We tend not to love flawed and imperfect things so much.
Bruised apples get binned.
Clothes with tiny holes are tossed out.
Defective items are sent straight to landfill.
With such a focus on perfection, it’s hard to see why you should accept yourself, let alone love yourself when you know you have imperfections and bruises.
Like that apple, are you not more deserving of the compost bin?
I spoke with Rudá Iandê, co-creator of The Vessel and world renowned shaman on the very perplexing contradiction of self-love, flaws, and change.
If you’re like me and still very much trying to figure out how self-love works, you might leave with a better understanding of the basics, or at least feel a little less guilty of not finding the path to self-love an easy one.
Because in a world that pushes an airbrushed perfection upon you yet criticizes you for being too self-conscious, where you’re force-fed quotes like ‘turn that frown upside down’, yet admitting to feeling low or struggling to cope is met with literal frowns, it can be absolutely nightmarish to function.
But Rudá knows this. He is no different to you or I in feeling the pressure of perfection. The title of ‘shaman’ doesn’t grant him immunity to its very compelling force.
His own journey, starting at age 15, has involved falling into the trap of ‘toxic spirituality’, a large portion of which circulates around this notion of shedding your skin and embracing an all-encompassing perfection.
But he has come to realize, perhaps sooner than you or I, that this perfection doesn’t exist.
It isn’t attainable, and if anything, it’s a detriment to our own journeys towards radical self love.
And part of his role as a shaman is to guide and to heal, and to instigate a flicker of self-love within others that grows into a greater flame.
Understanding why you should love yourself when society points out your flaws and laughs at them is a difficult yet necessary question we need all pose ourselves. The how to love yourself, even harder.
Rudá’s patience in elucidating the complex relationship between self-love and imperfection will hopefully help you to better understand the nature of this contradiction we all face.
Your flaws contribute to your individuality.
The truth is, no one is perfect.
So why beat yourself up about it?
These nuances and quirks, many of which we consider to be ‘flaws’ are often what makes us who we are, and they exist in all of us.
Without these ‘flaws’, we would all be rather boring.
A copy-and-paste society of identical human beings, which sounds like a terrible idea.
What do you talk about if everyone shares identical views and beliefs?
How do we learn or innovate if everyone possesses the exact same knowledge and ideas?
How do you tell your brother from your aunt if everyone looks exactly the same?!
Whilst I’d hope you wouldn’t mistake a sibling for an aunt, it does become an increasingly imminent threat as plastic surgery and facial editing apps leave everyone looking chillingly similar.
“We must have some patience, in the process of understanding and realizing that we are not perfect, we are not supposed to be perfect”.
In a world that puts so much pressure on an unattainable perfection which doesn’t even exist, the room for standing out or being different grows smaller by the second.
And still, it’s in this environment that you’re expected to learn to love yourself, even shamed to for not loving yourself.
All whilst being fed a diet of online media which portrays airbrushed perfection and unlimited happiness.
But as Rudá says, it takes patience to detach yourself from the idealization of perfection and begin to strive for a more realistic version of what you want and where you’re going.
The idea of a ‘flaw’ is in itself toxic.
Selling self-love is hard.
It’s also a focus of so many ‘gurus’ and ‘shamans’ of the present, but it’s also a big part of what fits snugly into the category of toxic positivity and comes riddled with contradictions.
Look perfect; no acne, no scars, no cellulite.
Ripped abs and hairless legs.
Be slim and fit, but not too thin.
Body-positivity…but only to an extent. We don’t use the word fat, but be ready to be ripped apart should you try to defend a bigger body.
Have a high-flying corporate job, but don’t spend too much time working – think of your family.
Oh, you’re a stay-at-home-parent? Didn’t have anything better to do?
Rudá makes sure to differentiate himself here from some of the other cultish forms of forcing self-love upon individuals.
He had plenty of wisdom to impart during my interview with him, sharing with me his path and reminding me that he and I were no different in our imperfect natures.
“Before being a shaman, I am a human being. I am learning, I dedicate my life to learning, to improving my knowledge, but I can barely figure out my path”.
As it turns out, even shamans aren’t perfect.
There is a certain humility in accepting that no human spirit is perfect, even those whose life purpose is to help guide and encourage growth within others.
Striving for perfectionism will only inhibit you from reaching your full potential as reaching for a goal which doesn’t exist is setting yourself up for failure.
What you consider to be a ‘flaw’ brings a lot more good than you think.
It’s easier to categorize emotions into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and leave them at that.
The same goes for certain behaviors and characteristics that you might consider flaws within yourself.
“We are conditioned to see our emotions as black and white. Love versus anger. Courage versus fear. But in actuality, one emotion doesn’t eliminate the other. Love coexists with anger, which can be something beautiful”.
Stop and think for a moment of what you consider to be a flaw within yourself.
Can you imagine a time where this has actually, even in some tiny way, helped you?
For example, being prone to angry and dramatic outbursts might at one point have protected you from harm’s way at one point.
Or loving people with all your heart in an idealized yet anxious manner may have given you a host of romantic stories to tell of past dalliances.
It’s difficult to say that good can be seen in every flaw, as you can look at issues such as depression or OCD or other disorders which cause such harm and feel idiotic trying to justify the good in them.
Thus seeing the good elements in absolutely everything can be difficult.
But for the more challenging issues, change begins by loving yourself.
Loving yourself as you are…but also being open to change.
The contradiction we then stumble upon is that radical love in theory means embracing everything about yourself (or someone else), flaws and everything.
But if we just stopped there and saturated ourselves in self-love, where does the growth happen?
“Radical love doesn’t mean accepting everything and saying, ‘I am a being of pure light, and I will love myself exactly as I am completely and unconditionally. It doesn’t exist and it wouldn’t be real. But loving yourself means placing yourself first”.
So those flaws, they exist.
Some come with benefits, others not.
And whilst the first step to loving yourself (which is a long but necessary journey) is embracing those flaws, the next is coming to terms or realizing the elements upon which you need to change.
A radical self-love which allows for growth and change.
At this point, I’d rather we rename ‘flaw’ because the point that you need to learn is that much of what you consider to be your flaws and shortcomings is in fact part of what makes you you.
There will probably come a point where these characteristics or behaviors you consider flaws start to frustrate you.
Generally, this happens naturally.
Rudá himself has a prime example of his own experience with the driving force behind change;
“I love myself a lot, and yet I started realizing that some of my behavior turns me into a slave of my work, into a workaholic, which makes me aggressive towards myself. I must get angry with myself to make some steps and make some changes, especially when we’re talking about radical change”.
Remember how we talked about categorizing emotions as good/bad, black/white?
This is a prime example of anger, which most of us would categorize as a negative emotion and a flaw, driving positive change.
The roles of anger and love in radical change.
Wrapping your head around how you should love yourself, flaws and all, yet still be willing and ready to change is hard.
But it’s just one of life’s beautiful contradictions.
“Radical change comes from a place of love, but it also comes from our anger which plays an important role to set some limits, to say no to certain aspects of our own being, and to make change”.
Radical love means embracing who you are in the moment.
It also means being open to where your path might lead you, and being willing to change and work on your behaviors should that be something that your own instinct tells you.
And the driving force of this change is not only self-love but also anger and frustration, which we have to double-back and start trying to avoid easily labelling good or bad emotions.
What if my partner/friend/parent says that I need to change?
Outsiders can provide you with constructive feedback or suggest areas you could work to improve on.
But the real change comes from within and as Rudá says, from a place of self-love.
“Loving yourself means placing yourself first. If I want to make a change in my life, I won’t make this change because you are my partner, or my parents or even because God said I should do it. It is not to please anybody else.”
This isn’t to say that you should shut down people you value who try to suggest you improve your communication skills, or stop drinking alcohol, or get out more.
Outsiders who know us well and care for our wellbeing can be so helpful in providing feedback that helps us to grow as they can often see areas which we ourselves are blind to.
But if you truly want to make that change, it needs to come from within yourself – even if you’ve become more conscious of it owing to someone else.
“I have a commitment with my own consciousness. From the moment I realize that I must change certain things in my life, in order to please myself, to feel better about myself, to feel that I am honouring the best I have within, then I’m making some change from a place of self-love.”
Never change just to please someone else, nor beg someone to change for you.
Part of embracing your own flaws and beginning to ease into self-love is also accepting and loving other people as they are, ‘flaws’ and all.
But loving myself is hard…
It is difficult to love yourself, as it is to love other people.
But we spend so much time soul-searching for someone to make us happy and to complete us, when actually, that happiness and sense of completion will always be found within ourselves.
And it is very difficult to love someone else in a healthy manner when you are at odds with yourself, as self-sabotaging can often begin to infiltrate even the healthiest of relationships.
Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean you should avoid letting your guard down and letting others in to love and join you on your journey (if only for a short while).
Equally, as much as we instil in ourselves the courage to get vulnerable and love other people, we must also work harder to inspire that same courage when it comes to loving ourselves.
Loving yourself is little different than loving your partner.
If anything, it’s more important as whilst people can mean the world to you, they also come and go.
You, on the other hand, will accompany yourself through life.
And beginning the journey to slowly loving yourself, flaws and all, is one of the biggest steps towards a lifetime of fulfillment and satisfaction.