I burned my sweet potato fries the other day. You wouldn’t know that because I posted a glorious picture on Instagram of the few fries that survived my negligence. Perfectly golden brown and poised in a mini mason jar full of jazzed up ketchup (that tasted just ok). I conveniently filtered out those imperfect details and appeared to be a pretty impressive human. A few comments that praised my culinary prowess immediately gave my insecure heart a little zap from the defibrillator that is called social media. And for two minutes, I felt good about myself.
Then I returned to my pan of burned up potatoes and began to feel some serious shame. They say don’t cry over spilled milk. Perhaps sweet potatoes aren’t that deep either. But I think these were just a little representation of the dishonesty that I projected to “the world” about who I am. I was tempted to repost the picture of my reality but then I didn’t because I don’t want to appear overly “into” Instagram. And then I got all weird about this inner monologue that I was allowing to take place. So I started crying – literally over singed root vegetables right there in my hot kitchen on a Saturday night.
It didn’t help that I’ve been doing some intense reading of a book called “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Dr. Brené Brown. It’s one of those books that makes you go, “uh huh, mm hmm, dang…is she stalking me?” as you read each page. So it was kinda the timing of it all with those stupid sweet potatoes and the viral new Colbie Callait song (have you seen this?) and my super PMS-y mood swings. The perfect cocktail of hormones and life. Some call this inspiration.
I couldn’t stop thinking about those sweet potatoes all Sunday morning. I thought about the world we live in now with our ability to tailor the perfect image. Whether that be with a grainy filter that detracts from the deep wrinkle between your eyes that was caused by your constant scowl face or the editing you do when choosing the words to say, or article to share or picture to post on your social media site of choice. And then I began to think beyond technology. How am I editing myself in my real skin and bones life? Or to put it another way, in what ways am I hating myself and trying to camouflage my way through life?
Dr. Brown talks a lot about self-love and belonging – “True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance” (p. 26). Yes, I have some pretty moments. I have some picked-out, sorted-through golden brown moments of perfection (that fancy-pants camera on the new iPhone is very helpful in capturing these.) But I have a shit ton more of burned-up, smoky-kitchen moments of life. And until I learn to accept all of these parts and put them out there for people to see, it’s possible that I may not ever satiate that longing for acceptance.
My first instinct is to get rid of my Facebook account and go live on a mountain somewhere with my goats and water that tastes like a rusty Chevrolet. That way I can have some peace about who I am and not compare myself to others. But last time I checked, the internet did not always exist and humans have been seeking out this thing called belonging since we were dwelling in caves. So on my remote mountain, I’ll probably start envying the commune next door who has yellower egg yolks and organic-er spelt flour. It’s bound to happen because we are hard-wired for it. The need to belong is in our very bones.
On Monday I made my way through a thick muddy trail to sit on a riverbank and contemplate life. What I discovered was a nude beach with a lot of penises, so I set myself up in a little alcove of grass and shrubbery to act as blinders to things that I cannot un-see. I started to make a list of all the things that I try to hide from the world. As I wrote, I was reminded of those “30 Day Photo Challenges” that I’ve seen people do. I wondered what would happen if I began to post pictures of imperfection for 30 days. And because I tend towards un-assuredness, I mentioned it to Mike to double check whether I was being crazy. He thought it was a great idea.
If you’re interested in these types of things then you should join me. And if you aren’t into these types of things (I know I haven’t finished a dang thing in my whole entire life so who knows how far I’ll even get) then maybe think about posting a couple real things here and there. If you want to get real fancy with it, put a hashtag on there. I propose #30Imperfections. But I suck at hashtags so you tell me if you have a better idea.
Here’s my list of imperfections:
And here’s my first picture – Insecurity.
It’s my feet. (Haha, duh!) To you they probably look just fine. But to me, they are stubby and hobbit-like (with less hair). I have actively hated them for most of my life. But they are a lot like my father’s and have some cuteness to them every so often. Here they are dirty, with no nail polish to hide the yellowing nails. I ran right out and got a pedicure after this. But I let them breathe for a few minutes and I am posting them for all the world (and by world, I mean the 40 Facebook friends I have) to see.
Now, I don’t want this to become a gross out fest (please don’t post your ear wax pictures – ok, nevermind, go ahead and post them) or a boo-hoo, whose life is worse than whose contest. I do truly believe that our lives are way more beautiful than we can comprehend. I think the more we see of imperfection, the more we will recognize how beautiful it all really is. It’s increasing our exposure to the broken, the unfinished and even the ordinary that will help us to have a clearer picture of the people and ideals we are comparing ourselves to.
Dr. Brown wrote, “Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our humanity” (p. 16). Isn’t that incredible? Compassion can manifest itself when we are more honest about who we really are. And especially in those shameful spaces, the deepest corners of the darkest drawers where we have shoved the things we want to hide, are where you’ll find the richest of soil for love. It’s time to turn on the lights, turn off the filters and see what will grow out of honesty.
© 2014 D. Willson