“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”—Proverbs 27:17
There are times in life when someone has to point out our flaws so that we can fix them. Maybe it’s a parent, a spouse, a boss, a teacher, a coach, a minister, or a friend. And hopefully these people do so gently, constructively. (Of course, there may be times when shouting “you’re a loser!” is perfectly acceptable and more than reasonable; you’ll have to make that judgment call yourself, though.) Other times, what we need isn’t criticism at all. Sometimes we need affirmations instead.
I’ve been battling what others would call “personality flaws” for a long time (my own flaws, just to be clear). Old friendships have diminished or seemingly disappeared altogether. New friendships have been difficult to cultivate. Of course, my first thought (and probably most of these friends’) is that I must be doing something wrong. Believe me when I state that I AM MY OWN WORST CRITIC. I am very aware of most of my flaws, and I am constantly a work in progress, or a WIP, as my husband asked me to reference. But I’ve learned that a quality I adore in myself can be considered a flaw in another’s eyes. And it took a minister and new friend to point that out. As it turns out, my personality “flaws” are actually appealing to some people, just not very many.
The truth is that there are always ways to improve one’s self, whether we’re talking about communication, fitness, work ethic, people skills, work-life balance, hygiene, expressing emotions, or my favorite—”smiling more.” Self-improvement is on-going, life-long work.
The problem that we’re running into is that many qualities are labeled as “flaws,” when they’re really just differences in personalities. For example, I’m a very blunt person; I’ll tell it like it is, honestly and without shame. I’m also a concise speaker. If you ask me a question, I’ll answer it in as few words as possible. If you ask me a “what” question, I probably won’t give you the “why” answer unless you ask for that as well. I’m also dry in humor and often monotone—on purpose. I’m good at responding to a stupid person/comment with a sarcastic remark and a straight face. Some people don’t get it; some don’t like it. If they can’t accept my personality, then maybe some distance is warranted. Unless these qualities are really hurting others, and unless they become inappropriate and consistently obnoxious, they are not flaws. They’re just me.
So what am I supposed do? Changing myself to fit someone else’s ideal is both despicable and extremely difficult. Locking myself in the house to avoid rejection and criticism is unfavorable, even for an introvert like me. Changing the way others think of me is nearly impossible. Perhaps getting back out there is the key. If one person can accept, and even enjoy, my personality as-is, then others must exist too.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
As it turns out, many of us complicate our own lives because we don’t know how to just “be ourselves.” We let our friends and family and coworkers and society in general dictate our personalities, the very qualities that, as our kindergarten teachers explain, make us unique. Sure, no one is perfect, and we all have necessary improvements to make, but just because someone doesn’t like your sense of humor doesn’t mean you have to change it. The next time you’re criticized for being too loud at a park in the middle of the day, remind yourself that you’re AT A PARK…IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY. When your laugh is labeled as “obnoxious,” remind yourself that laughter is a wonderful thing, and don’t let that Debbie-downer eliminate your precious laughter from this world full of judgment, sadness, and cruelty.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”—credited to Oscar Wilde
I want to thank my new friend for affirming me at a time when I felt hopeless and responsible for too much. Your encouragement to simply be who I am means more to me than most other words I’ve heard in the last 26.5 years of my life.
If this post resonates with you, please share your thoughts in the comments section below. If you have topic ideas for future posts, I can always use content suggestions.
Thanks for reading.