We are flawed; and that's okay
By Troy Murphy |August 2016
Leon Festinger, one of the brightest social psychologist of our time, was once asked, whether or not he ever felt inept. Leon’s reply, “Of course! That is what keeps you ept.”
Self-awareness creates vulnerability, leaving us naked before an unpredictable and uncontrolled world. Our confidence is shaken to the reality of personal ineptness. We may feel overwhelmed—too much awareness is paralyzing; too little stagnating. Effective living requires a balance, allowing for explorations of growth but avoiding full contact with the brutal uncaring underworld of living.
Several studies examined patients with specific left frontal lobe lesions which limited use of common defense mechanisms—denial, rationalization, or confabulation. Without the softening explanations of experience, these patients exhibited more vulnerability to experience, many struggled with debilitating depression. Defense mechanisms create a protective sheath preventing paralyzing overwhelm.
Successful attainment of a goal is achieved by accurate assessments of required steps and personal abilities. There are many possible downfalls during the assessment process; we overestimate our skills; or we underestimate the demands. We can flexibly adjust to accommodate errant assessments when we recognize the error and have the resources to adjust. We mustn’t ditch efforts just because the path is more difficult than planned. We can, however, lessen the chance of unforeseen surprises by improving assessments of involved personal skills and weaknesses; facing personal ineptness, while simultaneously recruiting personal strengths.
To change the trajectory of our lives, we must know where we are standing. We need an intimate relationship with self; keenly aware of feelings and habits. Reality based self-knowledge assists with properly predicting potential failings. When we blame outside forces for failures, we protect our egos, maintaining confidence to keep plugging along, but if the true cause for failure is our action or in action, we protect our ego at a great cost; we can’t fix the error. Recognizing that our personal relationships are superficial, our children are faltering, and our finances are a disaster may thrust us into depression, but ignoring the realities only provides temporary shelter from truths we must face. We don’t need to dodge reality; we need better skills for processing reality.
Self-esteem built on deception requires a growing ignorance to reality. Behaviors (basic transactions) eventually meet with consequences. When repeated behaviors continually lead to the same disappointing results, the answer is obvious except from the blindness of subjective evaluations protecting the fragile ego; the obvious is ignored and the destructive behavior continued. The misguided boldly resist the wisdom and strengthens the personal deceptions. Reality resisted, instead of enlightening, creates a psychosis. The deeply entrenched mechanisms completely obstruct views of reality, constantly dodging responsibility by blaming others for personal failures. Self-esteem built on this flimsy foundation is destined to collapse. But when built on firmer foundations of reality, the sense of self uncovers weakness that can be successfully addressed.
We don’t need better deceptions to escape the punch of recognizing ineptness. We need a better approach, kindly accepting imperfections, seeking help when the personal shortcomings interfere with goal attainment. We need a healthy acceptance of imperfection. Self-esteem achieved only through perfection can never be realized without deception. Reality never measures well against perfection, forcing constant striving to achieve the unachievable. Gentle present-moment acceptance allows for realistic self-assessment, predictions of potential stumblings while working towards goals.
Perfection is not required. Within our limitations, we still possess the seed of greatness. We must believe success is within our reach. The hope softens fears. Past fears still emerge but when wisely recognize as relics, not signs of impending disaster, we can courageously explore the anxiety, know the origin, and then refocus on positive action. Interrupting the automatic impulses, creating space, inviting cognitive functions, directs behaviors that better serve our purposes, no longer blindly following and then justifying dead-end behaviors, blaming others for our own failures.
Life is challenging. Digesting the lumps of failures, with all the personal implications, is tough; but if we face adversity with courage, hope, skill and understanding, we can be victorious. Self-esteem and self-confidence accumulate from each successful endeavor, giving the reassuring knowledge that we can face life, and be successful. While we may be inept in many areas, our strength, wisdom and courage can overcome the ineptness; we are appropriate to life and its challenges. We can navigate, grapple with and overcome all that comes our way. ~Troy Murphy