by: mathurah

fatal flaws

am i percy-jackson-coded?

Remember the hero's journey from tenth-grade English class? - When the main character embarks on a quest to save the world, yet they have one thing that holds them back - their fatal flaw.

Often the biggest conflicts in the most gut-wrenching stories aren't the monsters that come their way but the conflict the main character has with themselves. Really a "you vs you" moment. It's the internal conflict that draws us to stories like a magnet - where we can see glimpses of ourselves in the main characters.

fatal flaws

I was reminded of this after re-reading the Percy Jackson series earlier this year, after the release of the new tv show. The characters were mythological demigods tasked with holding the weight of the world (literally) yet each of them had a fatal flaw that could ultimately hold them back and lead to their demise.

  • Percy's fatal flaw is excessive loyalty - to save a friend, he'd let the world burn
  • Annabeth's fatal flaw is hubris - "deadly pride" - she thinks she can do anything better than anyone
  • Nico's fatal flaw is holding grudges - he'll hold a grudge, even if it costs him his own life.

yes, you are percy-jackson coded

Maybe you're not a wizard, or a demigod, but like our favourite characters in our cherished stories, we too are on our own hero's journey. We're all in this world in some quest of some sort, taking on mini challenges along the way. We have our quest for love, connection and companionship. We chase after personal and professional growth, and constantly push ourselves through obstacles and boundaries each day to become better versions of ourselves.

As heroes in our own ways, we all have our own Achilles' heel of things that hold us back. This explains the all-too familiar feeling of sounding like a broken record, especially when repeating the same advice to friends yet things ending up the same way. It's often their fatal flaw that stubbornly inclines them into one direction.

Fatal flaws can trap us into cycles of repetition and behaviours that become part of our nature - like being chronically late, or known as the person who always chooses the worst date. It's also what makes us human.

examples of fatal flaws in our daily lives, and taking action on them

A litmus test I have for determining the friends I deeply know well is being able to detect what their fatal flaws are. Some ones I see on a regular day-to-day include (tag yourself):

  • extreme procrastination: letting balls drop, not replying or doing things at the last minute can cause you to miss out on great opportunities.
  • self-sabotaging: not letting yourself enjoy the things you've deserved , and ruining the things that are going good for you. remind yourself that it's not too good to be true, and you can have nice things!
  • by the book: being too by the book, and not letting yourself do anything spontaneous or out of the ordinary. sometimes letting yourself a little loose is the best thing to get a new perspective and experience something you never would've otherwise.
  • reluctancy to forgive: letting people from your past take too much of your headspace! I respect it a lot when people can speak about their past experiences without anger (i.e an ex who wronged them 4 years ago). It's no longer relevant, and much more positive and freeing to let things go.
  • forgetting important things: being notorious for forgetting your passport (tagging myself), loosing items, forgetting important dates/time can really bite you in the butt. developing a system like sticky notes, calendar invites, packing lists, whatever it is can help keep things in check.
  • being late all the time: some people are just known for being late, and their friends put up with it. but when it comes to meetings that have higher stakes, keeping this habit could be really bad in the long run. be the person that's reliable. leave 10 minutes earlier - people will appreciate it.
  • accepting love that you don't deserve: you know the friend that keeps going to their toxic ex (no matter how many times you tell them not to!) romantic relationships affect us in many ways we can't imagine - our mental health, happiness, time and energy. staying in unhealthy relationships can be a slippery slope.
  • pride: clinging on prestige, thinking "you're better than others" can really rub people the wrong way. having a growth mindset, being curious and open to learn from the people in your life, and keeping your ego in check can go a long way.
  • trying to do everything at once: being a yes-man to everything by trying to do a ton of stuff at once yet not being able to give your 110% to them all. you might be able to tetris it all in your calendar, but your energy is limited. prioritize ruthlessly to give your energy to the things that matter. sometimes doing everything is doing nothing.
  • exterme perfectionism: wanting everything to be perfect and constantly editing and iterating on your work so it never sees the light of day. remember done is better than perfect, and you learn much more from flops and near misses than anything else.
  • avoidance at all costs: not confronting conflict, dealing with your emotions, and letting the special people slip away. this can lead to smaller issues building up and missed opportunities for connection.
  • not willing to put in the work: being unwilling to to get your hands dirty and shying away from the not-so glamorous tasks. it takes the grunt work to get to the shiny stuff at the end, and sometimes things won't always work out as you expect it to be.
  • perpetually tired/not being present: not getting enough rest and prioritizing your health! it limits the energy you can put in your day to day and affects the people around you. getting into a proper sleep routine and showing up will make everyone present for what you have to say.
  • getting stressed about the little things: being in a constant state of worry not only is a burden for you but a damper on other people. when stressors come up, try to think of resolutions on the fly to mitigate your worries to put you and everyone else at ease.
  • giving up too easily: throwing in the towel at the first sign of something uncomfortable or different than what you're used to. instead of I don't know --> it's I don't know yet and putting in the perseverance and trust in yourself that you'll figure it out.
  • expecting much without giving: constantly being preoccupied with our expectations of other people, instead of the expectations we have for ourselves. give the energy that you want back! and if it's not reciprocated, you know they weren't the right person or opportunity for you. not everything needs to be a tit-for-tat, but if you know you put in the effort, that's what counts. i wrote a bit about unfulfilled expectations here.
  • not having a backbone: constantly relying on the validation or opinions of other people before taking any actions. thinking for yourself and standing on your own ground + taking action on what you believe in will make your word much stronger. get off the training wheels and get into the real world! and the end of the day, no one else knows you better than yourself.

this is the list I came up with for now, but curious if any others come to mind! let me know on twitter :)

figuring out your fatal flaws

Fatal flaws are the things that cling to our blind spots but are widely apparent to people who know you really well (your family, partner, close friends). What separates really excellent people to others is that they're not afraid to look themselves in the mirror and admit that maybe the problem is you.

I remember playing we're not really strangers with some close friends, and one of my favourite questions from level 3 was along the lines of

"what's something I should change that's holding me back right now?"

We all answered it for each person, and I was extremely surprised how observant my friends were in pointing things out. It was almost like i just installed a new rearview camera and I could finally see how crooked I've been parking.

On a personal level, continuously reflecting on events in your life - when things didn't work out well, times you were disappointed and noting down the patterns can get you closer to figuring out what your fatal flaw is.

Although the stakes might not be as high as life or death in mythological quests, figuring out your fatal flaws, accepting them, and catching yourself each time before you make the same mistake again can ultimately level up the plot and get you much closer to what you're looking to achieve.

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