Why You Need to Admit What’s Wrong with You

Got issues?

I admit it: I have plenty. I tend to be overly anxious, obsessive compulsive, controlling, self-focused, too much of a people-pleaser and defensive when criticized. And that’s just for starters.

It’s not only OK to own up to our issues, it’s important. Step four of Alcoholics Anonymous’ famous 12 steps refers to making “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves,” and I think that’s a great way to put it. We have to be upfront about our issues—with others and well as ourselves—if we want to live freer, fuller and more-functional lives.

Taking inventory of your issues demonstrates enormous emotional maturity, which is an attractive quality. I know I’d rather spend time with people who don’t think they have their act together than those who have it all figured out. People who don’t admit their shortcomings just don’t seem all that honest.

Besides, have you ever truly known anyone who didn’t have some big weaknesses? It’s part of being human. But sometimes you have to look beyond the smooth facades in order to see what’s really there.

For example, the highly regarded professional services firm that I’ve admired for the past several years? Their managing partner just told me that the partners don’t trust each other. The family that posts such cute pictures on Facebook? Their marriage is on the ropes. That company I follow that’s recognized for its amazing culture? I was just told that their CEO gives special treatment to the people who make him feel less insecure. You can’t find a person or company that isn’t flawed in some way.

Now I’m not suggesting that you adopt a glass-half-empty, doom-and-gloom, self-loathing mindset. I’m simply talking about getting real—developing the honesty and courage to talk about who you really are. Sure, focus on your strengths, but when it’s appropriate, don’t be afraid to expose your brokenness, too.

Why not hide behind a false pretense of competence? Why not ignore, rationalize or trivialize brokenness? Why bother to talk about it?

For one, it’s not safe to be around someone who isn’t truthful. And second, you can’t improve what you can’t talk about.

Work on Those Issues By Increasing Your Coachability

When you’re honest about your health, a doctor can help you. When you admit that you’re flawed, you can listen to feedback from other people. And that’s important, because other people have a perspective that you’ll never have. They see how you really show up.

Recently, I wrote that deliberate practice with coaching is the key to excelling in any endeavor. Repeating well-executed thinking and action builds myelin around your nerves so that they fire faster and stronger in the right way. So, here are three steps you can apply to increase your coachability:

  1. Listen for and accept truth. Acceptance of continuous feedback—the good and bad—is the highest form of maturity and development. This includes hearing about it (even asking for it) from other people and resisting the temptation to rationalize, defend or deny.
  2. Confront yourself. After acceptance comes application. Self-confrontation is incredibly difficult because it hurts. It requires admitting that you’ve fallen short and that more work needs to be done. That’s uncomfortable.
  3. Change. Deliberate practice outside your comfort zone is painful. As I wrote in Training magazine, you can’t be inspirational in anything until you can be automatic. And you can’t be automatic, until you’ve gone through an awkward stage. No one wants to be awkward, which is why inspiration is rare. But the true value comes through change.

Have you made a searching and fearless inventory of yourself? What do you need to hear, confront and change?



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