My Blissfully Imperfect Self

I am a health psychologist and I view my physical and emotional well-being from a bio-psychosocial perspective. I have found that having a comprehensive appreciation for my physical and mental health is much more satisfying than separating the two factors into distinct elements, component parts – and understanding myself from that limited perspective.  From my point of view, it is essential to my overall emotional and physical health to remember that my emotions are a delicate blending of organic brain functions (bio), cognition (psycho) and social phenomena.

I have been fairly successful at building my emotional competence by increasing my awareness of myself within this quite logical paradigm – my accepted system for sustaining my human life.  I have come to pride myself in being the director of my own emotional life. I believe I have been more successful managing myself from this perspective – at least better than I would have been without it. Rational thinking and emoting mixed with a generous dose of self-acceptance and forgiveness is, I have found, the best recipe for my continued well-being.

There appears to be a single instance of weakness, a chink if you will, in my operational paradigm for optimal mental and physical health – CRITICISM!


Criticism is a behavior.

Criticism is not an emotion.

Fear and anger are emotions often associated with criticism.

Criticism does not exist until YOU breathe life into it.

One can criticize oneself, but more often one is criticized.  Criticism can result in a good appraisal or bad appraisal. Criticism resulting in a bad appraisal often includes the input of at least one person identifying a flaw or flaws in another human being.  The focus of criticism doesn’t necessarily have to be true or accurate; only recognizable as a real or imagined weaknesses or imperfection in oneself.  For example, you might be termed a pomegranate and have no discernible response to that evaluation, except that it would be an odd assessment of you.  On the other hand, you could termed a big, fat pig and have an altogether different reaction.

Of course people can be neither pomegranates nor pigs – but one seems more salient than the other.

Like any human behavior we must first interpret an event before we can have an opinion of it – before we can express an emotion toward it.

First we must think.

We breathe life into our thoughts.

The act of being criticized is often interpreted by the unconscious brain as an assault.  Assaults are often met with fear.  Fear is often expressed as anger (a protective response).  Criticism is viewed by the subconscious as an angry dog preparing to take a bite from our face. We have trained ourselves to fear criticism and respond to it as if it meant to do us harm.

We might imagine, instead, that when we are criticized, the individual doing the criticizing is behaving oddly, unusually, strangely and peculiarly – as if we were being called a pomegranate.  In that case, fear and anger would not be our response to criticism.  Our response may be confusion.  We may even express embarrassment for the person who is criticizing.

Our emotional response all depends on the view we take of the event.

Why then do we often express fear when facing criticism – rather than confusion, embarrassment or concern for the emotional health and well-being of the criticizer?

Well, the emotions we express are all dependent on how we interpret the criticism. Imagine an event in your life that, without your interpretation of it, would hold any meaning at all.  Can you change the meaning you apply to it and feel something else?

No event holds intrinsic meaning.

All events hold the precise meaning we apply to them.

We have to interpret all events before they can have meaning to us.  Being criticized is not a toxic event.  HOW WE THINK ABOUT BEING CRITICIZED will often create the toxic event.  The result of our thinking is often a fear (stress) response and that expression of anger most of us have become all-too-familiar with feeling when we are criticized.

We all have weaknesses in our character, fallibility in our choices, flaws in our behavior and imperfections in our appearance.  When these very-human blemishes are made more salient, we will respond, in some way, emotionally. Our response to being negatively evaluated has a direct relationship to how well we appreciate our own weaknesses and how much we depend on others for our intrinsic value.

Are we truly conscious of our weaknesses, imperfections, limitations, faults and defects as integral parts of our natural human condition?  Or do we pretend that we only behave ideally, precisely and are the model of perfection, the epitome of good choice, always worthy of emulation?

In order to adjust to criticism, and other opportunities for improvement, we must begin by recognizing our own propensity for being quite imperfect.  We must start to recognize that in order to achieve a more reasonable standard of happiness we must find true bliss in our imperfect selves.

It is in our nature as human beings to fail, succeed, win, lose, come off well and behave badly.  NO MATTER WHO WE ARE! In that frame of mind, it should be no surprise to any of us when we experience this mixture of outcomes in how we experience life. In order to overcome your response to criticism, you must first change how YOU think about yourself and your potential for imperfection.  If you are postponing your happiness, waiting for criticism to go extinct, you will likely live unhappily for the rest of your days.  (You will likely not live as fully either, never taking a chance and risking disapproval). Take control of your thinking and you will make definite strides in how you address nearly any type of emotional adversity.

Say this out loud several times a day:  I am not perfect and neither are you.  I will never be perfect and neither will you.  It is foolish for me to think I have no flaws or weaknesses. I have my share. You can be the judge of your own flaws and weaknesses. I will never be the most beautiful, the thinnest, the smartest or even the most imperfect person on earth.  I can, however,  strive for better – on my own terms.  If I don’t succeed, I can still be happy and I can still enjoy my life. If someone points out my flaws for me, I can thank them for noticing me.  I can forgive them and their behavior.  I can pardon them;  I can only hope that one day I will be pardoned. Even if I’m not pardoned, I can be happy.  You and I share this world together.  We are both bound in that way.  We can be fully evaluated when we’re gone. Until then, we’re just works in progress.

I wish you grace in that endeavor.


11 responses

  1. Pingback: My Blissful Imperfect Self |

  2. Pingback: Criticism…it’s our perception… « onbeingmindful

  3. I am not perfect, I practice at not being perfect. Making some exercises out of allowing imperfection to feel okay. It’s a concept I am making friends with.
    Great food for thought as usual. Keep em coming. Please!

  4. Pingback: Hello, My Name Is « Mental Health Food

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