The Depth and Beauty of Imperfection

Apr 1, 2022 12:22:00 PM / by Leah Katz


Will you take me in as I am?

I remember the moment I read this saying for the first time. I was in my bed in Westchester, New York, several years before I moved to Portland. It was late at night, and I was reading the wonderful book by Steven C. Hayes, Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, with a pen in my hand, making notes in the margins. This was the first book on ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) that I had ever read, and it had been recommended to me by my therapist. This workbook completely shifted how I viewed my experience of painful thoughts and feelings, and I have recommended it several times since then.

When I came across “Will you take me in as I am?” that evening, I read it and reread it several times. It was a novel concept for me. It was one of those sayings that struck me deep inside. Since that time, I have repeated this saying over to myself countless times, often in a situation where I am feeling anxious. I said it to myself before defending my dissertation, and I have said it when facing a difficult session—both in my own therapy and in my clinical practice. I have said it to myself before asking for a raise at work and on the long walk down the hallway to the waiting room to greet an anticipated tough session. This saying has a way of grounding me, reminding me that it is okay to be just as I am and in whatever circumstance I am in. So long as I have myself (and we will all always have ourselves) and I can hold my space in compassionate awareness, acknowledging where I am with kindness, I will be okay.

Will you take me in as I am?

This is a question that I am not asking someone else. This is a question I am asking myself. Can I take myself in as I am, right now, in this very moment? With my nerves, my fears, my imperfections? Because I know somewhere deep inside me that if the answer to that question is no—No, I cannot be with myself in whatever moment I find myself in, with all that is here for me in my thoughts, feelings, and body—then I cannot really, truly live my fullest life.

If the answer to this question is a resounding no—No, I cannot be with myself in this present moment—then we are judging ourselves, really. We are allowing our fear to guide us and make our decisions. And when we judge ourselves, we’re living a life in our heads, focusing too much on our insecurities and fears. The importance of the moment, our ability to be kind observers of our experience, falls away, and we are not present for this one moment, this one life, as it unfolds around us.

Will you take me in as I am?

There is something in these words that leads to confidence. Confidence without needing a reason. Confidence that being you, whoever and wherever you are, is all that you need at this very moment. Confidence to let go of your judgment of yourself. You have what you need to get by. You don’t need anyone else’s words or experience or looks. In this moment—and, after all, really, in this life—all you need is you. This is a lesson in self-reliance. In this moment, all you have and all you need is yourself, with all that you are. You have the inner wisdom, strength, and resilience to live your life. And it doesn’t always have to go as planned (as it doesn’t). It’s a reminder of that too—I am here for this. Whatever this is—a good session, a hard session, things going well for me—or not.

Will you take me in as I am?

This is a message that is helpful for all of us, no matter what life circumstances we find ourselves in.

Can you take yourself in as you are, getting up in the middle of the night with a baby who won’t stay asleep for more than a couple of hours? Can you embrace who you are in this moment, the you who is full of frustration, exhaustion, and even resentment?

Can you recognize your inner worthiness and fortitude even in moments where you feel much less than a superstar?

Can you take yourself in after what you may have perceived as a failure at your job: being turned down for a promotion, making a mistake, getting some negative feedback, having an argument with your significant other? How do you deal with those moments? Can you accept yourself in those moments too and recognize that you are enough?

Can you embrace your insecurities? Your challenges? The feelings of being an imposter that can creep up for so many of us after we’ve had a success? When you are unsure that you are equipped to face the next moments of your life, can you take yourself in with all of that and choose acceptance?

Will you take me in as I am?

In challenging moments, where self-doubt looms over me and is entirely believable, I try to cultivate the voice that reminds me that so long as I can be with myself, in a compassionate and accepting way, I will be good. I will be okay. Even if the meeting doesn’t go well and I feel bad about the outcome, as long as I accept myself, I am okay.

The Buddha’s famous teaching that “life is suffering” doesn’t mean life is meant to be terrible. It alludes to the fact that we humans are primed to get attached to things, and things inevitably change or turn out differently than what we had hoped for. Getting attached to outcomes that either will change or that we have little control over can easily set us up for a life of suffering. If we can recognize our urge to put too much stock in the outcome (even a good outcome), make space for uncertainty and change, and recognize that at the end of the day, all that we really have control over is how we respond and how we love ourselves and connect to ourselves in all the moments, we set ourselves up for a lighter life.

I have echoed these words—Will you take yourself in as you are?—in many a session. Some of the people I have spoken to about this felt that it resonated with them. Others did not, and needed other words to carry forth this message into their hearts. And that is okay too. But taking a moment before we have to do something scary, or pausing while in the midst of certain discomfort or pain, and reminding ourselves that we are enough as we are right in this moment can be a grounding way of anchoring ourselves to our strength and personhood. We can learn to let go of the sense of self that is attached to successful outcomes. It can be a very grounding reminder.

You see, being gutsy, being strong, has nothing to do with outcome. Sure, an outcome we perceive as positive is rewarding and feels nice, but it has little bearing on our inner strength. That has to do with showing up in the tough moments.

And what a powerful message this is for us mothers to model for our children. Let’s think for a moment about how we want our children—our young daughters—to relate to themselves. We want our children to feel self-love and acceptance, not to base their own worth on feedback they receive from the world around them.

Now let’s see if we can take a mirror to those desires we have for our children and reflect them right back onto ourselves. Sometimes it’s easier to use the unconditional love we have for another as a conduit for the unconditional love we hope to have for ourselves. Can you take your children in as they are? If the answer is yes, you already have the blueprint for practicing this form of self-acceptance.

Fully embodying the beautiful message behind these words helps us learn to be okay with failure, with not meeting expectations, whether our own or someone else’s.

Because if we truly learn to take ourselves in, take ourselves in as is, then context falls by the wayside. Because this phrase, Will you take me in as I am?, doesn’t depend on if we did a good job, succeeded, or failed; it is learning to be present with ourselves and really, truly showing up for ourselves, just as we are, naked and unmasked. It is such a gentle, sweet turning inward of self-acceptance.

An important component to living our truth is authenticity. Allowing ourselves to be real with who we are. Ironically, when we are authentic, when we let go of fear of negative evaluation from ourselves or others, when we are less outcome driven, we benefit from increased self-esteem.

Have you ever gone shopping and noticed a discounted item with an “as-is” tag? You love the style, but notice a small flaw (hence the discount). Despite the flaw, you take the item home and it grows to become one of your favorite wardrobe pieces. That’s what this is like.

Several years ago, my mother gifted me my great-grandmother’s engagement ring. It’s a beautiful art deco diamond ring with one big-small flaw: it has a large chip in the center diamond. While this imperfection isn’t noticeable if you don’t know to look for it, it’s one of those things that once you see, you can’t unsee.

When I was first gifted this antique piece, while honored to have received it (I was named after this grandmother), a part of me felt sad about its defect. I wanted to make it better, shinier, “whole.” I took it to a jeweler who specializes in antique jewelry to find out about replacing the stone. Something that wouldn’t reveal imperfection every time the light caught it in a certain way. I often think about the advice that the lovely lady at the jewelry store gave me: “Honey,” she said in the most genuine and endearing way, “don’t replace that stone—it’s your great-grandmother’s. She loved it. She wore it. Now you wear it.” I took her advice.

Now, when I put on the ring, I reflect on this woman’s wisdom. I see the flaw in the diamond and savor the added richness that it represents. It’s history, it’s love, it’s being a link in a chain. It’s more beautiful because of it. Sure, I have moments when the light catches the ring and I think about it not being whole. Then I remind myself that I am another woman in my family creating history and memories, displaying strength and bravery and the range of all human emotions, while wearing this ring.

This ring is one of my favorite jewelry pieces not despite its flaw but because of it. It represents nonattachment to outcomes as well as the depth and beauty of imperfection.

We are imperfect—we know that. It is the blessing of being human. Now if we could just love ourselves in our human condition, we would be in good shape. Perfectly imperfect.


This is an excerpt from Gutsy chapter 2: “Self-Acceptance.”

Topics: Excerpt

Leah Katz

Written by Leah Katz

Leah Katz, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with teenagers and women. With a focus on treating anxiety and depression, she uses a combination of cognitive behavioral, ACT, and mindfulness techniques in her therapy work. Katz writes regularly for, and her work has been featured in The Jewish Review, The Huffington Post, and The Zoe Report. She lives in Portland, Oregon, but is an East Coaster at heart.

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