to them. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behaviour, beliefs or influence. 

The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to others should never be used against them by those broken others who might do harm. We have to recognise as adults that the words and attitudes directed to our children can be just as damaging as anything physical. 

If the behaviour is from an adult, it’s up to us to guard our child’s safe space in the world even harder. That might be by withdrawing support for the adult, using our own voice with the adult to elevate our child’s, asking our child what they need and how we can help, helping them find their voice, withdrawing them from the environment. 

Of course there will be times our children do or say things that aren’t okay, but this never makes it okay for any adult in your child’s life to treat them in a way that leads them to feeling ‘less than’.

Sometimes the difficult person will be a peer. There is no ‘one certain way’ to deal with this. Sometimes it will involve mediation, role playing responses, clarifying the other child’s behaviour, asking for support from other adults in the environment, or letting go of the friendship.

Learning that it’s okay to let go of relationships is such an important part of full living. Too often we hold on to people who don’t deserve us. Not everyone who comes into our lives is meant to stay and if we can help our children start to think about this when they’re young, they’ll be so much more empowered and deliberate in their relationships when they’re older.♥️
When we are angry, there will always be another emotion underneath it. It is this way for all of us. 

Anger itself is a valid emotion so it’s important not to dismiss it. Emotion is e-motion - energy in motion. It has to find a way out, which is why telling an angry child to calm down or to keep their bodies still will only make things worse for them. They might comply, but their bodies will still be in a state of distress. 

Often, beneath an angry child is an anxious one needing our help. It’s the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. As with all emotions, anger has a job to do - to help us to safety through movement, or to recruit support, or to give us the physical resources to meet a need or to change something that needs changing. It doesn’t mean it does the job well, because an angry brain means the feeling brain has the baton, while the thinking brain sits out for a while. What it means is that there is a valid need there and this young person is doing their very best to meet it, given their available resources in the moment or their developmental stage. 

Children need the same thing we all need when we’re feeling fierce - to be seen,  heard, and supported; to find a way to get the energy out, either with words or movement. Not to be shut down or ‘fixed’. 

Our job isn’t to stop their anger, but to help them find ways to feel it and express it in ways that don’t do damage. This will take lots of experience, and lots of time - and that’s okay.♥️
The SCCR Online Conference 2021 is a wonderful initiative by @sccrcentre (Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution) which will explore ’The Power of Reconnection’. I’ve been working with SCCR for many years. They do incredible work to build relationships between young people and the important adults around them, and I’m excited to be working with them again as part of this conference.

More than ever, relationships matter. They heal, provide a buffer against stress, and make the world feel a little softer and safer for our young people. Building meaningful connections can take time, and even the strongest relationships can feel the effects of disconnection from time to time. As part of this free webinar, I’ll be talking about the power of attachment relationships, and ways to build relationships with the children and teens in your life that protect, strengthen, and heal. 

The workshop will be on Monday 11 October at 7pm Brisbane, Australia time (10am Scotland time). The link to register is in my story.
There are many things that can send a nervous system into distress. These can include physiological (tired, hungry, unwell), sensory overload/ underload, real or perceived threat (anxiety), stressed resources (having to share, pay attention, learn new things, putting a lid on what they really think or want - the things that can send any of us to the end of ourselves).

Most of the time it’s developmental - the grown up brain is being built and still has a way to go. Like all beautiful, strong, important things, brains take time to build. The part of the brain that has a heavy hand in regulation launches into its big developmental window when kids are about 6 years old. It won’t be fully done developing until mid-late 20s. This is a great thing - it means we have a wide window of influence, and there is no hurry.

Like any building work, on the way to completion things will get messy sometimes - and that’s okay. It’s not a reflection of your young one and it’s not a reflection of your parenting. It’s a reflection of a brain in the midst of a build. It’s wondrous and fascinating and frustrating and maddening - it’s all the things.

The messy times are part of their development, not glitches in it. They are how it’s meant to be. They are important opportunities for us to influence their growth. It’s just how it happens. We have to be careful not to judge our children or ourselves because of these messy times, or let the judgement of others fill the space where love, curiosity, and gentle guidance should be. For sure, some days this will be easy, and some days it will feel harder - like splitting an atom with an axe kind of hard.

Their growth will always be best nurtured in the calm, loving space beside us. It won’t happen through punishment, ever. Consequences have a place if they make sense and are delivered in a way that doesn’t shame or separate them from us, either physically or emotionally. The best ‘consequence’ is the conversation with you in a space that is held by your warm loving strong presence, in a way that makes it safe for both of you to be curious, explore options, and understand what happened.♥️
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#mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #parenting

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