Do you feel pressured to have the perfect body, pursue perfect health, or present a flawless image of your life on social media? These stories about women embracing their imperfections may help you embrace yours.
How often have you scrolled through your social media feed admiring a friend’s vacation photos, workout details, or flawless selfies? How often do you find yourself depressed or anxious about not measuring up? It’s time to reframe perceived flaws, look for the strengths that may emerge—and yes, embrace your imperfections.
No such thing as perfect
Perfectionism has serious implications for mental health. But you don’t have to be a perfectionist to feel the pervasive pressure from social media. This is where photos are filtered and chosen carefully to highlight the most enviable moments.
It’s no longer enough to take reasonable care of ourselves. Instead, we’re expected to pursue perfect health and look flawless at the same time. Social media feeds rarely show our insecurities, our personal struggles, or the ordinariness of life.
It’s exhausting to be constantly alert to our own imperfections or weaknesses, and it can drive us to be more judgmental of others as well. Accepting ourselves, as we are, helps reduce anxiety and enhances self-worth. In time, we may even grow to see our perceived flaws as strengths or, at least, unique aspects of our identities.
Skills and techniques
If you’re ready to embrace your imperfections, both online and off, try some of these coping skills that clients learn in my counselling practice.
Take a moment each day to appreciate some aspect of your body. Say thanks to your strong thighs for carrying you on a hike or your lungs for breathing in oxygen even as you sleep.
Dianne Bondy, a yoga teacher, recalls how giving birth to her first child affected her body image. “I hated, abused, and ignored my body for years, but it still showed up for me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. My body grew another human being and fed him for a year!”
Bondy explains that once she became grateful for her body’s functions, her appearance became less important, and she was able to focus on just being present in her body. “I appreciate my body for doing its best for me, even when I’m tired, injured, or sad,” she says. This attitude of gratitude has helped Bondy to become a celebrated role model for others as an unapologetically imperfect yogi.
Discover your superpower
Try reframing perceived flaws and look for the strengths that may emerge. Sharon Blady was able to embrace her anxiety disorder by harnessing its strengths. Anxiety has always caused her to think things through to long-range and disastrous conclusions. Knowing her brain has a predisposition to this, she now works at refocusing that energy to do strategic long-term planning. As a former MLA and minister of health in Manitoba, Blady has come to think of her mental health issues as superpowers that give her a unique edge in her political career.
Delaney Coelho also benefited from finding the strengths in her perceived flaws. Diagnosed at age 27 with adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Coelho was relieved to finally understand why her brain works differently than some others do.
Now Coelho says she is proud of the traits that allow her to thrive in a fast-paced environment or find solutions where others see only chaos. She used to be critical of herself for losing interest in things, but she now appreciates her broad range of diverse passions.
Each of these women sees themselves more positively, in part, due to self-compassion. According to psychologist and researcher Dr. Kristin Neff, the three key elements of self-compassion are mindfulness, a sense of common humanity, and self-kindness.
Mindfulness helps us be aware of the suffering we’re experiencing. Common humanity provides comfort when we realize that others struggle in similar ways. Self-kindness is the act of directing caring thoughts toward oneself. Examples include saying, “I accept myself as I am” or simply, “I forgive myself.” With practice, this three-step approach to self-compassion will become more instinctive.
Strive to show your authentic self
It may be scary to come out about not being perfect, but sometimes just doing it is the only way to cope with the fear of being found out. Can you share something honest on social media about a mistake you made or a serious challenge in your life? Would you post an unflattering and unfiltered photo that captures a funny or happy memory? Try making your social media posts more authentic and see what happens.
Take a social media break
Take an occasional vacation from social media. A steady stream of other people’s carefully curated highlight reels makes it hard to change your own thinking. Have coffee with a trusted friend or go for a walk instead. Take time to notice how beautiful nature is in all her imperfections.