5 Reasons You Can Be Glad You’re Flawed


“All of you are perfect just as you are and you could use a little improvement.”

– Shunryu Suzuki

As long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with self improvement.

I’ve tried many things over the years to do better, be better, or feel better.  When I was 8, I made a minute-by-minute after-school schedule for myself so I didn’t skimp on homework, exercise, or healthy snacks.  For years I’ve read just about any article on health, wellness, or personal effectiveness that I could get my hands on.  And I’ve spent god-knows-how-many hours of my time in therapy, coaching, trainings, or workshops.

I’ve learned and grown a lot over the years, overcoming depression, anxiety, and insomnia in the process.  But I’ve also hit a lot of walls, partly because that’s the nature of how we learn and grow, and partly because I didn’t yet understand the Change Paradox.

The Change Paradox states that we’re far more likely to change if we accept ourselves exactly as we already are.

For example, one morning last week I woke up in a really bad mood.  I was grumpy and impatient and frustrated with myself for being so irritated when I had nothing real to complain about.

The more I tried to lighten up and relax, the crankier I felt.  So I meditated, and after my meditation it came to me that it was actually okay to be grumpy and uptight.  Lo and behold, as soon as I gave myself permission to be in a bad mood, it lessened.  And soon–miracle of miracles–I was able to interact with other human beings again without wanting to bite off their heads.

The key to change is accepting ourselves exactly as we are.  But how do we do that when “exactly as we are” includes an awful lot of very real, very painful shortcomings?

By understanding the true nature of our flaws.

Here’s what I’ve learned about why we can all be glad we have defects and foibles, no matter what they are:

1. Flaws are the flip-side of strengths.

I can’t remember where I first heard this, but I highly doubted it at the time.  As a natural worrier, I had a hard time seeing how obsessing over what could go wrong could possibly be a strength.  But what I’ve found is that my tendency to worry is directly tied to my ability to plan.

As a friend recently pointed out, I’m great with logistics.  I know exactly what is needed to turn an idea into action.  I’ve seen it in myself and others over and over: those who worry also tend to be capable of making marvelous plans.

Want another example?  I’m a coach now, and a lot of my clients come to me wanting to be more confident.  They feel bad that they aren’t more bold, assertive, or self-assured.

These same clients are also natural learners.  They instinctively want to acquire knowledge, discover patterns, and find ways to do things better.  This helps them not only in jobs but in their personal growth and development as well.  They may not be confident, but they are incredible students of life.

“Over-sensitive” people are usually compassionate and empathetic.  Those who are impatient tend to be ethical and committed to quality.  People who avoid conflict are often amazing at creating harmony and unity within a group.

Get rid of your flaws, and you no longer have your strengths.  You can’t have one without the other.

2. Flaws are just skills we don’t yet have.

Our defects are basically a misapplication of a particular strength or strategy that has served us well in the past but is working against us in our current situation.

For example, I’m a high achiever.  I’ve always been good at getting things done and doing them to the best of my ability.

This served me in a lot of ways.  I learned a lot in school, got into a good college, and managed to land some jobs I liked.

I also struggled with anxiety and depression during high school and subsequent years.  When I finally got help, I began to see how I was over-applying what were originally good traits.

I was pushing myself not just hard but too hard; I wanted to do not just a good job, but a perfect one.  I wanted perfection; I never let up; I never gave myself a break.

I needed to learn how to relax.  Literally.

With a lot of help from others, I learned skills like: How to take breaks.  How to work with ease.  How to recognize when what I’ve done is enough.  How to see what’s good in me.  How to tune into my intuition and trust it, even if it’s telling me to chill out.

I can’t tell you how much happier I am now that I can both push hard and relax.  Now I can choose the best strategy for whatever situation I’m in.

Our flaws aren’t about being bad, or even being bad at.  They just mean we need to add new skills to our repertoire.

Once we do, our limitations no longer limit us.

3. Flaws give us wisdom and guidance.

As I learned more about myself, I began to see my depression and anxiety as important sources of information, kind of a GPS navigation system for finding my way in life.

Anxiety, for example, can be a sign that I’m angry with someone or something and need to speak up or take action.  Alternatively, it can also alert me to the fact that I’ve strayed from my true north and done something that didn’t feel right to me.

Depression is often a sign that my perfectionism has reared its ugly head again and I’m in dire need of some self-compassion.  It can also let me know that I’ve overrun my energy and need to take some time to rest and recharge.

I used to panic when I felt anxious or depressed:  “Oh no!  What have I done wrong to feel this way again?  How long will it last?  Will I ever feel better?”

Now when I feel the edges of depression or anxiety, I get curious about what it has to tell me.  And it always tells me something.

Our flaws arise when something needs our attention: a need isn’t getting met, we’re caught up in a limiting belief, or we’re on autopilot and no longer making intentional decisions.  They’re like little smoke alarms that go off to alert us to the fact that we need to pay attention and do something differently.

Regretting our flaws is like wishing that smoke alarms didn’t exist.  Sure, the beeping is loud and sometimes painful.  But just like alarms, flaws can be lifesaving if we listen to what they have to say.

4. Flaws connect us to others and allow for empathy and compassion.

It’s undeniably true that all human beings are flawed.  Nobody is perfect.

Every flaw is an opportunity to feel our connection to humanity, something we share with every single other person on the planet.

The next time you’re jealous, you might stop to consider how many other people all over the world are feeling the exact same way right now.

If you’re quick to anger, I guarantee you that thousands of people are losing their temper at the exact same moment.

When you do something selfish (and we all will), you can rest assured that you’re not alone.

Rather than being evidence that we don’t belong, our limitations are actually proof that we really, truly do.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t want to do things differently, or that we shouldn’t try.  What it does mean is that we don’t need to regret our mistakes, failures, and shortcomings.  The fact that we have them means we can feel compassion for others who are similar to us, and offer empathy to those who need it.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times someone has helped me feel better simply by sharing that they struggle with the same flaws that I do.

5. Flaws help us grow and change.

I had a client once who came to me with a problem of procrastination.

We investigated precisely what happened when she procrastinated.  We found that in many cases, her standards were so high that the task at hand seemed impossible and overwhelming, so she put it off until later.

Working together, we were able to help her adopt more reasonable standards for herself so that she could tidy her room without cleaning it top to bottom or finish a proposal that wasn’t 100% pure genius.

In working on her standards, my client became more aware of her Inner Critic and developed new ways of dealing with it.  As a result, she treated herself with much more kindness and compassion, felt more confident, and overall enjoyed herself more.

None of this would have happened if she hadn’t procrastinated.

Flaws tend to create pain in our lives that motivates us to make a change, exactly where we need it.  They’re opportunities to really look at what we’re doing, see where it isn’t working for us, and try doing something differently.

Final Words

None of this means that we should give up on making a change.  As Shunryu Suzuki said, it’s a both/and: We’re all perfect, and we could all use a little work.

Rather than blindly engaging in our defects or criticizing ourselves for having them, we can simply observe them without judgment and use them as an opportunity to learn.

Ultimately, the question isn’t whether we’re good enough or have too many flaws.

The question is, how do we want to be in the world, and what impact do we want to have?

There’s no such thing as self improvement.  Getting rid of your flaws will not make you a more valuable person.

But accepting and listening to them might make you a happier one.

Now over to you:  How do your flaws help you?  What have you learned from your limitations?

Photo by Chiara Cremaschi

25 thoughts on “5 Reasons You Can Be Glad You’re Flawed”

  1. Well said meredith!no one is perfect.flaws are not to be afraid of rather flaws gives us experience , so,next time we bounce back with an insight . The process of learning is life and without errors how can one learn.

    1. Yes! When we see them for what they really are, flaws are no longer frightening. As you said, they can help us learn. And I agree that that is what life is all about.

  2. Well said meredith!no one is perfect.flaws are not to be afraid of rather flaws gives us experience , so,next time we bounce back with an insight . The process of learning is life and without errors how can one learn.

    1. Peter,
      Well said! Someone once said to me that we’ll be perfect when we’re dead. The only reason life is interesting and worthwhile is because it (and we) are flawed. It’s in noticing and investigating our flaws that we learn about our greatest gifts.

  3. Hello Meredith,

    I was absolutely thrilled and elevated to read your post. Thank you. To be honest, I wish I had written it myself. That is probably egotistical but it was lovely to see in writing ideas that have been bubbling away chaotically in my little brain.
    Sincerely hope you are able to spread your understanding far and wide – it will help and elevate so many decent but over anxious people. I also sincerely hope that you are amply rewarded, in the fullest sense of the word, for all of your hard work and for your ability to broadcast your advice so effectively.
    Thank you again and please accept my kind regards.

  4. Thank you for the supremely sound advice. I am consistently hard on myself for all my flaws. And I’m obsessed with bettering myself. This was kind of a breath of fresh air. Much appreciated!

    1. Thanks, Miki, I’m glad to hear it! The paradigm of self-improvement is so pervasive that I know I have to remind myself that it’s okay to be flawed regularly.

    1. Great point, Fornik! I hadn’t thought about it in those terms, but it’s so true. Like the art of wabi sabi, where imperfections are made on purpose because they add to the beauty of the piece. What a great way of looking at it.

  5. Zarayna,
    Thank you so much for your kind words and wishes. I love that you’re pointing out a possible flaw in such a compassionate way. It made me wonder, has chaos ever served you well in the past? I personally love the phrase “chaos comes before creation.” I know for me there is always a bit of anarchy in my brain before clarity finally takes hold, and I often feel that the light has its roots in the swirling darkness that precedes it.

    Regardless, your comment helped me and I hope you continue to share your truth and benefit others.

    1. Hello again, Meredith,
      Lovely to hear from you and happy to read how you have already helped other commentators.

      I am no longer thin-lipped about pin-pointing, nailing-down, grasping at ultimate truth – (I know you’ll appreciate the irony here!) I am just content to walk, stagger, glide, stumble along on the best path I can find whilst enjoying the journey and good company.

      I may well be a dualist ‘cos I can see advantages and disadvantages, within limits, for just about everything. I know that when I have imagined that I am doing quite well, I am closed down, in my own rut and sometimes oblivious to interesting things evolving in the environment. However, when my complacency is inevitably punctured, ‘my path’ disappears beneath me, i.e. chaos ensues. As my rut of certainties has gone, I open up and see lots of erstwhile invisible things – including choices, possibilities and those whose needs are greater than mine – those who are not waving at me – they are drowning. But, of course, you will know that this only applies within limits – a major event leaves one completely flat and in need of recovery oneself. Blah, blah, blah.
      By the way, if you don’t know of it already, can I recommend Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine. Like you a lovely, wise and kind person. If I lived nearer to either of you I’d offer to do the cleaning – just for the good company.

      Kindest regards.

  6. Zarayna,
    I love how you describe what happens when certainties disappear and you open up to see what was previously invisible. That certainly resonates with my experience. It’s an incredibly powerful place to be, if we can open to it and rest in it without scrambling to get out of it too quickly. As you said, it’s also a difficult place to be, and I find bringing lots of kindness and self compassion to the experience helps a lot, to your point about recovery.

    All this reminds me of the writing of Pema Chodron, especially her book When Things Fall Apart, which I love.

    Thanks too for the book recommendation. I look forward to checking it out.

  7. mahavir nautiyal

    Excellent post, Meredith. There is no point in beating oneself up if one stumbles and falls. It can happen to any one. However, it is necessary to learn from the incident and try to be more careful.We learn through mistakes only. Recognition of ones’s flaws make one less egoistic and more empathetic to others. I also tried to be a perfectionist but life has sobered me. I have started accepting my limitations that my genes have contributed to. It makes me more human albeit an imperfect one!

  8. Mahavir,
    I agree that our flaws can make us more empathetic. As you implied, they also help us see through our ego structures to who we truly are (our essential selves, the awesome-ness that lies beneath our personalities). Flaws emerge from our ego, and they only matter to us because of ego. We are bigger than both our flaws and our egos.

    Thanks for bringing this theme to bring into this discussion.

  9. Boi-Jeneh Jalloh

    Great Insight, Meridith. I can’t agree more that flaws are an essential flip side of how great we are and can be. They present great opportunities for change. It is important to track how soon we recover from a mistake or accept the presence of an imperfect behaviour so that it does prevent us from choosing to move on. Failure to move on in spite of ……… can have a crippling effect on how we perform, and impact our world.

  10. Boi-Jeneh,
    Thanks for adding your insight to the discussion. I love how you point out that it’s a choice to move on. We can move on when we choose to accept our flaws and learn from them rather than beating ourselves up for having them.

  11. Fabulous article, Meredith. Thanks so much for sharing! I love the idea of the “change paradox” –the concept was already part of my life, but having this new terminology will be helpful. I like to use the ABC’s of change: the first step is Acknowledge & Accept (who you are/ how you feel/ etc.). I love how your thoughts tie into that. Also super-appreciate you spreading the word that our “flaws” are simply under- or over-emphasized strengths; and that they offer us so much wisdom and so many growth opportunities. Again, great article. Looking forward to sharing it with others!

  12. Thanks so much for the feedback, Laura. I love “acknowledge and accept” as the first step of change. I’m curious to know what B and C are.

    Thanks for your take and for sharing the article!

      1. Thanks, Laura! I really like what you’ve written about acknowledging and accepting and coaching yourself through. I appreciate the exercise you offer in your post to write down what you’re proud of and the evidence that you’re good enough. It’s much easier to accept our flaws when we acknowledge how much goodness we possess as well.

  13. Excellent, people have a hard time accepting and they deny it because flaws considered negative, you article has brought flaws under a positive light, by reading your article, people can be more accepting of their flaws and start to improve..thanks..

  14. Jemmy,
    I certainly hope so. You bring up another good point, which is that when we see our flaws as terrible defects, we are more likely to deny them. Seeing them more for what they are, as you point out, frees us to acknowledge and accept them. Which means we can then deal with them, address them, and find ways to work with them.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *