The Freedom of Authenticity (and 7 of My Biggest Flaws)

joshua-becker-flawed

“Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.” —Andrew Murray

9 months ago, Leo Babauta wrote a blog post titled I Failed. Immediately upon reading it, I wished I had written it. It was good and true and honest. But more importantly, it was freeing—for both the reader and writer.

More recently, I have been moved by the words of Brian Gardner and his continued pleas for authenticity. I read his thoughts on living unfiltered and again, streams of freedom flow in his writing. Sarah Peck also has a similar influence on me.

There is great freedom in authenticity.

One evening last month, while sitting at my dining room table, I suffered a dark moment of depravity. I received good news from a friend on the telephone. He’s a good person—someone I admire and look up to.

Understandably, he began telling me some of the wonderful things that had happened in his career. In a moment where I should have been rejoicing alongside him, I felt jealousy instead. I knew it was wrong for me to react this way, but it was the first emotion that surfaced. And no matter how many times I congratulated him, the bitter feeling of envy would not depart.

A few days later, unable to shake my jealousy, I called a friend and poured out my heart. I expressed my frustration with my weakness and asked for help. She responded, “You just accomplished the most important step: admitting this out loud to a trusted friend. Confess your weakness. The sooner you call it what it is, the sooner you are able to move on from it.”

Again, I was reminded there is great freedom in admitting our weakness.

  • It removes the artificial walls we have built around us.
  • It provides the pathway to begin addressing our faults.
  • It opens the door for accountability from others.
  • It embraces a life of honesty—with others and with ourselves.
  • It offers opportunity to connect with others as they see themselves in our weaknesses.
  • It allows others to love us for who we truly are.
  • It reminds us we are not alone in our faults. To be human is to be weak.

And yet, as much freedom as there is to be found in authenticity, it is still difficult. Admitting weakness still feels a lot like admitting weakness. But when there are so many advantages to be found in it, perhaps the greatest step is to admit our fear and humbly become transparent anyway.

Allow me to start: I am flawed.

Even more difficult to admit, I struggle with the same flaws over and over again. I know them intimately well and sometimes feel powerless to overcome them.

Seven of My Greatest Flaws

Jealousy. I have struggled with jealousy as long as I can remember. Typically, I blame it on a twin brother who is five inches taller with much broader shoulders. But my jealousy and envy run deeper than mere sibling rivalry. I find myself jealous of the skill and success of other writers. And I am jealous of those who are younger but have accomplished more. Sometimes I find motivation in this envy, but most of the time it is only crippling and burdensome.

Desire for Approval. I seek praise and approval from others—to an unhealthy and damaging degree. This desire keeps my heart and mind focused on myself too much. Often, it inhibits my ability to even be myself. I sometimes write and say things just because I know people want to hear them. And far too often, I withhold strongly held opinions because I know they are unpopular or fear they will not be accepted. There is no freedom when the desire for approval exceeds the desire to be yourself.

Lack of Self-Discipline. I am less self-disciplined than most. I write often about the importance of rising early, turning off distractions, and focused devotion to meditation. I have experienced beauty and joy in each. And yet, I sleep in far too many mornings each week and have played far more Candy Crush on my iPhone than I’d ever care to admit. I waste countless hours each week when I should be working or devoted to more important pursuits (meditation, reading, exercise). I desperately envy those who do not need a deadline to complete a project.

Selfishness. I love generosity. It is important and valuable. It is wonderful to write about, but difficult to practice. Even when it was difficult, I donated 10% of my income to charity, sometimes even more. I am thankful for the financial and the life lessons I have learned from the discipline. But nowadays, money is not tight. I have more liquid assets today than at any point before and my expenses are the lowest they have been in 10 years. And yet, during a stage of life when excessive generosity should be easier than ever, I find myself holding on to more than ever. My selfishness is being revealed during a time of plenty.

Guilt over Physical Possessions. I own more things than I need. I own less than most, but still more than I need. There are books under my bed and tools in my garage that will never be used. There are CDs and DVDs and couches (yes, couches) we intend to sell but haven’t yet. Some of the closets in my home are embarrassingly full. I believe strongly in the benefits of owning and buying less. And I have written often that my practice of minimalism is much less extreme than most. But still, I continue to have this nagging feeling that I am no less qualified to write about this topic than anyone else.

Lack of Empathy. I am less compassionate than I should be. It’s not that I don’t care about the emotional needs of the people around me, it’s that I don’t even think to notice them. As I dig deeper into this fault, I continue to run into my desire for approval from others. I go through my day so focused on being noticed and validated by others, I don’t even shift my focus long enough to notice the pain of others.

Protecting my Image. I suffer through a constant need to protect my image. I rarely express weakness to even my closest friends as I work desperately hard to protect their thoughts about me. I rarely ask for help—to do so would be to admit my need for it. Indeed, my pride runs very deep and expresses itself in numerous ways. Perhaps its greatest expression is my desire to pretend that it is well-placed.

Ahh.

There is great freedom in authenticity. I am thankful for those who have gone before and modeled it for me.

In a world where our public image can be meticulously crafted though Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and personal blogs, we must work hard to embrace our authenticity and overcome the fear associated with exposing our faults.

I hope you will join me in doing just that.

Add a comment below expressing 1-2 of your greatest weaknesses. Or join the chat on Twitter by including the hashtag (#iamflawed).

Together, we can experience greater freedom. And encourage others to do the same.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. Sandy says

    Man… take it easy on yourself. Love yourself a little. Yes, we all have flaws, but that is what being human is all about. We all hide in the closet and eat candy bars or play Candy Crush. I believe, probably, that even if you could change places with your friend, you wouldn’t. In each life, someone will have more that you in one area or another whether it’s looks, intellect, money, success, et cetera. Strive to be the best you can be and then forget about it. I suppose my biggest flaw is apathy with regard to my work.

  2. Bonnie says

    Attended the other guys book reading last night. They made me wonder a few things:
    1) what do their former spouses think of them?
    2) is minimalism an arrogant movement when we consider those without a roof over their heads, receiving food and medical care benefits?
    3) do they acknowledge that a quality education, which I’m guessing they both had, and a middle class upbringing are possessions that not everyone can obtain?

    I find your example much more authentic and sincere.

  3. jaki says

    Honest and reflective post – refreshing…
    In seeing, you have created an opportunity to experience conscious living…
    I think that may be what we, who are exploring minimalism, may be seeking…
    In Peace

  4. Marilene says

    It takes a person a lot of courage to admit their flaws, I think you did a beautiful job and I respect you more than ever because of that. My flaws is fear of the future and lack of compassion towards myself. But I am working on it and getting much, much better at it :) You have helped a lot with your blog and sincerity.

  5. says

    “You just accomplished the most important step: admitting this out loud to a trusted friend. Confess your weakness. The sooner you call it what it is, the sooner you are able to move on from it.” ==> She said it perfectly.

    I remember a quote by Brene Brown that says that vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. They aren’t always comfortable but never are they weakness.

    I think you’ve been really courageous to even write this post. I think if I were in your position I would get jealous of your friend too. I can relate to that. Sounds terrible, but I can totally see myself in that position.

    • says

      I’m glad you mentioned Brene Brown, Jeremy! (I hope you don’t mind me hopping on your thread here) Her work reminds me of a psychologist from the earlier 20th century, Karen Horney, who discussed the struggle between the idealized self vs our real self.
      Joshua, I enjoy your writing because it is very clear. These ‘flaws’ you mention are genuine. Brown refers to shame, in that we don’t think we are good enough (I believe Horney referred to the ‘tyranny of shoulds’) Embracing vulnerability, Brown calls it ‘daring greatly’, is to use our courage to be open and authentic so you are accomplishing that.
      I don’t consider the points you mention as ‘weaknesses’ either. They are what they are (and sometimes they can be strengths!) What’s gratifying is your observation of their power to take over. The beauty of being human is seeing our behaviour and accepting who we are, as well as having the power of choice to adapt these qualities in everyday life, as long as they become equally authentic.
      As a fellow blogger, I applaud your invitation to the public to engage on these topics. Shining a light like this so I can get clear about my intentions is a big part of minimalism for me.
      Jo

      • says

        Oh, and I will answer your call out for ‘weaknesses’ :-)
        I am exploring more ‘outrospection’ (check out philosopher Roman Krznaric) I have my inside pretty much figured out so I can now spend more time paying attention to others.
        As a creative freelancer, I embrace my wild attention span – haha! Yet I also have a strong sense of order and time management. I am working on a balance between these so I can feel I have satisfied both ‘personalities’ at the end of each day.

  6. Anne Taylor says

    isn’t it great that we can start each new day knowing we can leave yesterday behind us with all its mistakes and weaknesses :) What matters is the longing in our hearts for a better way of living; we just need to keep picking ourselves up and starting again and we can be sure that we will have the strength and the power to continue the process of change.

  7. thelittleway says

    Hi Joshua,
    I just want to let you know that I find you (& your blog) very inspiring. I too am a person that seeks affirmation from others, and that has proven hard for me at times to be my true authentic self, and stand by what I believe in. It’s also made it harder for me to know my own convictions, because I’m so “agreeable!” But I still strive for that authenticity. I look at my son, just one year old, and see that pureness in all he does and says, and I think that’s how we were all meant to be. We should all strive to get back to that. Sure, we’ll stumble and fall along the way ’cause the world is a harsh, hard place, but that’s okay.

  8. says

    seriously, one of the best posts you’ve written.
    i saw you, straight up, a for-real person.
    i could picture you in your house, with closets like mine, a smart phone like everyone else.
    thank you for showing yourself authentic.
    it truly is the most persuasive, the best way to be.

  9. Robin says

    Joshua,
    I believe everyone has flaws and it takes strength to realize and admit what they are. I strongly believe that being truly aware of your actions and feelings is key to living a more meaningful life. The journey and the discovery of oneself along the way is more important than the end result. If one is to assess their flaws, then they must also assess their greatest strengths and assets. Like the inspiration and motivation that you have provided many others, the time commitment and dedication to your writing, the willingness to be there for your friends like last night, the ability to talk to complete strangers and share of yourself (even with some of the youngest members), and probably many other attributes that you have. Realizing those is just as important in finding your true self.

  10. Casey says

    I struggle with consistency (a lack of self-discipline) and pride which usually manifests itself in seeking affirmation from others. #iamflawed

  11. Meri M. says

    This was brave. It is one thing to admit flaws when you are not blogging under your full name, and another when you are actually out in the open and running into people who read your blog on a daily basis…!

    I am an emotional eater (lack of self-discipline) and I get caught in the past too often (lack of positive thinking).

  12. Kathleen says

    I cannot narrow my faults down to just two (is that a fault? :) ). The first that come to mind are:

    1. I cannot forgive myself for the biggest mistake I ever made. It happened six years ago and I live with the guilt as though it happened today. My guilt is affecting my relationships.

    2. I pester my husband for leaving a trail of clutter around the house without seeing my own clutter. I’ve been working on thinking/reflecting before criticizing others.

  13. Sersea says

    I am touched by your transparency and honesty with yourself. As I read your flaws, I was filled with love and empathy because I identified in so many ways with them. To be human *is* to be weak, to be imperfect, to be a work in progress – and to embrace our own vulnerabilities, well, I suppose that is freeing.

    As for the greatest fault I can think of… I am cowardly. I feel as if all my sacrifices are superficial because they are predicated upon the maintenance of perceived safety and comfort. I do not trust myself to do the right thing, I do not believe myself capable of navigating challenges alone, and I am too terrified to expect love and support from my friends and family if my endeavors prove overburdening, although they continue to supply both amply and of their own free will. I should not be afraid to embrace an authentic life that supports my desires, but I am. I’m completely crippled by the fear of rejection and failure. I am embarrassed by the extent to which it consumes my life, and I often wonder what I could accomplish if I simply let it go.

    Ah, now that does feel better. Thank you for sharing – and creating an opportunity for others to express the same sort of sincerity. <3

  14. says

    thanks Joshua for this lovely post… you have inspired me to come up with a post on my own flaws in my blog… it sounds really liberating… my number one would be: “I have a hard time asking for help”

    thanks,
    nathalie

  15. says

    Thanks for sharing your deeper feelings, Joshua. I never think anyone is weak when they are sharing their most vulnerable parts. They actually seem the strongest. You felt powerful when you were sharing your personal inventory. You seemed like a real, living person. That’s simple living. Thanks for the inspiration.

  16. Vickie says

    Thanks for being so honest. Confession is good for our souls, I think it helps us become more authentic people.
    I struggle with many of those feelings too. I think the important part is that you recognize your weaknesses and work on them.
    We are all on a journey and most people are in different places on their own journey. No human is perfect.
    I’ve been listening to a book titled “The Prayer of Love” by Hanby and Roth, on CD; and I love listening to Eckhart Tolle. Those CDs have helped me tremendously when it comes to self-defeating thoughts and emotions.
    You are helping others by revealing your struggles. Thanks for being so inspiring!

  17. says

    Dear Joshua,
    I first read this a few days ago, but I have come back to it today because I have been feeling sorry for myself – one of my own faults. I hope that one day I too have the strength to admit to my flaws and accept them. Until then I will keep coming back to your posts for the strange sense of peace they give me that I don’t yet find in other parts of my life.

  18. says

    Joshua,
    You have just taken a huge step in real living and are now taking others (me included) with you. What could be better than that?
    Wanted to mention that those of us who seek the approval of others to the point that we don’t tell tell them or act on the truth aren’t really getting their approval. We’re getting their approval of what we said or did. Being honest and transparent allows others to love us, our own person. Isn’t that what we all really want?
    As for my weaknesses, there are many on the list probably starting with I can be a martyr caregiver. Why? Seeking approval from others/giving myself worth.
    Thanks for sharing.

  19. says

    Thank you for your honesty! I’m grateful for your very candid, sincere writing. That takes courage. I’ve been on this path of authentic living since we had our babies. Something hit me. Hard. I became more and more aware that I was on a path that looked good on the outside but not good enough… I had expectations of married life…chasing a dream that wasn’t true to me….the white picket fence, the dog, the right stuffmade me ache inside because it seemed I’d never have it all.
    I am so grateful for the things I didn’t get right away because that’s precisely what I needed! When I let go of trying to get to my dream…chasing..hunting…I realized I had the stuff that really mattered… an awesome husband & 2 beautiful babies!
    Thankfully all 3 helped me to get real.
    Ego

  20. says

    Crazy how my ego can turn me into the exact opposite of who my heart and soul want to be… Staying real. I’m so much happier when I remember not to compare myself and my stuff to ops… Other People’s Stuff,
    My greatest lesson came while reading the classic,The Velveteen Rabbit to our children. POOF! I need to surround myself with others who are real and working hard to get real.
    And this is the part where I THANK YOU for helping me to get real. THANK YOU!

    FROM THE VELVETEEN RABBIT
    “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.
    But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
    ― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

  21. Josh says

    What a fantastic post! You are not the only one who deals with these issues. I know that I deal with every single one of them every day. But in the spirit of this topic, here are my biggest flaws…

    1… I waste far too much time. I watch Netflix, I play video games sometimes, and I waste way, way too much time on facebook.

    2… I don’t spend enough time with my family. I have a very active social life and I enjoy spending time with my friends, but sometimes when I get really busy with work it is my family who doesn’t get the attention that they deserve :(

    Thank you for being so real, and thank you for encouraging me to vocalize my flaws as well, so that I might begin to try to become a better person :)

  22. says

    There’s a line in a Sarah Bareilles song: “Show me how big your brave is”.
    You’ve got some major brave going on, Joshua—it’s refreshing, authentic, and inspiring. I think that’s why I was so drawn to minimalists’ blogs and books…it’s a wonderful group of people who are aware and alive to what needs to be taken away to make the rest shine. I have loved following your journey to the place you are now.

    Thank you for being brave…it helps to give permission for the rest of us to do the same.

  23. Krista says

    1. I am a jealous person. The jealousy makes me angry at the people who are doing/have what I want, and are the way I want to be. It also makes me angry at myself for not doing/having what they do and not being the way they are and I want to be.
    2. I am a people-pleaser. I hate it. It has been so integrated into my life, that I can’t even remember some things about myself. I so badly want out of this cycle, and I want to remember my authentic truth.

  24. Mo says

    This is truly a great article. I was just thinking how important it has been for me to know that I am not alone in my thoughts and in the things I am going through. My two biggest weaknesses are intense anxiety that I don’t let others see and a feeling that I am not and never will be good enough, even though I have worked so hard to get to where I am in life. Thank you for your honesty. It is a selfless and compassionate act to admit your weaknesses so that others do not feel alone with their own.

  25. Michelle V Nolen says

    Ah, Joshua, a kindred spirit of many, including myself……..

    1. b/c of my religious upbringing, I judge EVERYTHING I do as either good or bad, right or wrong, moral or immoral. This leaves no room for my humanity.

    2. my mission in life has been to gain approval and to absolutely – at all costs – to avoid rejection. I’m 54, and am just now creating my identity – the one that should have begun in adolescence.

    3. I still don’t know who I am and what my life mission is. I have ideas about what would please others; no clue about my own feelings.

    BUT, I am learning to let go of black/white thinking and embrace the grey. It’s OK to be where I’m at. In fact it’s right where I’m supposed to be, NOW.

    • says

      Ditto about the religious upbringing and judging things as right and wrong. I think it’s something that has more of a hold on us Americans than we realize–our country has more morals and social conventions that are based in Christianity we like to admit. I’m still unsure whether some moral ideas I have are really mine, or are cultural norms that I’ve taken on as my own. It gets confusing, and distressful. And distress is bad! Bleh! ;-)

  26. Carla says

    I am new to this site and am very grateful I found it. I am loaded with weaknesses but I do acknowledge my strengths. I feel, though, that my weaknesses overtake and consume me. My biggest one is envy and following close behind is a low sense of self-efficacy. I want so much to help people become healthy and have all the credentials to do so, but fear failure and find myself wishing I had more money to do more things.
    It does feel good to know I’m not alone in my thoughts. I look forward to learning more.

    • says

      Hi Carla. Out of curiosity, what do you want to do to help people become healthy and have the credentials for it? I ask because I have the same goals. I dream about it! My work is based on the mind-body connection: finding physical balance that leads to mental balance, or vice versa, through diet, yoga, peace of mind, and, proper posture (it’s all incredibly symbolic and symbiotic!). Apologies for the public message if it is inappropriate, but I’m unable to PM Carla directly. Thanks. :-)

  27. says

    1. I am impatient. I am now tolerant when waiting on people. I realize that I don’t need to be on time or precisely on schedule with everything. If I am kept waiting unexpectedly, the world isn’t going to end, it won’t all become a terrible, messy, disaster. I still have to talk myself through this reasoning occasionally, when I have plans that are upset by another person(ality), but I am genuinely patient in this regard often. I am still incredibly impatient, however, of my friends’ and family’s ability to keep ‘pace’ with me, to understand everything as I do, at the same speed. With health and spirituality for example, things I hold very dear, I am impatient for my loved ones to get where I am, to grow with me. Which brings me to…
    2. Intolerance. I am intolerant. I want everyone to be just like me. When they aren’t, I think it’s a fault of character. I work very hard at getting to know myself and chipping away at all the stories and emotional weight I’ve gathered throughout the years, and although I know I have so much to learn still, I evidently think I am pretty awesome. When I see issues in others that I have already worked through, I find it difficult to be tolerant of their ignorance, or slowness. I can be tolerant of strangers and students, but of loved ones I am a very impatient and intolerant critic. [I also realize that my impatience implies that I think I -know- what is best, and that is an issue... But I have faith and a certain assuredness in the path I have chosen, in the work I do, so it's hard for me to, well, be tolerant, I suppose. I have trouble balancing faith and dedication with tolerance, but I remind myself that it's not about being right, and that it's impossible for me to know everything, so there might be other 'right' paths out there... ]
    3. I’m hard on myself. I know what I need to do in order to reach my ‘goals.’ Having the career/healthy body/skills I dream of having, to be the tolerant, patient person I want to be: when I do things that contradict these goals, like play games on my iPad or indulge in gossip or buy something extravagant, I feel guilty. That guilt is just as much a disservice to me as the wasteful (judgement!) acts.
    4. I’m safe. I don’t take risks. I always allow myself enough time to meet every commitment comfortably, or else I don’t commit. I’m very dependable, which is a good thing, I am sure, but it’s a little boring.

    For all of these Flaws, I find comfort in remembering that nothing is as big a deal as I think it is. But, that said, as I mentioned earlier I realize that when I act against my beliefs, I’m acting against my own true self, and that is violence… So while I do want to remember to go easy on myself, I also want to receive the necessary kick in the butt to keep me from doing these things I clearly don’t approve of, and that hurt only me and my dreams. So if iPad games are distracting me, I can wean myself off them. Or if I decide it’s OK to indulge occasionally, then I decide what occasionally is and stick to that decision. It can get messy quickly, philosophizing like this, but I think what is important for me is to just honor myself. I know when I’m doing something I ‘shouldn’t’ (a word I don’t like to use), and I need to be honest with myself about my decisions in those moments. Asking myself Why usually will bring out the truth, and then I can work from there. And since I think I’m awesome and right about everything I work toward, I think the same goes for all of you! ;-) ;-) ;-)

    I also try to remember that any act is considered work because I call it that, and the same goes for play. Word choice is powerful.

  28. raluca says

    Envy, sloth and pride, and I’m sure if I think about it, I’ll eventually get around to tick all the 7 sins.

  29. linda says

    I am judgmental of others (and they hear it, feel it and see it without me even realizing I’m doing it.)

    I’m impatient. I want everything now (results, love, knowledge…) and don’t do the work to get it done.

    blech…

  30. says

    that was so touching! I know this has been a bit ago but it reminded me how everyone is human…my worst problem is laziness. But believe it or not, reading your posts have really helped!

  31. Tina says

    I came to your blog late. Your soul searching reminds me of Yom Kippur when we apologize to God for our sins against him. We apologize to people for our sins against them. I try to buy most everything used if I need something because I want to lessen the environmental impact. My most selfish act is taking the elevator or escalator instead of stairs because my knees hurt even though I know it is wasteful of energy to do this. In the past 5 years I have only bought new underwear and shoes. Usually, I find what I need at rummage sales or garage sales. I give away a bag of things every week.

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Being Flawed | March 18, 2014
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