Do you have characteristics that others consider flaws but you actally like about yourself?
November 24, 2004 7:03 PM   Subscribe

Inspired by the lateness question: We all have flaws. Do you have characteristics (like analness or tardiness) that others consider flaws but you actally like about yourself? What does it take for you to decide that you ought to change?
posted by dame to Human Relations (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't like this about myself, but I am incredibly selfish. In the evenings falling asleep I think back on the day, and often catch myself forming a perspective that lessens the reality of what an asshole I have become. I manipulate people, and then internally I will think they should be able to keep up, etc. It is a bad place to be, even after realizing this and actively working to carve my personality into something less cruel. Thinking back on years of this, the guilt of fucking people over is incredible. I even do volunteer work to try to make myself feel better. I am twenty something, and find change to be elusive.
posted by orange clock at 7:13 PM on November 24, 2004

dame, do you honestly think that anyone really likes to be tardy? Because everyone on that thread was either saying, "I hate to be tardy, and try to be on time," or "I come from a culture that has a very different concept of 'tardy' than the US does."

If I thought something was a "flaw", I would want to change it. I have spent lots of time and cash trying to improve my ability to meet my goals and expectations for myself.

However, dame, I suggest that you don't really think your rigid attitude about punctuality is a flaw at all. Which is fine--one person's "anal control freak" is another person's "principled stickler for punctuality" and that's how the world works.

But one of the good things about getting older is that one tends just by sheer force of keeping breathing, meeting more people, and having more things happen to you to get out of that "I'm free-spirited; you're promiscuous; she's a big whore"/"I'm opinionated; you've got an axe to grind; he's a complete crank" mindset. At least, that's been my experience.

See, I used to think I was feisty and determined, but never, ever cantankerous and belligerent, for example. Now I know that both aspects are true, and I try (but sometimes fail, like this afternoon!) to keep the cranky, bitchy side in check and let the determined side bloom.

To me, "that's just the way I've got to be" is kind of a psychotic statement. My friend Reno used to say, "All I've got to do is stay black and die," and there's a lot of wisdom in that. The only way I've got to be is, you know, white, born in 1963, allergic to strawberries. The rest is up to me. Now, if I think "that's the way I choose to be" then I'm going to take pride in that choice, no matter how many other people don't like it.

oc, why do you "manipulate people"? What do you get out of it? What don't you like about doing it? I'm not actually looking for an answer here, but rather suggesting that these are exactly the kind of questions that people often find therapy helpful in exploring.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:39 PM on November 24, 2004

Wait a second--I was born in 1964. But I really am "white" and allergic to strawberries.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:39 PM on November 24, 2004

And, oc, I also meant to say that you are probably not anywhere nearly as selfish as you think. In my experience, the incredibly selfish people I've encountered in my life a) never, ever think of themselves as selfish, and b) go around describing other people as selfish all the time.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:42 PM on November 24, 2004

Response by poster: Sidhedevil, this is not actually a question about that thread. That is why I said inspired. If you want to argue about it, let's do it there. Please.

There are plenty of flaws I don't want to change because I like them. I wonder if others feel the same way or what motivated them to change. That is all.
posted by dame at 7:47 PM on November 24, 2004

But if you don't want to change something, whatever it is, then why would you think of it as a flaw? It seems to me that you would think of it as "a misunderstood virtue" or something similar.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:48 PM on November 24, 2004

I've heard that the inability to understand what other people are asking can be a flaw.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:56 PM on November 24, 2004

Response by poster: I do think that being a control freak is a flaw. It makes my life harder. I am willing to call it such because I belive in being honest with myself. On the other hand, I also happen to be of the opinion that it stems from the same traits that give rise to a number of virtues—conscientousness, for one. So I accept that flaw for the greater good.

That is, personality is a complex, and each expression has its good and bad side. I will never be perfect, so I choose which bad I am willing to accept for its attendant good.
posted by dame at 8:02 PM on November 24, 2004

mr_crash, I understand the form of dame's question, but I don't understand why anyone would think of something they didn't want to change about themselves as a "flaw". The word "flaw," when applied to character issues, presupposes undesirability, doesn't it?

I have thought things were "misunderstood virtues" and later come to believe/understand that they were, indeed "flaws", but that seems to be a different process.

In my case, some of the things I thought were "misunderstood virtues" gradually became of less and less use to me, and/or caused me or others pain, until I was inspired to reassess them and think of them as "flaws".

And some of the things I thought were "normal variations in behavior" or "just the way I am" gradually became of less and less use to me, and/or caused me or others pain, until I was inspired to reassess them and think of them as "flaws".

But once I thought of them as "flaws", I tried to change them.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:03 PM on November 24, 2004

Sorry, dame, our posts crossed in the ether. I guess you and I are saying something more similar than I got from your earlier posts.

I think that I have, for example, a strong commitment to saying what's on my mind and trying to communicate it clearly and convincingly to others.

In its good aspect, I think of that as a strength; however, it has other aspects that I definitely think of as "flaws" (like blathering on and on at people) and I am trying to change those without losing the parts of that quality that I value.

For myself, I think that I can do that, that fixing the things I see as "flaws" will ultimately not cause me to lose the things I see as strengths. I believe--rightly or wrongly--that I can get rid of the bathwater but keep the baby, to use a horrible cliche.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:08 PM on November 24, 2004

OMG dame is answering her own question.
posted by orange clock at 8:10 PM on November 24, 2004

I also think there's a long way between "accept" and "like". I might "accept" my relentless blather, but I will never like it, not in a million years.

Even as I'm doing it, right here, right now, I'm thinking "Why can't I express myself more clearly? And, failing that, why can't I just accept that I didn't express myself more clearly the first six times and just let it go? Why do I care so much that I am making myself perfectly clear to strangers on the internets?"

And this is after more than 20 years of really, really expensive psychotherapy. Imagine how unbearable I was as a teenager.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:10 PM on November 24, 2004

I want to be able to communicate so that people don't misunderstand me (my intentions). When I joke, people think I'm serious, and when I'm serious, people think I'm kidding. Been working on that for years.
posted by dabitch at 8:27 PM on November 24, 2004

I'm crotchety, but I prefer to think of myself as principled.
Will I change? Not likely at this stage in the game.
posted by madajb at 8:54 PM on November 24, 2004

I am intensely competitive. It pains me to lose at anything, ever.

I will continue arguments over politics, philosophy, sports, what to have for dinner, much longer than is necessary or tactful if I think I can still gain the upper hand. I get pissed when my team loses pickup ultimate frisbee games (and usually we don't even keep score!), or when I play shitty.

In work/academic environments I'm the same way; I seem to be able to exercise more restraint in a professional or semi-professional setting, but it's basically the same.

And worse, I project this attitude onto other people. When I think someone isn't trying as hard as they should be, I get irritated when them.

In the last couple years I've gotten much better at controllig this impulse, but I catch myself holding people in contempt for not working as hard (or not wanting to win) as much as I do.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 9:28 PM on November 24, 2004

(I've also been known to respond to trolls on message boards.)
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 9:28 PM on November 24, 2004

I am intensely competitive. It pains me to lose at anything, ever.

And, I secretly think this is a good feature.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 9:40 PM on November 24, 2004

This is a funny question, because I just got into an argument with my boyfriend tonight along these exact lines.

In my crotchety and jaded old age, I have become hopelessly blunt and undiplomatic with people. I work in a pretty intense software development shop and there it has been cultivated as a virtue and blossomed into assholeness.

At work we all often respond to each other with phrases like "That's the stupidest question I've ever heard in my life." and "Were you temporarily retarded when you coded this?" Believe it or not, we all love it each other and it works.

However, it has spilled over to regular life. When I'm asked an opinion on something, like the interior paint color on my sister's new house, I blurt out my real opinion ("Oh boy, I think your going to regret this yellow in a couple of months") and not the socially correct one.

The problem is I recognize this as a form of assholeness , but really don't like fucking tip-toeing around people. I don't say the things to be mean, I just say what I'm really thinking.

Its definitely a conflict. I don't really want people to think me an asshole, or make people feel shitty, but I wish it was just okay to say what you really thought all the time and everyone would be okay with it.
posted by PissOnYourParade at 10:48 PM on November 24, 2004

I'm also highly competitive, I LIKE that about me, and I like my ego. Oddly, the flaw I'd like to get rid of is my occasionally intense lack of self-esteem.
posted by stray at 10:50 PM on November 24, 2004

The problem is I recognize this as a form of assholeness , but really don't like fucking tip-toeing around people. I don't say the things to be mean, I just say what I'm really thinking.

PissOnYourParade - I work with a gaggle of people who never say what they mean unless they're talking behind your back. I would love it if they were blunt, even if it meant being surrounded by assholes.

Re: the question at hand - I value my alone time. I value it highly. I need to be a bit aloof at times or I go crazy. Most of my friends and family, many of whom are very social, occasionally refer to me as antisocial. They consider it a flaw and at times I agree but I know myself and I know that, for me, distance is necessary.
posted by LeeJay at 11:25 PM on November 24, 2004

In a nod to Sidhedevil's comment, I do not personally think of the following as a "flaw". But a great many people do. Basically, I just don't care about a lot of the things that Responsible Adults are supposed to care about. I'm a few days late with one of every six rent checks or so, and have thus earned the emnity of my shrewish, irritable landlord. I continually overdraw my checking account. Luckily, my credit union doesn't bounce checks, but I just can't bring myself to care enough about good finances to, say, use MS Money or whatever. It has historically been the case that if I like a teacher or professor, I get an A. If I like the material, I get an A. If I dislike one or the other, I do enough work to get by, but despite the capability to be a 4.0 student, it was never going to happen. I've also done things like blow $500 on some skydiving lessons, $100 on buying beer for a bunch of Belgians and Germans, etc etc. I continually put myself in a tight spot for the sake of FUN NOW, DAMMIT, and I like that about myself.
posted by kavasa at 12:53 AM on November 25, 2004

I love to sleep. I sleep like 17 hours at time and stay up for like 45 or so. I can never get on a normal schedule. So I just accept it.
posted by bigmusic at 2:54 AM on November 25, 2004

I'm inherently 'nice'.

I'm working on being selfish, but I think my sisters got all the selfish and I got left with the 'nice'.

I back down from fights, I apologize too much, I always try to 'make things better' because I don't like conflict.

If the attempts to make it better don't work, I hide.
posted by kamylyon at 5:02 AM on November 25, 2004

I think part of the "flaw" thing is that other people consider something a flaw, even if you don't. However, since the world involves not just me but other people, I have to live with the fact that some traits that I enjoy about myself are largely considered flaws by others. This happens especially in a work environment where I work with the public, don't get to pick my co-workers as much as I'd like, and where my chosen profession is not filled with people like me. I'll change these traits, or try, for a person or situation I love, and rarely otherwise. So, my inability to get on to a regular sleep schedule [many people, including my workplace, think of this as a flaw] is not something that concerns me if I can get to work on time and do the other things that I value. I'm a straight-talker to the point of being blunt in ways that other people don't like, especially at work. I like to get along with people, but generally if I think they're requiring something unreasonable from me -- such as smiling in the morning as I'm coming in to work -- then I no longer bust ass to be agreeable. Being willing to cut people loose from your life if they're no longer fun/relevant/useful/friendly/prompt/responsive etc is sometimes looked down upon. I don't do it much, but I threaten it often. I've often got dirt under my nails and a just barely dressed appearance that works for me but sometimes conveys a lack of grooming skills to others. I'm comfortable and I don't mind being the most underdressed person at an event, other people may think of this as a flaw. Things that me and others have considered flaws that I am working on: bad temper, self-centeredness, being pedantic, rushing slow-talking people. These are concessions I make for getting to live in a world with other people I like [and who treat me with respect etc] but I'm not sure I'd be working on them if I didn't really give a shit about the people who are bothered by them.
posted by jessamyn at 8:05 AM on November 25, 2004

rushing slow-talking people.

Oh man! That is so me.

Which pretty much sums up my worst trait-- being short tempered with stupidity. And I recognize that I am also stupid in certain areas of life, but it doesn't help when I am trying to communicate with the ignorant or the drug-addled.

No career in social work for me, I'm afraid.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:46 AM on November 25, 2004

My laziness is a virtue, since it means I'm exceedingly good at optimizing my minimal efforts for maximum effect. But a lot of Type A/east coast people I meet seem completely baffled by my apparent lack of "work ethic," and consider laziness a flaw.
posted by majick at 10:28 AM on November 25, 2004

I don't stop to think about people's emotions when I'm debating with them. It's hard for me to realise that some people are insulted when I shoot down their opinion, because I'm not, I rather like a good challenge. I forget that not everyone is coldly rational, that some people are a bit more sensitive. I don't mean to step on people's toes, it just doesn't occur to me that they would take it personally.

If I intuit where someone is going in an argument and I've already thought of that angle and dismissed it, I tend to interject with "no, that doesn't work because ____" before they're done, so people think that I'm not listening to them, which is understandable.

Despite the fact that I cringe when I realise I've hurt someone (and by that time it's WAY too late), I still secretly think that the world would be nicer if everyone approached debates the way that I do, and that it's good that I am intuitive, and that I wouldn't mind if people jumped in with a good solid objection to the argument I'm in the process of building. Of course, I think everyone has a small part of them that thinks that their personality is one of the better ways to be.
posted by heatherann at 11:18 AM on November 25, 2004

heatherann: You aren't listening to those other people. I personally wouldn't get hurt if I didn't know you that well, but I'd probably stop listening to you.
posted by grouse at 4:06 PM on November 25, 2004

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