The Imperfection Trap

Imperfection is the new polished. Praise be! We celebrate freckles, big hair, and body types. We try anyway. We’re so incredibly free compared to our mothers and grandmothers. We talk about our problems in public. We admit to taking medication for our moods. We share the gritty details of our labor and delivery: The first big push of baby into world, and then all the little daily pushes that come after for the rest of forever.

We are more open than we have ever been. Our grandmothers had rules like, “No white pants after labor day” and “Don’t air your dirty laundry in public.” We live in the age of messy buns, baggy jeans, ballyage, and honesty. Hallelujah! Because I am badly equipped for anything more glossy.

But we’re still InstaScam filtering the crap out of it, aren’t we?

We are so uptight about how our looseness is perceived, it is making me constipated.

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We carefully monitor the propaganda machine of our own experience.

If you’re going to be a mess, thou shalt be hilarious. Or at least vaguely likeable.

Depression is allowed, but preferably with a deep quote.

When all else fails, there are memes.

We have learned to squeeze even our deepest miseries and rawest openness through the fine sieve of performance. We have learned to clip the most chaotic, depressing moments of our lives into sculpted hedges. Crop out the oatmeal slime under the kitchen table and everyone looks like Martha Stewart! But include the oatmeal slime, and suddenly you’re that “funny easy going sort” that’s making space for others. Until you can’t. And then you have a choice…. brand or honesty?

Turns out we can hide behind the manicured shrubbery of our own imperfection. We have even learned to press the play-dough of our deepest despair into nice shapes that somehow reflect well on us. At least, I do.

I want to be a permission granter! Perfection is nothing compared with connection. Today I told I friend, “I think I have the spiritual gift of a muffin top, because no one looks at me on the outside and thinks I have all my business together.” But somehow even the desire to empower others toward wholeness and honesty can be contorted into something that’s lying. Something that hides behind what works, so that it doesn’t have to be what it is.

It’s not a matter of constantly pushing ourselves to be more and more raw. That’s silly. That’s some kind of strange emotional gluttony. Let’s leave the stirring up of more and more junk where calm waters will do to the middle school girls. This is about STAYING FREE. And staying free again. And continuing to stay free from the trap of hiding behind image.

“It is for freedom that Christ as set us free! So don’t conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

How poignant and contemporary is this calling for our unique moment in history?

We live in a time more free than any other time. Yet we allow our freedom to become a kind of cage when we let people’s expectations of us shape us more than our authentic experience. More than the experience God has called us to inhabit fully for his purposes.

It’s a trap! Darling, you are no brand.

You are not a one-note, one-trick, one-hit-wonder. You were never meant to be. You are a soul on a journey, and the journey is complicated.

You are a whole, integrated, woven together, wonderful You.

You are made of brightness and darkness.

You are both hilarious and incredibly annoying.

You are victorious and one extremely hot mess.

You are all these things and more. Unfiltered. Uncropped. Unvarished. You are a story originating in the heart of God, unspooling into your own experience through his ancient hands of love.

Personal branding is a soul sucking sickness. It’s the cage where funny people shrivel up and suffer in silence because they are only permitted to be bright. It’s a prison where wise folks begin to betray the whimsical wandering of their own hearts and perform like trick ponies, because they always need to be sage. It’s where health bloggers lie about loving Moon Pies. Those jerks.

The point is…. being honest isn’t enough. We must be whole. We must be all the things we are. We must be those things together. It’s how we were meant to live. The minute you surrender your Self to your Image, you have lost the freedom for which you have been set free. You have lost the Light and the Salt that only you have.

Let’s set each other free. You are not a brand to me. You’re also not a mermaid, a unicorn, or a vampire. I’m sorry. You’re You. And it is enough, and it is everything.

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