I had the ideal situation to learn to speak Portuguese beautifully. Rosetta Stone couldn’t even touch what this situation was offering me. “Had” is the tragic word in this story.
At 26 years old I decided to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I had the incredible privilege to serve in the Amazon in Manaus, Brazil. Everyone around me only spoke Portuguese. I interacted with Portuguese speaking Brazilians all day long completely. I don’t think I could have been more immersed in the language. And I had a tremendous desire to learn the language. I studied and worked and practiced the language. It was the perfect situation to learn Portuguese. It was perfect, except for one thing.
That one thing that held me back from progressing was that I didn’t want to make a mistake. I was concerned about how I sounded to the people when I was speaking. I didn’t want to say the wrong word, or conjugated the verb incorrectly, or accent the word in the wrong place. My fear of making mistakes and how I appeared to others prevented me from reaching my full capacity to learn Portuguese.
How often do we allow our concerns for how we are viewed by others get in the way of our ability to live life fully?
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after I returned home from Brazil that I realized that by focusing on how others viewed me I was putting myself in prison. That’s the irony; I was the one who put myself in confinement and locked the door. And there I sat in the cell, with the key in my pocket. And it wasn’t like I accidentally forgot about the key. Oh no, every time I stuck my hands in my pockets, I’d feel the cold metal between my thumb and index finger. I guess I just got comfortable sitting there.
It is a prison sentence when we allow others to manage our legitimacy. We are walking ourselves right into that oppressive dark, windowless cell when we put the responsibility on others to make us feel valued, loved, important, and needed. Being dependent on the validation of others limits your ability to reach the potential within you. Hyper-concern about how others view us is a symptom of a dependency for validation from others.
Freedom comes when we develop the capacity to tolerate our flaws and imperfections.
We limit our freedom when we focus on others viewing us a certain way. Photoshopping your character to hide your flaws and imperfection to portray the image that you want others (and yourself) to believe extorts your potential, peace, progress, and meaningful relationships. There isn’t anything wrong with putting your best foot forward, but it becomes problematic when how we appear to others overrides our ability to be honest with ourselves about our flaws.
Tolerating your flaws doesn’t mean to be comfortable with them and set up a little cottage home inviting them to stick around a stay awhile, nor does it purport that everyone else should be okay with your flaws even when your flaws may hurt them.
Tolerating your flaws is the ability to learn to see your flaws as they are without making them bigger or smaller than they really are. Developing the capacity to tolerate your imperfections is key to building a strong sense of self. Tolerating your flaws is the ability to be comfortable with yourself and free from the repressive pull to hide any imperfection you have from yourself and others. Let’s be honest, acknowledging your flaws can be very uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to dismantle you. The ability to tolerate your flaws will set you free.
All my best to you,
photo: Manaus, Brazil 2005