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Don't Fight Being Human

The list of celebrities getting toppled from their perches due to their human failings gets longer and longer... John Edwards, Tiger Woods and Kirstie Alley are just a few recently in the headlines. Not to mention that our fascination with human weakness has turned into a booming industry known as reality television shows.

But what’s even more fascinating than watching all these beautiful, successful people fall? Seeing how they return from the ruin. The drug abuser who comes clean and writes a book... the fitness trainer who was once obese... the philanderer who rebuilds his commitment to wife and family -- these people serve as inspiration we love to embrace. According to life coach and Daily Health News regular contributor Lauren Zander, CEO of the Handel Group, there is a very good reason why we find them so entrancing: "Focusing on the failures of others allows us to hide from our own weaknesses, reassuring ourselves that we must be fine since we’d never do that."

It’s Part of the Story

The truth is that our weaknesses (we all have them) are part of being human. Overcoming them is part of the adventure of life, whereas covering up and hiding from a simple weakness can transform it into an obstacle that holds back personal development, and perhaps even destroys your life.

Have you noticed that people who’ve taken charge of failings and turned them around exude more confidence? With their stronger sense of self, they’re better and more inspiring teachers than those who have never had to confront their demons. Since the entire world is facing challenges right now, Lauren says it’s an ideal time to unmask our own weaknesses and take a different approach -- embrace them. She points out that everyone has positive and negative traits, adding "It’s better to be honest about your challenges than to make believe that they don’t exist, since, I promise you, the rest of the world is very aware of your shortcomings."

Accepting and acknowledging our weaknesses makes us immediately more authentic and real. Furthermore, it is only by admitting to our negative traits that we can begin to work on changing them. "Inherent in the concept of making something better is that you have to acknowledge that it’s a problem," says Lauren. "It’s the light emerging from the dark, the yin/yang of life."

But when you acknowledge what is negative in your life you also introduce a crucial question -- are you willing to do the work to make it better? "It isn’t easy to change the way you live -- how you eat, how you talk to others, the routines of your life," says Lauren. Making improvements requires awareness, adjustment and commitment. "Avoiding the conversation means that you don’t have to deal with it," she says. "But once you figure out that it is possible to turn not-so-great into something you’re proud of, you have the inspiration that leads to making a better life."

Picture This

Lauren suggests that one way to get good at admitting your flaws without feeling humiliated is to start a list of your weaknesses in a private journal. Be utterly honest -- the whole point is to realize that we all have human frailties. What are yours? Write down the large and small ones, then review your list to choose what you most want to change. Use your journal to describe how your life will be transformed if you take control of them. For example, if you have a tendency to spend too much money, visualize and write about a growing balance in your bank account and how calm you’ll be if you no longer have to worry about whether you’ll be able to pay your bills.

Now that you can picture how your life would be improved if you could turn your weaknesses around, it’s time to decide how to get from here to there. Using the spending example again, what could you do that would force you to stop spending? Cut up credit cards? Allow yourself to buy things only with cash? Create a budget? Limit yourself to a certain number of fun purchases a month?

The task of laying out the steps required to change your behavior may lead to some introspection. Do you shop as a way to give to yourself? Maybe you need more attention from your significant other or to find another way to indulge your need for self-expression and pleasure. Recognizing such root causes allows you to figure out how to fix the problem, which will then make it easier to actually solve it by cutting back on spending.

Life Gets Better and Better

Life is all about problem solving, so the challenge of self-improvement never goes away. As Lauren points out, "Once you have managed to run one mile, you can now push yourself to run two. There is always a better way... more generous love... a deeper connection... more money... greater intimacy... better health... more."

And since there is no such thing as human perfection, Lauren advises learning to enjoy the process of turning your weaknesses into strengths. Why not share this project with someone you love, perhaps your sibling or best friend or partner or spouse? Together you can discuss what change means, what you wish could be different and how you can achieve it. This can (and should) be accomplished with kindness and generosity, says Lauren -- no poking fun or being snide about one another’s failings. "Accept as a fact that we all have negative traits, and try to get comfortable with the intimacy of talking about yours," she says. "You can then allow that ease to liberate you by learning to love your failings, embracing them as yours and using them to grow better and stronger throughout the rest of your life."

Lauren Zander is life coach, chairman and founder of Handel Group,
March 26, 2010

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