When you were growing up, it felt like half the thoughts in your head were committed to reliving something stupid you had done, or agonizing over some embarrassing part of yourself you wished you could have changed. When we're still young (and, to be honest, often when we're grown-ups too), all of our perceived flaws are blown up and maximized. To some degree, that kind of self-scrutiny was justified; We are all flawed. But focusing on our flaws in a negative way really starts to take its toll if you do it for long enough, especially when left untempered by balancing amounts of self-love and encouragement. For so long, I was so caught up in the idea of being imperfect that I cared less about who I was, and more about who I believe I was ultimately going to be. I bullheadedly convinced myself that I would fix everything that bothered me about myself and become some perfect, mistake-free robot version of myself who was wildly successful at life.
Spoiler alert: That magically transformation never happened. My room is still a catastrophe most of the time; I'm still the queen of passive aggression so passive that nobody even notices it; I'm still nosy and loud and a hundred more annoying things. In fact, the only real difference between the person I was when I was younger and the person I am now is that I don't beat myself up about my imperfections anymore. I've learned to embrace most of them. Can you even imagine how boring we would all be if we weren't flawed? Or how much the entire series of Friends would have sucked? At a certain point, you stop cataloging and examining your flaws, and hating yourself for them, and start accepting them—and maybe even loving them.
Over time, I have come to stop thinking of my flaws as inherently bad, and instead think of them as things that make me unique and help me relate to other people. The internet has made that a lot easier since now I can always find people who share common ground with my insecurities. It's amazing how many friendships or even small, meaningful interactions that can trigger. But that's not the only way my life has improved. Here are some of the other ways your life gets better when you learn to love your flaws:
Getting dressed in the morning is a lot less stressful
There are so many articles littering the internet about "dressing for your body type," and while they're certainly helpful, making yourself a slave to what you're "supposed" to wear based on what "kind" of body you have is not really healthy. It's always nice to have tips for maximizing your ability to look and feel awesome in clothes, but ultimately, do you know what "type" of body you have? A body. And you know what it wears? Clothes. So what if something makes the round part of your stomach look a little rounder? I will rock a horizontal stripe whenever I damn well please.
You sleep so much more soundly
I know I'm not the only one who occasionally lies awake at night thinking about the perceived mistakes you made that day, experiencing repeated full-body cringes like they're a second round of cardio for the day, but here's the thing: Once you accept that you will occasionally say or do stupid things—even when you have the best of intentions—it's easy to let it go and remember that tomorrow is a totally blank canvas to try again.
You become a bajillion times more productive
I used to worry about a slew of ridiculous things: My honking laugh, the mole on my leg that grows hair (YOU'RE WELCOME), what some rando on the Metro thought of me, etc. All of it was a huge waste of time because worrying about it never led to anything helpful or real. Once I learned to appreciate the weird parts of myself, I funneled all that attention into things that genuinely mattered to me, like connecting with friends and writing for the internet and baking desserts inside of other desserts. You know, the important things in life.
You become the best friend there is
Once you have accepted your own flaws, it is a lot easier to step outside of yourself and notice when your friends are hung up on theirs. You know first hand what it's like to wrestle with the way you think of yourself and can work toward helping them reach that same kind of self-acceptance.
You hang out with people you feel more of a connection with
Back when I was furious trying to hide things I considered flaws (i.e., my rampant nerdery and ridiculous over-enthusiasm for most things in life), I would act like a completely different person (someone who wasn't anything like my real self) around certain groups of friends. Once I shed that other skin, I immediately, naturally gravitated toward the friends who accepted me as I was at the beginning, which was so much less exhausting than hanging out with people I didn't relate to all that much in the first place.
You change your definition of "failure"
"Failure" is a big, ugly, scary word that really just means you didn't get what you wanted this time. When you're all wrapped up in everything you perceive as wrong with yourself, you blame failure on those things, and it makes it that much harder to get back up again. But once you embrace your strengths and your flaws, you can use them to your advantage and figure out a unique and unconventional way to achieve your goals.
You learn how to take a compliment
There is nothing more obviously insecure than a person who responds to a compliment with, "Oh, um, er..." or "Yeah, but..." or any of those sad sentence starters you probably used at some point in your life. Compliments are little human gifts; people who aren't hung up on their flaws can accept them for what they are and allow themselves to feel like they deserve them.
You apologize a lot less
If you spent a week consciously listing the amount of times you apologize to someone, what you would observe would likely be kind of upsetting. Sometimes it's totally justified, like when you cut someone off with your cart at the grocery store or hurt somebody's feelings, but a lot of the time it is just something that falls out of your mouth for no reason, like you're basically apologizing for your existence. It's easy to live your life like this, especially when you think deep down that your perceived flaws demand an apology to the world. But when you embrace them as a part of yourself, you spend a lot less time with throwaway, meaningless "sorries" that people didn't deserve to hear in the first place.
You take bigger, more meaningful risks
When I was a choir kid in high school (bear with me for a second here), our teacher always told us to "make mistakes loudly." She said she would rather hear us make a big, flaming, horrible mistake in a song than not hear anything at all. It helped us perfect our songs faster, of course, but ultimately it was solid advice to stand by in life as well: If you're going to make mistakes, you've got to make them big and loud in order to see/hear them clearly enough to progress past them. And if you're going to be able to do that, you're going to have to accept the fact that everyone is going to see your flaws right out in the wide open and be okay with it. People who have embraced their flaws already have a lot less harder of a go at this than people who are still scared of letting their flaws get exposed.
You are more open to love of all kinds
You've heard it a thousand times, and you'll hear it a thousand more: Before you can be in a truly healthy, loving relationship, you have to be able to love yourself. It's not enough for your significant other to accept your flaws. You have to feel that you are worthy of that love before it will mean anything—and once you do, that unconditional mutual love and acceptance is the best feeling in the world.
You can make worthwhile changes in your life
Once you stop thinking of flaws as these hopeless and terrible parts of you, you can identify what parts of your life you genuinely should change to improve it. Maybe you want to work toward valuing important relationships more, or quit a smoking habit, or something that will sincerely improve your overall happiness and health. Some flaws can and should be changed, but accepting your flaws and owning the ones that make you who you are is essential to fixing the ones that are holding you back.