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!

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This