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ruthless compassion
14 March 2014 @ 12:53 pm
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