For years I had an overpowering all-or-nothing mindset. If I couldn’t do it perfectly, then I’d failed. If I didn’t look pretty all the time, then I wasn’t pretty at all. If I didn’t have a flat stomach, then I couldn’t like my body. If I didn’t ace every test, then I wasn’t smart. I had a very hard time accepting that imperfections are natural (and make me me). I had a hard time accepting that being flawed didn’t mean being doomed or undeserving or unworthy.
During those years, I wish I had this book: FLAWD: How to Stop Hating on Yourself, Others, and the Things that Make You Who You Are. It’s written by Emily-Anne Rigal and Jeanne Demers (who also illustrated the book). Rigal is the founder of the organization WeStopHate.org, and Demers is their chief operating officer. According to the site: “WeStopHate is more than just an anti-bullying program, it’s a call-to-action to stop hate: stop hating on yourself, stop hating on others, stop letting others hate on you.”
In FLAWD, Rigal and Demers share practical, playful, empowering tips for embracing ourselves. While the book is geared toward teens, I also found a lot of wisdom in it for us older folks. 🙂
Here’s why: The insecurities we feel as teens and young adults tend to follow us into adulthood. They might look a bit different but the core is the same. Or the core message is the same: Because you’re ______, you aren’t good enough. Because you’re _______, you can’t accept yourself. Because you’re _______, you don’t deserve good things. And we let this message dictate how we treat ourselves and how we let others treat us.
Below are a few tips from FLAWD on embracing our flaws. They may or may not resonate with you. Either way, just know that you can learn to accept yourself, even if you’ve hated certain parts of yourself for years. Because you can find other books that speak to you. And you can work with a mental health professional, too.
Face your flaws.
As Rigal and Demers write, “To accept anything, the first thing to do is face it.” To try this, draw two circle faces facing each other. One face is you. The second face is the thing you don’t like about yourself.
It might be anything from “I’m too sensitive” to “My belly is too big” to “I get jealous easily.”
See Rigal’s example — >
Embrace your flaws.
In this tip they suggest imagining giving one of your insecurities a warm, loving hug. An embrace that’s filled with non-judgment, compassion, vulnerability and love.
If this feels too impossible, picture yourself as two parts: One part is a young child who has this flaw. The other part is a compassionate adult who’s taking care of that child; who’s nurturing that child; who fully understands that flaws are natural and everyone has them.
Or think of your best friend or some other loved one who has this same flaw. What would you say to them? What do you think of their flaw? Can you redirect that same compassion, patience and understanding toward yourself? At least some of it? How does it feel when you do?
Another option is to let things be. According to Rigal and Demers, to do nothing means saying: “I give up trying to change this flaw. I may not be able to embrace it, but I’m not going to reject it either.” They pose this powerful question: “Can you let the truth of something you don’t like about yourself just be?”
They also note that facing your flaw and doing nothing is understanding the following:
The spirit of who you are isn’t changed by this flaw.
You’re big enough for this flaw to exist without it changing who you are.
The existence of this imperfection can deepen who you are.
Reframe your flaws.
Rigal and Demers define reframing as “when you see that a thought you’re having is charged with a lot of challenging feelings so you say to the thought ‘You’re not helping. I’m going to find a more positive alternative for you.'” I like that.
They include these sentences to help us reframe our flaws or weaknesses or insecurities:
“If I hadn’t _________ (insert weakness), I never would have __________.” or “If I weren’t ________, I wouldn’t want to ____________.”
Try these strategies with different flaws. Maybe some flaws you can accept and embrace. And maybe others you can’t. If that’s the case, try this last piece of advice from Rigal and Demers: Try to “be in a healthy relationship to as much of you as you can.”