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14 March 2014 @ 12:53 pm
The freedom of being imperfect  
Last year, I started watching the TV show "Scandal", which, for those of you who don't know it, is centered around a character named Olivia Pope. She's smart, incisive, capable, powerful, beautiful, kick-ass, outstandingly competent black woman who leads a team of brilliant and capable fuckups to ride in and save the day for people in need.

It was somewhere in Season 2 that I was starting to cotton onto one of the most powerful things about Olivia Pope: She's imperfect.

So often, women in pop culture are either hollow sex-objects without story or internal motivation of their own, or they are brilliant amazons who can do no wrong.

I didn't even realize the flawed-and-still-amazing female character (even more awesome for being black, which I think makes this complexity even more valuable) was a cultural archetype that I had been longing for until I found myself crying while watching an episode where Olivia makes yet another shitty personal decision while remaining smart and capable and competent and generally awesome.

Of course I know that perfection is a trap, and of course it's one that I still struggle with in myself. (Don't we all?) I've gotten beyond my fear of showing myself to be ignorant about some things, which opens up so many opportunities for learning, but it's still hard for me to engage with learning a new skill while I have an audience, and I hugely struggle with the pressure to live up to people's expectations of me in many realms.

Recently, someone commented to the effect of seeing me as not having a bad side, and it struck me how familiar that trap of being/being seen as generally awesome felt. It is simultaneously this extremely rewarding ego-stroke and frighteningly constraining. Everyone has to be allowed to have a bad side, to be human, and not have her whole identity tied to being good all the time.

I am awesome (and so are you!) and I feel awesome (and so should you!). But I'm not perfect (and neither are you), and I know it (and so should you), and I want everyone to know it both about me and about themselves, because that's part of knowing someone deeply and compassionately and possibly even lovingly, and because seeing that complexity in others helps us see it in ourselves, and it helps us let ourselves off the hook when our bad side is showing, or when we fuck up, or simply when we don't feel as lustrous as we might wish.

We are awesome not because of our good sides, but because of the whole of who we are. Often our weaknesses are also our strengths, or are so tightly bound up with our strengths as to be inseparable.
 
 
I'm feeling: imperfect
 
 
 
Brother Claymore of Desirable Mindfulness: fire buddhalifecollage on March 14th, 2014 05:45 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes. Thank you for writing this.
existential hot showerveek on March 14th, 2014 06:03 pm (UTC)
Amen.
The Great Laurenhatsbylaurenhat on March 14th, 2014 06:10 pm (UTC)
Yes! This is a great point... and also reminds me that I really need to watch Scandal. :)

Edited at 2014-03-14 06:10 pm (UTC)
ruthless compassion: martini handsaroraborealis on March 14th, 2014 08:04 pm (UTC)
I absolutely loved seasons 1 and 2 (though there is one pretty brutal episode in season 2 -- I can probably figure out which one it is if you want). I was disenchanted by season 3 and haven't started season 4 yet because of that.
unintentionally intimidatingcoraline on March 14th, 2014 08:56 pm (UTC)
i got introduced mid-season-two and watched feverishly... and then watched the first few episodes of season three and just quit. i can't help but think that the show is viewing olivia and fitz as Great Tragic Love rather than a shitty abusive relationship and it makes me kind of ill.
but one thing i have loved about the show is their ability to show all the people (especially olivia! but not just her) as multi-faceted people who aren't perfect in any way and still makes us LIKE them even when they're doing some pretty evil stuff. that takes some talented writing.
porpurina: tv grrr arghbloodstones on March 14th, 2014 07:41 pm (UTC)
I don't like some of the recent plot lines on Scandal, but I'm going to keep watching this show because I need tv that unapologetically focuses on a strong female lead without marketing exclusively to women, and the fact that it's a black woman is even better.

Edited at 2014-03-14 07:41 pm (UTC)
ruthless compassion: martini handsaroraborealis on March 14th, 2014 08:21 pm (UTC)
Agreed. Though if season 4 continues in the direction season 3 did, I will probably stop after this season.
phoenixamber_phoenix on March 14th, 2014 07:42 pm (UTC)
yes!

<3
Elizabeth Hunterlillibet on March 14th, 2014 07:49 pm (UTC)
Amen! I have a weird (to me) projection of competence and confidence that often deceives people into thinking I know exactly what I'm doing and have all the answers. They often get really upset when they realize that's not the whole picture.
Regytregyt on March 14th, 2014 08:02 pm (UTC)
Yes! I worry a lot about only seeming awesome from a distance. So, yeah, this.
Mizarchivist: Serenitymizarchivist on March 14th, 2014 08:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks for those words, they have so much truth.
funner'n a sack a weaselsmoominmolly on March 14th, 2014 08:35 pm (UTC)
I sometimes have trouble striking a balance between loving myself in/because of my imperfection, and seeing my flaws with enough clarity to effectively change them. I sometimes fear that the loving soft focus of the first ("oh, that's just how I am") removes some of the pressure I need to make progress with the second ("hm, I really would benefit from changing that").

Still, I know which side of that divide I would rather err on.</p>

People are messy and beautiful and human and strange and I love all of that chewy inextricable complexity. The more I see the flaws and cracks in my loved ones the more they break my heart a little bit in the best way. None of us are perfect and all of us are a little bit crazy.

sabriel_sabriel_ on March 14th, 2014 09:52 pm (UTC)
those last three sentences. YES. so spot on.
ruthless compassion: thinkyaroraborealis on March 18th, 2014 07:19 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's tricky. You and I have talked about this a little, and it sounds like maybe you find the imperfections more motivating than I do. For me, I only feel free to change when I'm not fighting with myself/hating myself for the thing that is imperfect, because that's when I can look at it clearly and hold it gently and start to loosen up the tangle that it's part of. Otherwise, it's like trying to untie a knot that's under tension.
sabriel_sabriel_ on March 14th, 2014 09:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you thank you thank you.
One of the things I appreciate about you is that your thoughts often lead to a healthy amount of self reflection and examination.
Cos: frff-profilecos on March 14th, 2014 11:03 pm (UTC)
Have you read the God Stalk book series, by P.C. Hodgell? Jaime the lead character of that series is one of my favorite characters in fiction, and this is one of the things I most like about her. She's both quite amazing, and full of flaws in a real way. She fucks up often, even fumbling sometimes at her core abilities or the things she usually excels at. Sometimes she encounters people who best her at things she's amazing at, or just has some bad luck. She agonizes over past decisions, tries to correct mistakes... and often makes new mistakes in so doing, perhaps even mistakenly correcting for something that was better or more right to begin with. She sometimes has realizations that make her reevaluate her past thinking of many past actions, and she keeps changing course and seeking in ways that real people do.
ruthless compassion: pouncearoraborealis on March 18th, 2014 07:20 pm (UTC)
I haven't read that series, and thank you for the recommendation!
(Deleted comment)
whynotkaywhynotkay on March 15th, 2014 04:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for that introspection. It came at a really good time.
Katefenicedautun on March 18th, 2014 01:31 pm (UTC)
As somebody who has been watching Scandal all the way through, the things that concern you about Season 3 do indeed get worse in season 4, including some Mellie stuff that I HATE (although otherwise Mellie continues to grow into awesome). So I would recommend being careful approaching season 4, especially as Grant just gets more egotistical and asshat-ish.
ruthless compassion: thinkyaroraborealis on March 18th, 2014 07:21 pm (UTC)
THANK YOU for this. I think I will just go back and rewatch seasons 1 and 2 instead of continuing onward.
Misanthropic extrovertdbang on March 18th, 2014 03:18 pm (UTC)
I've never seen (or until today heard of) that show, but I share your craving for imperfect heroines...especially ones whose imperfections are familiar to me. I think that might be why I liked the show The Closer so much.
ruthless compassion: pouncearoraborealis on March 18th, 2014 07:22 pm (UTC)
mort mentioned The Closer when I was talking about this, too. I somehow have not managed to watch that, but now I plan to!