I’m Not Perfect, How About You?

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I teach yoga. I also curse.

And, sometimes, I do both at once…

Is that a paradox? Maybe, maybe not.

I like to believe I am a spiritual person, a good person, a conscious person, someone who strives to learn and grow from experience and leave those around me in a better place. I have the luxury of spending more time contemplating issues that revolve around conscious living than the next guy, because that’s part of my job.

But I am on a journey, just like everyone else.

I make mistakes, I say and do things that hurt, bother or otherwise upset others. I have good and bad days, good and bad moods, emotional highs and lows, huge successes and failures, desires and aversions, moments of deep empathy and compassion and other moments of ignorance and disrespect.

No matter how much I “practice” conscious living, it’s still just that…practice.

And, no matter how much effort I put into that practice, there’s this thing I still can’t shake. Actually, I don’t want to shake…

I’m still human.

Which creates an interesting scenario that, at some point, we’ll all likely experience on some level. Part of the challenge when you are held out as a committed participant or even a leader in some kind of movement or exploration, be it online, in your local community or even among a small handful of others, is that a certain number of other people tend to lose tolerance for your humanity.

They’ll hold you in judgment for your imperfection.

This tends to happen most often when you first hold yourself out as perfect, or pretty darn close (something I’ve always shied away from, personally). But even when you proclaim to be nothing more than a human being with foibles, if your voice on an issue is strong, you may still take some heat.

Actually, it goes much deeper than that. In fact, as Jonathan Haidt writes in The Happiness Hypothesis, in an odd quirk of human nature, many people, even close friends and family, will secretly wish to see you stumble, especially those who perceive themselves as having similar abilities or inclinations as you, yet stood on the sidelines while you dove in. Because, in your stumble, in your failure, they’ll find validation for their unwillingness to try.

So, what can we do about it?

All I can tell you is what I do.

As much as I practice and teach yoga, study and write about conscious living, I am not enlightened and I do not expect to be within my lifetime. So, while others might hold me to a higher standard of perfection and have lesser tolerance when I don’t meet their standards…my only aspiration is to practice.

To be present as much as I can. To be loving, empathetic and compassionate as much as I can. To learn and grow from experience when I am not. And, to just…

Be real.

Yes, I make mistakes. And, can you believe, on rare occasions, I actually don’t practice what I preach. I even curse here and there, because that’s just me. And, it sometimes happens when I speak and when I teach yoga.

I don’t do it for effect, I don’t do it to offend or polarize. It’s just part of how I express how I feel and observe the world around me. And, I make jokes, I poke fun, most often at my own expense, sometimes, at others. Not out of spite or malice, that’s not my style, but rather out of a good natured sense of ribbing or observation about the quirky side of humanity.

Some people don’t like that I don’t walk the middle line, that I’m human

And they either tell me (occasionally, with language or behavior that’s far more offensive than the language or behavior they don’t want me to use) or just leave the conversation or community. That’s sometimes sad and, depending on the scenario, it’ll sometimes rattle me. But, by and large…

When I work from a place of authenticity, most people accept me for who I am…

They see the greater energy I share with those around me. They see the fact that, though I make mistakes and the way I express things may not always conform to the norms they wish I’d follow, I generally do my best to live and act from a place of love, a place of compassion, a place of authenticity and respect, a place of creation and innovation, a place of significance and sincerity.

Simply put, I try to be real.

I try to learn and grow. I try to do my best.

Because, in the end…that’s all we can do and be.

How about you?

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12 responses

12 responses to “I’m Not Perfect, How About You?”

  1. […] Go to the author’s original blog: I’m Not Perfect, How About You? […]

  2. Oh so true.

    I sometimes wonder whether it’s harder for *us* to be all “hey, this is who I am, being a real live human being and stuff” or for other people to take that in and interact with it.

    Or even for us to interact with that uncomfortable interaction.

    Though now I’m wondering:

    Do you also think it goes the other way? Like, people get upset with you for demonstrating “imperfection” but it bugs them even more when they think you’re demonstrating what appears to be perfection?

    I get a lot of mail that says stuff like, “Well, of course you don’t have this problem but …” And no matter how many times I bare my scared hurting soul on my blog, there are still people who resent me for being (apparently, yes?) some perfect, ideal, irritatingly problem-less sprout-eating meditating healthy happy person.

    When in fact,I’m as embarrassingly human as they come. And talk about it.

    Ach, complicated. But hey, at least you know it’s *their* judgment meeting yours. And at least you know you’re being true to yourself. Yay true to yourself!

    I’ll stop talking now and go stumble this baby.

  3. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Havi – Interesting questions, I get similar e-mails as, I’m sure anyone who holds themselves out publicly on a particular topic. What’s funny for me, too, is that in a past life, as a securities/hedge fund lawyer, the rules were very different and pretty much all conjunctions and commas were replaced with curse words. So much depends on context. But, in the end, you just gotta be you. 🙂

  4. yo jonathan

    tell it like it is! my motto (one of many i guess) is moderation in all things, including moderation. and when i run into those people who curse me for being human? i bless them for being human! (unless of course i am in a cursing mood…then i have to bless them *and* me!)

    thanks for sharing!

  5. Jonathan,

    My favorite word as a 44-year old who rarely curses is “fricken.” Love that word!

    I love the concept of surrender, transparency, and authenticity. There is something about being truthful to ourself, but remaining open to uncovering our version of the truth.

    I respect how you enable people to get to know you by being open and even vulnerable.

  6. I wrote about this topic recently and like you I believe authenticity is critical. When I wasn’t being true to myself I was uncomfortable. Once I realized “hey this is who I am” I became more comfortable with myself, my abilities and my purpose. Unfortunately people only see what they want to see, no matter how authentically we live our lives.

  7. Perfectionism is like a disease, and I still succumb from time to time. None of us is perfect and in that lies our perfection. Paradoxical eh? 😉

    I liked the comment about life being a journey, a journey of discovery through all life’s experiences, good and bad. None of us is the finished product, so it’s ridiculous for people to expect there to be no room for improvement.

    @Matthew Scott – Are you really Dr Evil from Austin Powers?

  8. John Haydon says:

    Jonathon,

    Thanks for giving folks permission to screw up.

    I believe that when we make mistakes, and are honest and open about them, it gives those close to us permission to do the same.

    Making mistakes is crucial to learning – if folks feel like they “shouldn’t” make mistakes, they’re missing out. I know I’ve missed out on a lot of risk-required opportunities because I was afraid of making mistakes.

    The other day, my son was misbehaving at the dinner table (he’s 5). I got mad and slammed a dish into the kitchen sink. A few minutes later I apologized about my behavior. He was happy to hear that my behavior had nothing to do with how I feel about him. He was also happy to learn that it’s ok to make mistakes.

    That reminds me – Have you ever heard that Mean Joe Green song, “It’s Alright To Cry”?

    John

  9. Jenny Fenig says:

    What an amazing post, Jonathan … so true. As humans, we’re all striving to be ourselves, to be kind, to be authentic, but there are days when we’re not “our best.” But aren’t the imperfections part of us, too?

    The key is to be mindful of where we are, release whatever is holding us back from success, and to continue on our path. Oh, and perhaps the two most important things to remember:
    1. No one is perfect
    2. You can’t please everyone

    Thanks for sharing a feeling that so many of us have … the human condition.

  10. starrlife says:

    I love this post. Authenticity is a rare commodity and I treasure it. I find it harder to feel comfortable with people who are overly “nice” since they feel out of balance and I have dificulty trusting them. Thus my hubbie’s buying me a calendar labeled ‘Getting in touch with your Inner B–ch’ made me laugh like crazy!

  11. Annie says:

    What really hit home was your observation that we often don’t want to see others succeed when we have failed to even try. Ouch too true.

    My only caution about relying too much on a “hey, it’s who I am” attitude is if it stops you from becoming better than “who you are”. We are all in process and striving to be better should be part of that process.

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and really enjoy your perspective. Thanks for putting yourself “out there”.

  12. Kit Cooper says:

    Terrific posting Jonathan. Very insightful and well written. I believe in the paradox concept. I think seeing paradoxes is a good sign of humanity. To be soft but hard. To not have a sense of entitlement but to feel you deserve it all. To be a great humanist but to also be a scoundrel every once in awhile. To give others the benefit of the doubt but to draw a line in the sand when you need to.

    Perhaps your biggest point is about being authentic and who you are. This Dr. Seuss quote is framed on my wall behind me as I type. “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”