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How to Love Your Highly Flawed Self


To be mentally healthy is to know yourself extremely well and still manage to like yourself. These are two distinct but strongly related feats. In truth, some people are so afraid they won’t like themselves if they dig too deeply into their psyche that they barely scratch the surface of self-knowledge before making a fast retreat. These are people who insist they don’t need therapy and it’s a bunch of hooey, anyway, and who pretend to have enormous self-knowledge when it’s obvious to anyone who’s been with them for five minutes that they’re clueless about themselves.

The first part of the equation, knowing yourself, is easier than the second. Self-examination begins with recognizing your challenges and weaknesses as well as your strengths. The goal is to hold both at once. One would think it’s more likely that positives would shoot to the surface and we’d need to reach deeper inside to find some negatives. This is true for many people, but by no means all.

Some folks, like my client Barbra, hold a laser focus on their negative qualities and are blinkered to their positive ones. If I try to point out some of the latter—her sense of humor, political awareness, kindness and what a hard worker she is—it’s as if Barbra has her hands slapped over her ears refusing to hear a word I’m saying. In fact, she’ll counter nearly every asset I mention with one from her lengthy list of perceived deficits.

In truth, many of my clients are like Barbra. They think self-knowledge is about finding faults when it’s that but not only that. It’s about stepping away from judgment and looking at ourselves dispassionately, neither rooting for one team—hurray for the positive traits—nor trashing the other—boo on the negative traits. Instead, each one contributes to our unique identity. In short, we are all of them.

Once you accept you’re meant to be your pluses and minuses and so is everyone else, you can relax and love yourself for your one-of-a-kind personhood which means cherishing every bit of you. You can not want to possess certain traits, yet still embrace them as part of the whole. You can even change these traits if you don’t care for them. What won’t work is hating them because that means hating yourself. 

No one is perfect and that’s what makes us human. I find great joy and relief that we’re all so tragically flawed because that fact sets a blessedly low bar for self-actualization. So, spend some time today getting to know yourself: the good, bad, and especially the ugly. Then tell yourself you’re lovable and never question your lovability again.