Re-examining “Flaws”

Earlier this week I was talking with a friend about my dislike, and sometimes even fear, of change and how I wish I was better at embracing transition and uncertainty in my life. My discomfort with change has been something that I’ve considered one of my bigger flaws for a long time, so I was surprised when my friend responded, “Well, I think the world needs both kinds of people though.” I’ve found myself coming back to that a lot in the past couple of days.

Lately, I have been acutely aware of the fact that I am entering a new, largely unplanned and uncertain chapter of my life. As I try to prepare myself to roll with the punches, I have thought a lot about how I might work on being more comfortable with change and not having a plan. While I still believe that being fearful and avoiding change are definitely not healthy behaviors, I’ve been experimenting with imagining how my desire for stability (which is probably a more positive way to frame my discomfort with change) and my ability to create and carry out a plan can serve me in this next chapter.

Sometimes I forget that I can be a good, healthy, fulfilled person without fitting this perfect idea of what that looks like that I have created in my mind (an obvious theme is many of my posts). Hearing my friend affirm that even traits which I have been consistently framing as negative also have their positive applications, reminded me that the line between our struggles and our gifts is sometimes blurrier than we realize. For this reason I am trying to reframe how I look at my “flaws.” I know that, personally, I can get so entrenched in trying to solve the negative sides of certain traits, that I fail to appreciate how those same traits have positive sides as well.

Another example of this is my recent realization that I think about people a lot. Somehow I didn’t realize until I was at least 20 that not everyone is walking around with everyone they know and care about in their brain almost all the time. There are people that I haven’t seen in years that I still think of every day, not because there are unresolved tensions or emotions between us, just because I wonder how they’re doing, or I see something that they would like, or I spend time with someone that we both know. I once had a friend, in an attempt to make me feel loved and cared for, tell me that they thought of me often, “at least every couple of days” which did make me feel loved, but also confused because I thought of them ten times every day at least.

In my college years this trait has felt like more of a burden than a gift. For one thing, I am still learning to understand that people whose minds don’t work like mine can still love and care for me deeply, even if I don’t always live at the forefront of their brains. But I also have some suspicion that living with everyone you care about in your head all the time isn’t always helpful in periods of loneliness and isolation. I’ve felt like this is something weird about me that I should counteract in some way. However, as I’ve been reflecting this week, I wonder if I have underestimated the gift that comes with being able to carry people with you the way that I seemed wired to do.

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It’s becoming clear to me that some of my gifts and unique traits can feel like struggles because I haven’t completely learned how to use them yet. Which is actually kind of exciting because it means that there are parts of myself that I’ve been taking for granted that have the potential to be helpful to others and to myself if I take the time to acknowledge and cultivate them. Even if I am not always comfortable with those traits, learning to form them and use them in healthy ways is part of becoming my best self. A self that is necessary in the world, regardless of whether it matches up with my unattainable ideals.

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