You Have My Permission to Be Awesome

You Have My Permission to Be Awesome

You’re awesome. No, seriously!

This is a compliment that gets passed around with some frequency these days. It’s usually meant in a specifically conditional sense (e.g., “you’re an awesome cook”) or slightly tongue-in-cheek (“awesome,” after all, literally means “impressive to a frightening degree”).

When someone says that to us, we take it as a compliment, but we also don’t really believe it. 

And for good reason.

Most of us aren’t very awesome.

We’re entirely flawed, fallen people, who wake up every morning just to make mistakes. We yell at the people we love. We’re selfish. We’re hypocritical. Sometimes we’re just plain wrong. 

Some of our faults we’re blind to and others we’re all too aware of.

I won’t for one minute say my ego is small enough that when someone tells me “you’re awesome,” I don’t grin and take them partially at their word.

But there’s another part of me–that latent (or not-so-latent) part in all of us, that brushes off the whole idea as impossible–that knows how un-awesome I am and believes whatever awesomeness I possess can’t possibly weigh out in the balance. Even better (worse?), that part insists I’m only being humble in saying so.

The dark side of self-improvement

During the last several years, I found myself in an aggressive cycle of self-improvement. Or at least, that’s how I thought of it. I was intent on being as ruthless in critiquing and improving myself as I was in judging anyone else’s flaws.

There was a lot of improvement going on (probably because there was a lot of room for it! 😛 ). One of the best measures of growth is being able to look back at your past self and realize you like the person you are now better–and I like the person I am now much better than I did the person I was ten or even five years ago.

That’s all to the good.

But, along the way, something else happened. I got carried away. I was cutting myself zero slack. I was expecting insurmountable achievements from myself and allowing myself no generosity with my mistakes. 

One day, I shared a quote I liked with my sister.

I was not put on this earth to live up to your expectations and you were not put here to live up to mine bruce lee

I told her, “I’m not very good at that.”

She said, “You’re too hard on yourself.”

I immediately responded: “No, I’m not. I’m just honest.”

That’s what I believed: that I had to be ruthlessly honest about my flaws.

Is self-criticism a virtue?

But then I started thinking about it. I was being awfully hard on myself–much harder than I would want to be on someone else. Since when does God expect perfection? He made us imperfect in an imperfect world, and His love has never been conditional on our earning it with a 110% effort to be perfect.

I appreciated director Guillermo del Toro’s comments from the commentary of Crimson Peak:

Imperfection is an altogether attainable human goal [and] love is acceptance of imperfections.

Speculative author Charity Bishop built upon del Toro’s insights:

The reason that line stood out to me, amid all the others, is that this year for Lent, I chose to give up “self-criticism.”

Some might argue that without self-criticism, we cannot be humble. Instead, I pose that self-criticism is a form of self-worship, through self-loathing. In hating myself, I commit dual sins of turning myself into an idol (to which I devote much time, energy, and emotion) and by criticizing God’s artwork. My imperfections are the result of living in an imperfect world; God intends me to be a masterpiece. I am a bit tarnished, but still His work of art and He will one day complete me in the fullness of time. I need neither hate myself in my current fallen state nor strive for perfection. I must neither self-worship through loving self excessively nor offend God through self-loathing.

I am awesome. So are you.

This January, I gave myself permission to be awesome. Not permission, I hope, to be prideful or arrogant about my strengths and virtues, but not to belittle them either–and, even more importantly, not to obsess about my faults. 

I am flawed.

I will always be flawed.

I will always be striving to be better.

But if I (try) to accept the imperfections of others and if God accepts all of our imperfections, under Christ, then what right have I to hold myself to a different standard?

-Samuel beckett

Today, I give you permission to be awesome too (not that you need my permission). Will you join me in recognizing our flaws, striving to better them, but also embracing them and loving them?

Let’s chat! What’s something awesome you did today–big or small? Tell me in the comments!

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  1. Totally get that. I face the fear of being less self-critical, therefore less motivated by perfectionism, and therefore falling short of my own vision of greatness.

  2. This is a wonderful booster! I’ve always been self critical of myself (especially regarding my writing) and reading this, I’m proud of what I’ve written. I feel I can continue planning new stories without a little voice telling me they’ll never work out and no one will like them.
    The first thing I’m going to do is stop trying to compare myself with other writer’s and cut myself some slack.
    Thank you once again for the post! 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Good for you! I wholeheartedly endorse this. I think one of the most damaging things we can do as writers is negatively compare ourselves to others. It’s one thing to be objective about the flaws we need to work on but our writing and our stories are unique. They’ll never compare to anyone else’s–and that’s a good thing!

    • I used to compare myself early last year to other writers, which is so unfair. Everyone has their own voice that the world needs to hear. I finally realized why we tend to compare ourselves with others. It’s because we haven’t fully realized our own preciousness.

  3. This is the most beautiful, inspirational post you have ever written. Dare I call it awesome? I struggle with some of these same things, although usually I’m too depressed by my own horribleness to summon the energy for self-improvement. But I really need to work on (oh no! not another flaw to fix!) accepting that I am a flawed person and am always going to be that way. We authors put so much effort into giving our characters flaws and not making them too perfect, yet we act just the opposite way with ourselves, all too often.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Actually, observing character flaws has always been interesting for me, as much in regards to other people’s flaws as my own. In fiction, we love the broken, flawed people. In real life, why shouldn’t we treat ourselves and others with the same objective compassion?

    • YES. I love the way you uttered this. So true.

  4. Attempting to be perfect is usually an attempt to live up to our image of someone else. God created us all uniquely awesome in ways that no one else is. Accepting that and embracing that is a big key to being content with the way God made me. I am not just like anyone else, and no one else is just like me. That is an awesome thing, because if we were all the same—the world would be a terribly boring place. As you say, though, our flaws do need to be recognized and worked on. We need to realize that is a never ending project, though. It is one that we will be working on our entire lives, and we should never give up on it. Accept and embrace that as well.
    Take delight in the person God made you to be. Live that life that is uniquely yours to the fullest. Be the awesomesauce you are!

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Yay for awesomesauce! And, yes, this is definitely not a surrender to flaws–just a surrendering *of* them and the realization that their presence isn’t, in itself, failure.

    • Yes, you said exactly what I was trying to earlier. Our “flaws”, are there for a reason. Otherwise we’d probably be too proud and condescend upon others. God did create us in a certain way, and for a particular purpose. His purpose. We’re all facets on the same diamond. And all are precious.

  5. I love the idea of fasting from this for Lent. Half the struggle, for me, is to consciously recognize when that super-critical side is talking. It’s so internalized that I often wouldn’t call myself that critical, even as I’m wilting under the guilt of not performing perfectly. And when I think of repressing the criticism, it often eggs me on with a stupid argument like, “Without me, your ego’s going to go through the roof!”

    A speaker at a conference I went to once said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Definitely something I need to work on.

  6. I found this piece to be profound for a multitude of reasons. Most significantly, I nearly died under the weight of my expectations. I find it reassuring that, if my expectations are unhappy with me and come to call, I don’t have to listen! Thanks for the reminder.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Yikes! Glad you survive it. 🙂 And, I like that metaphor–of not answering the door–a lot.

  7. I enjoyed this post and your realization. And you’re absolutely right. We’re awesomely imperfect. I would argue though, that God made us or the world imperfect. After all he did say, “indeed, it was very good” when he made us. So we are awesomely and wonderfully made! All the imperfections came from the subtle antagonist. It only makes for a better plot. 🙂 Not even God avoids conflict. It makes a better story. Hah!

    On a personal note, I’m learning to embrace my imperfections too! I’ve had depression just by focusing too much on my flaws. Which always leads to the gutter. Not a fun place to be trust me.
    Been there, and ain’t doin that anymore. Love covers all things. I’d say more but I’d hate to get on a soapbox here. But I do understand self-improvement from a business standpoint. I had to really encourage a patient today who suffers from depression and severe anxiety. He wasn’t trying to improve, rather he was beating himself up with repeating negative thought patterns. Over and over again. Living in fear. Big difference.

    Whoo-hoo! You ARE awesome. I’m awesome too. *he he*. We all appreciate your awesomeness. I seriously think writers are the most intriguing people on the planet.

    See ya!

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Self-improvement is one of those fine lines, I think. I it’s important, but it’s easy to go too far and turn it into something negative. It’s better to focus on positive, proactive improvements, rather than beating ourselves up for our faults.

  8. I too, I am one of the folks who spends too much time dwelling on the imperfections. In my mind, I think: “if only I could not do this…” or, “I need to stop doing that, THEN I’ll have *arrived*.” What’s this feeling of wanting to “arrive?” I ask myself. I think it’s a way of trying to earn acceptance from God. Haha! It’s funny to say, but so very serious. The thing is, I know the Bible… I know it well enough to know that I’m accepted regardless of how stupid my actions may be. This mindset, this being okay with being awesome would seem to be egotistical or narcissistic, but I think (like you said) giving ourselves some grace to be imperfect is a HUGE step towards accepting ourselves as we are and empowering ourselves to move on and not just dwell on the negatives. I can see you really thought about and internalized this one Katie 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Well, you know, it only took me ten years of it working it through. 😛

      But, yes, I totally resonate with the idea of trying to “arrive.” It’s a futile pursuit. No wonder it makes us feel like failures!

  9. Wow. Thank you for this. I’ve kind of been slapped across the face with some of my own imperfections this past week, so I definitely needed to hear this. I’m forcing myself to remember: 1) I’m better than I have been, 2) I will be better than I am now, and 3) God has a plan through every bit of it.

    And hey, our own personality flaws can make for interesting novel-character flaws, right?

  10. Interesting. This post got me thinking!

    Self-criticism easily turns into everybody-criticism.

    When you judge yourself for doing something wrong, you create a divide in your mind between right and wrong. You tell yourself there are right ways to be and wrong ways to be. This then becomes part of your way to interact with the world and you start categorizing people and their actions into right or wrong. You become judgmental!

    It also works the other way around. Being critical of other people turns you into a critical person with a sharp delineation between right and wrong. Your unconscious listens and soon criticism of others turns into self-criticism.

    The trick, in my humble opinion, isn’t to be critical of faults and wrongs, but to be more mindful of things we want to have more of in our lives. Since there is only 24 hours on a day, doing more “right things” will naturally leave less room for “wrong things.”

    However, when it comes to thoughts and emotions, there is only one solution: be, regardless of right or wrong! You can control your thoughts as much as you can avoid thinking about a pink elephant or a yellow postbox. Hah! You just thought about them! They pop in there, totally beyond our control. Accept them and have fun when they get really silly!

    A thought can never become harmful unless we act on it, and we have a choice not to act. Just because it’s screaming its head off about something we should do doesn’t mean we can’t just let it scream… thoughts are so fluid they seldom stay for long. Unless we try to suppress them…

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with delineating right and wrong. Even in accepting my flaws, I never want to stop striving to be a better person. However, I totally agree that self-criticism is largely tied up with others-criticism. It’s a vicious cycle.

  11. Mornin’

    Couldn’t sleep. Thought I’d pop in for a moment. I wanted to respond to what someone said earlier. We tend to relate to flawed characters on the page. Those with histories, struggles, wants and needs. Because we’re exactly the same. It’s hard to relate to a flawless MC. This is exactly my struggle with my Protag. Not enough flaws.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      I totally agree with this. And the interesting thing is that we often have much more compassion for the flaws fictional character than we do for ourselves or those in real life.

  12. This is totally unrelated but…Do you have any posts regarding productivity/planning/writing routine? You’re obviously in beast mode when it comes to productivity, and If I could zap some of your powers that’d be great.

    The force is strong with you. Don’t succumb to the dark side of self-improvement. 😉

  13. I suggest checking out:

    It’s based on David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” but in digital form (using Evernote), and modernized. Still the book is also a good read for productivity.

  14. Yeah, I do know what you mean. It’s really hard to get our heads around the grace of God. I didn’t really even start to until I went to Bible College, and I still forget sometimes. 😀

    But it really IS all about grace. It really is. Jesus came to free us from guilt and self-loathing. I don’t believe it “offends” Him when we fall into that, though. I believe He just wants to help us stop doing it – like any good father would.

    (If we think of it as “offending” Him, that can easily become just another guilt trip anyway.)

    It’s also helpful to remember that we can never really pull ourselves up by our bootstraps anyway. It’s only the Holy Spirit working within us that brings about true change. The “Fruit of the Spirit” – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and all the rest – that grows naturally as a result of letting Him work within us. We have to be willing to be changed, but it’s Him who does the changing.

    It’s all grace. It really is all grace. :’)

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      I think that’s what we often miss: it’s supposed to “grow naturally.” Sitting there thinking about it all the time is kinda like trying to get the watched pot to boil.

  15. Panicking Raven says:

    I really needed to read this. I have been struggling with always feeling like I’m not good enough at anything. (Everything) I always put myself down and ended up doing nothing but sit and feel sorry for myself. I’m not perfect, but I can be awesome. I want to say thank you. And thanks to my wife who sent me the link to this page. I have support and I know I can stop seeing everything I do in terms of how perfect it is.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      I know I definitely felt for a while there that beating myself up for my flaws was somehow going to make me overcome them. But I think, really, it works just the opposite: the more we obsess about our imperfections, the more likely we are to keep repeating them. So go forth and be awesome! 🙂

  16. Lean into grace. Talking from experience here, overthinking leads to error and criticism. The less we think and strive, the better. The more we wait and obey, the better.
    Something awesome I did today. Prayed for a guy who was frantic with worry about losing his job because he couldn’t find a particular street (he’d already been back and forth across a deep river valley in the south of our city, and now he was on the wrong side! I just prayed peace over him and his boss. Saw him relax. Saw how he walked off too – that fast, effortless, determined stride that can eat up the miles and feels like you could do it all day. I was only there to meet him because a) God had asked me to bless someone with an item of a particular price, and his house was yards/metres away, b) when there was no answer at the house, someone else who said he’d phone Thursday phoned today (Wednesday) and arranged to meet me at that spot after another meeting, and c) had been delayed at that meeting. Totally a divine appointment. God bless you Kenneth!


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