Friday, February 19, 2010

Being all right with your flaws

Hello everyone! I hope the year has gotten off to a good start for all of you. As for me, I have started my second course in coaching, and plan to take a third starting in May. It's interesting since the majority of my classmates tend to be 10 to 20 years older than me, with established careers, families, lives, etc. Sometimes I feel I'm a bit "young" to be getting into this kind of work, but then a new person will come into my life, whom I am able to help, and I get right back into my studies with renewed vigor.

Sometimes it can be difficult to live authentically, since we get so many messages from the media and those around us on how we are supposed to be. When we are unable to fit that mold, it causes a lot of stress and self-resentment. If your strengths are thought of as flaws at a societal level, it can be very difficult to feel alright with being yourself. For example, classic American values place importance on individualism, responsibility, directness, and efficiency. In Japan, as I'm sure most of you are aware of, society values harmony, dedication to a larger group, deference to authority, and self-sacrifice.

What if you are American, yet prefer deferring to the group? You are criticized for lacking decisiveness and leadership, when maybe it's just simply all about you enjoying being left alone and just doing your job and going with the flow.

What if you are Japanese, and want to go home from work at a decent hour, because you love your family and want to spend time with them? You are criticized for not being a team player and will be passed over for promotions since you lack the self-sacrifice that will benefit the greater good of the company. Thankfully, this is slowly, slowly changing. But what if you are really a team player and do work hard at your job, yet it's simply about wanting to spend more time with the people you love?

People will always criticize 1) what they don't understand (and don't want to understand) 2) what they fear out of ignorance 3) what they secretly desire, yet can't have, for one reason or another. On a social level, where certain traits are highly favored, this can leave a large part of the population feeling unwanted and unnecessary.

There is variety and diversity in the human race for a reason. The flaws people and society may see in you are a blessing in other ways. The universe desires a balance of traits.

You are who you are for a reason, and you have been blessed with gifts that, despite what others may think, are very powerful in a good way, and can be used to create a fulfilling life.

I'd like to close with a Chinese parable called, "The Cracked Pot". After reading, take some time to ponder how your perceived flaws might not be flaws at all.

A water bearer in China had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One pot had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house.
Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After 2 years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream:
"I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house."
The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side?

"That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path. Every day while we walk back, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house."