If you asked me when I was younger what I wanted to be when I grew up, I may have answered perfect, or famous, which is incredibly ironic, I know. I simultaneously craved a spotlight while fearing what it might reveal—my inadequacies, my weaknesses, my flaws.
I thought being perfect meant being beyond reproach—undeniably lovable and worthy of respect, something I didn’t always receive growing up.
And I assumed that if I were perfect in all ways, I could finally relax and enjoy my life because I could trust that no one would judge or hurt me. I could navigate the world secure in the knowledge I was good enough, and everyone knew it, so I had nothing to prove.
Though I spent years trying to overcome all my weaknesses—my anxiety, my insecurity, my controlling nature, my need to be liked—I’ve never arrived at a place of complete freedom from these struggles. I’ve made progress, sure, but I’m still flawed. I’m still craggy and cracked, like a mirror that’s been shattered and glued together many times over.
I started thinking about this recently when listening to the sixth episode of Next Creator Up, the podcast I’ve been producing with Ehren Prudhel, the show’s host and my partner in many things.
In this interview, Hollywood screenwriter and author Noah Knox Marshall talked a little about his non-dystopian sci-fi book series for kids and how strong characters have flaws. That’s what makes them real—their quirks, their struggles, their insecurities, and rough edges—because this is what it means to be human.
When we see a flawed character in a movie or a book, we instinctively empathize with them and root for their happiness and success. We know they’re neurotic or needy or scornful or scared, but we care about them anyway and sit at the edge of our seats hoping they get the job, get the girl, or at least get the message they need to grow and thrive.
We see ourselves in these characters, and we want for them the peace and happiness we may deny ourselves.
The irony is we deny ourselves peace and happiness for the very same reason we want it for them—because we’re undeniably and permanently imperfect, and always have something new to work on, no matter how much we learn and grow.
There was a time when I resisted this reality. I truly believed I could eventually reach a point when I did everything “right.” When I always said the right thing, did the right thing, and responded in the right way when other people…