Media seems to go in one direction these days. And it’s generally in the direction of the person who is creating it, as they try to portray a perfect image of themselves.
From Robert Cornelius taking the first recorded selfie in 1839 to the launch of MySpace in 2003, followed by Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok, cheered on by a cast of thousands of dating apps, one thing is clear: We prefer the world to see us at our very best.
Even the once-hallowed fields of LinkedIn – for so many years a pillar of stoic professionalism – has seen a gradual tilt towards the humblebrag whereby a post that starts with spilling coffee on a client ends with a promotion and an industry award.
Traditional news media is no different. We only need to see a politician donning the hard hat and high-vis and pointing at various bits of nothingness on a construction site – or perhaps liberally spraying around teargas like a teenage boy with his dad’s Old Spice before posing in front of a church – to be reminded that everyone likes to convey a certain message in front of the cameras.
It’s all a bit too accidentally perfect, a touch of ‘oh I didn’t realise there was a camera whilst I cleaned this toilet in my most flattering outfit’, with a hint of Alan Partridge’s, “Needless to say, I had the last laugh”.
But what if there was a different way of doing things?
In a world where everyone is trying so hard to appear perfect, could we actually help people by showing our true, flawed selves?
And perhaps, by accepting our own shortcomings, we could love our whole personas. Not just the parts that look decent in Portrait mode with strategically-placed lighting.
This Is Me
So in celebration of imperfection, I present the list of things that I am embarrassingly bad at. And whilst I’m trying to fix all these flaws, it’s a painfully slow process.
It’s not that I’m bad with money, I’m bad at money. I’m one of those people who need a three-day run-up to check their account balance online. I run screaming from the house, eyes closed, hands clasped over ears when an envelope emblazoned with my bank’s logo falls through the letterbox.
I’ve always been a bit too keen on Richard Branson’s ‘screw it, let’s do it’’ approach when it comes to spending. The calls from my heart about experiences, memories and feelings have always overruled the warnings from my head, listlessly muttering about interest rates and rainy days and safety nets.
I’m trying to get better at this. Credit cards are a thing of the past and now I employ a strategy of checking my bank account at least once a week instead of the old tactic of closing my eyes and praying at the checkout like a student buying a round of shots during the last week of term.
Please don’t take it personally. I really do value whatever it is we had planned. But I will never be early for it, and I will rarely be on time. Whether it’s a daily sprint to school like a suburban parody of Chariots of Fire (despite being awake since 5:30am) or the fact that only a £60 taxi prevented me from missing my own grandmother’s funeral (also see point about money, above), time always seems to be against me.
Except time isn’t my problem. And as we saw in a previous post, there is no dilemma in getting started. The real issue is desire. I’m not lazy, I just want to do too many things.
‘Just’ is the safe word you need to listen out for. I’ll ‘just’ send another email, ‘just’ empty the dishwasher, ‘just’ go for a 10 mile run, ‘just’ carry out some urgent research into why it’s apparently OK for people to gather on a sweaty beach but not in a socially-distant classroom.
I’m trying to address this by focusing on doing just one thing at once and realising I’m not the king of multitasking. But still, if you ever hear me say ‘I’ll just…’ then feel free to pull me outta there like a tearful ex-partner at a wedding.
I know, I know. I’ve done some fitness things in the past and stopped drinking alcohol a while back, and this means I should be hitting plants and spring water like a Jersey cow on milking day. But I just can’t shake that sugar fix. Haribo and Diet Coke are my poison and I spend a long time (probably making myself late for something in the process) convincing myself that I’m just taking care of the junk food so my kids can’t get their delicate little hands on it.
To be fair, of all the vices I’ve dabbled with, sugar is probably not the worst thing to be addicted to. But at the same time, I know it’s not exactly great. Blood sugar that is up and down like a political advisor driving on a motorway during lockdown and teeth like tombstones isn’t exactly the future I imagine for myself.
I’m trying to adopt a more balanced diet, educate myself as to the benefits of eating healthy and burn off those extra calories with exercise. But sometimes a bag of Tangfastics reaches the parts that a pile of kale just can’t reach.
Worst of the Rest
Above are the top three things I’m embarrassingly bad at, but in the interests of time (probably because I’m late for some kind of event which will involve wasting money on sugar), you could also add to that list:
DIY – Can’t even hammer a nail.
Parking – Impossible to fit into the space. It’s a miracle I managed to get my wife pregnant.
Sleeping – Not sure how I can get this ‘wrong’, but I’ve proved it’s possible.
Taking a compliment – Oh, you don’t really mean it
Saying no – My brain thinks it. Then my mouth says ‘Y-E-S!’
But you know what? I’m no longer ashamed of the things I’m embarrassingly bad at.
Life isn’t perfect and neither am I. After many years of beating myself up for not being great at everything, I’ve discovered that embracing my flaws and trying to take some sensible, sustainable steps to addressing them (if I feel like it) actually makes me a lot happier and more balanced.
And if I’m happier, then I tend to not spend money on rubbish I don’t need, get flustered and late for events and eat a load of crap. So maybe these issues actually fix themselves. Or maybe I just care less about being perfect.
After all, being embarrassingly bad at so many things didn’t stop me from getting a Guinness World Record, an Ironman medal and running around my garden for 13 hours raising thousands of pounds of charity.
So, these days, I try my best not to be perfect. And I announce to all my flaws:
“…Needless to say, I had the last laugh.”