Here’s one of the inevitable questions that will pop up in most interviews – what are your flaws and how will you overcome them? I’ve always had the impulse to ask, who defines our flaws? Society? Our family and friends? Ourselves? Often, the lines are blurred and we don’t discern clearly the sources that influence how we view ourselves and assess if they are indeed reliable and credible.
The media, particularly, bombards us with images and texts and stories about people and their flaws, or about people and their lack of flaws. These permeate insidiously and subconsciously into our lives and mind-sets that we become hardwired sometimes to label certain actions or traits as flaws… even physical features like a flat chest and crooked teeth are often deemed as flaws, hence the phenomena of “makeup” to make up for these flaws, or even plastic surgery to correct them. Why does “flat” and “crooked” carry negative connotations? Why can’t it be lovable and unique? Simply because it doesn’t adhere to standard norms.
Flaws depend entirely on perspective and context. Perspective relates to people while context relates to place and time. As an artist, working together with people of opposing personality traits illuminates this idea. My creativity and desire to push for new, innovative ideas can be seen as impractical, unrealistic and wild. Their steadfastness and sturdiness can be seen by me as inflexible and boring. In a workplace like Google or Universal Studios, the kind of people needed is vibrant, fun, creative and daring people. But transfer this to a medical setting and such spontaneity becomes dangerous. In an operating theatre, calmness, composure and meticulousness are vital. You can’t suddenly choose to try ‘cutting this vein instead’. In that sense, we are not inherently flawed in any way, we are just being viewed as flawed because of mismatch.
The terrifying thing is when we blindly accept these views and try to overcome these flaws. You can overcome obstacles presented, but you can’t overcome your flaws. I’d rather see it as learning to use your traits effectively in appropriate situations. It isn’t about changing yourself but learning to master yourself. Once again, not about cutting out a portion of a puzzle piece but arranging it such that it plays its role nicely. Understand how to prevent adverse consequences and also how to innovatively make use of them. For instance, my mum thinks my flaw is my messiness but it is this messiness that I rely on to kick start random ideas and bring them together to come up with fresh works. Except, I need to learn how to put my keys in the right place. I don’t try to make myself tidy. Because my room becomes a hurricane blown mess after a while again and I used to feel horrible and guilty for not being “tidy” as my mum wanted me to be, for accepting that I was flawed and I had to overcome it. Now, I’ve realised that it’s who I am and it’s about managing this trait effectively.
So, never ever let someone else tell you what you flaw is or how flawed you are. It is great if they offer advice and help for you to improve yourself, but sound the alarm when you hear “You are stupid,” or “You are fat” or “You are a lazy bum.” They often do not mean to dictate and define who you are (and you shouldn’t let them), they are merely asserting what they feel about what you have done. In an educational context, it becomes dangerous and harmful when teachers or parents pinpoint a child’s flaws. “You are a naughty kid,” or “You are hopeless in math.” Mischief is typical of children and inclinations are not a choice, but there is no good done in forcing a growing child into a mould. They either get stuck in that mould and are miserable, or rebel even more. They often come to believe that they are just incapable, and lose the motivation to try. Your esteem and worth must never be based on the flaws of which others determine for you.
On the flip side, while I disagree with trying to overcome our flaws, acceptance isn’t reliance. Don’t make your flaws to take on the responsibility of your actions and choices. It shouldn’t be your excuse or escape route. When you’ve done something wrong, admit it. Don’t say, “Well, I’m just clumsy. I can’t help it.” You can. Don’t hurt yourself or others in the process of accepting yourself. Perfection is a myth but striving to improve yourself, to continuously work on your strengths and take steps to be who you want to be – that’s possible and important and extremely precious. We are malleable beings capable of creation and being created.
Love yourself and embrace others, for we are all flawlessly beautiful in our own way. Humanity is a wonderful mosaic for a reason: we are there for each other to complement each other. You don’t call a puzzle piece flawed, it just has its own shape so it can be part of the entire picture.