I sometimes work with parents who reluctant to give their children any kind of correction or to communicate to their children they they have any kind of imperfection. Then there are other parents who criticize their children harshly. And still other parents vacillate between those two extremes.

Sometimes I tell parents that it is important not to be so reluctant to discuss their children’s less than perfect qualities. I explain, “You don’t want to give the unintended message that your child’s challenges are too horrible to speak of.”

The other unintended message is that perfection is attainable and expected. My massage therapist expresses the belief that everyone is perfect. I know what she means but to me, it seems like a cheat. If I were to think about myself that way, it would seem like a  way to avoid looking at myself fully, a way to avoid acknowledging and examining the parts of myself that underscore my membership in humanity.

I know that I write about painful topics with a good deal of candor. And I also know that I expose my faults. Sometimes I think people worry that I am too self-critical. I find that for myself, if I avoid thinking about my faults, I give myself the message that they are too bad to be observed or examined. This kind of thinking can provide a foundation for very difficult feeling states like shame and humiliation as well as the very damaging thoughts and beliefs that accompany them. I believe it can also lead to living a fragmented or compartmentalized life, the kind of life that makes it hard to see oneself as an integrated whole. To me, it is important that the way I live my life makes sense. I can’t do it unless my imperfect pieces fit together in some kind of reasonable way.

In my life, I have felt guilt, shame, great anxiety, and humiliation. It is difficult, but I try to see myself for all of who I am, the good, the bad, and the in between. In writing about myself for the past two years, I have discovered something. I have discovered more freedom from my own harsh judgment. When I confront both my positive and negative qualities, I feel better able to decide how I want to live my life and to make changes, if needed. By describing and admitting my shortcomings, I find it easy to accept myself and further to grow as a person. In turn, I find it easier to accept others.

I have yet to find anything about myself that was too horrible. I am still working on it, but almost always, I can look myself in the eye.