“One reason we struggle with insecurity: We’re comparing our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.” Steven Furtick
The other day, as my little girl groggily woke up from her nap, she asked me what was under her bed. I was thinking quickly (or maybe not thinking at all – the jury is still out). Remembering a recent encounter with a tiny frog in her granddaddy’s pool and her excitement over getting to hold the little guy, I told her, “Frogs.” Once the words were out of my mouth, I braced myself for an awesome game of make believe.
Her eyes lit up and she scrambled to the edge of the bed, peering down between the bed and the wall to get a glimpse of the frogs under her bed. She grabbed a flashlight. She grabbed one of her belts to use “to fish those froggies out from under the bed.” She hung herself over the side of the bed, grunting and squinting into the darkness under her bed.
After a few minutes of frustrating hunting, she pulled the belt up and said, “Do you see any frogs on there, Mommy?” I said, “I DO! Look, sweetie! There they are!” I pretended to point to several tiny frogs on the end of her belt. When I looked up, into her bewildered eyes, I realized that she had not been pretending. She thought the frogs were real, and at that moment was trying to reconcile reality with what she had thought was real. I had that sinking feeling in my stomach that told me I may have just really messed up her view of the world.
Thankfully, she moved on and continued (began?) pretending to fish for frogs (and turtles and snails, too, eventually) under her bed. I was reminded, though, that perception is reality. What we think is true may as well be true in our minds…however ridiculous it may be.
Can I be totally honest? Really, completely honest?
I have something that’s been weighing on me for some time, and I need to get it out there for everyone to read. I have the looming feeling that maybe you won’t understand…that maybe I should just hush and keep this to myself. It has taken me weeks to get this post in writing. I would write a few lines and then become convinced that the post shouldn’t be written. I’ve learned, though, that the feeling that I need to be quiet usually means that I should speak, and speak loudly.
Here is what I feel like I’m supposed to share with you. There are certain “make believe” truths that I have always believed. They’re silly, yes, but they have always seemed just true enough for me to cling to them. Once I believe them for a certain amount of time, they become as reality in my mind. Ridiculous or not, they become truth to me.
Here are a few of them:
I have to look perfect. Every hair…every accessory…every article of clothing must fit perfectly not only with each other, but with what everyone else expects of me.
I have to be the perfect mom. If I look disheveled or unorganized or, heaven forbid, angry or impatient, everyone will laugh and judge and talk. From my mommy-mobile car to my participation in story time at the library, I must portray put-togetherness. An air of “not only can I do this, but I make it look easy.”
On and on and on, ad nauseum. At one time, those thoughts entered my mind simply as a thought…an idea about how the world might work. After awhile, though, those thoughts became so ingrained in the way I live that even though they’re ridiculous, they appear true. They feel true. They feel real.
I’ve written about this before, so if you’ve been following my blog for awhile this is nothing new to you. My hunch, though, is that this isn’t new to any of you. Whether we hold onto the make believe truths long enough to make them reality or shrug them off as soon as they enter our consciousness, we all hear them. I really believe that.
It’s in the air. It’s in the media. It’s in those looks from other women that we can’t quite read and we perceive that it’s in those thoughts we’ll never know.
Yes, some of us possess a certain…something that keeps us from being quite as susceptible to it all. (I almost said it was strength that some of us have and others of us lack…but it’s not that. It’s something else. Confidence? Maybe. Security? Perhaps. It’s hard to tell.) I admire those women. I’d even go so far as to say I envy them. I myself do not possess the whatever-it-is that helps me to ignore the ridiculousness that turns into law for me.
So there’s that part of the little game of make believe. The other part is, to me, more vile.
The thing is…well…I play both sides.
I struggle under the weight of the make believe truths…and yet in believing…adhering to…building my world upon them, I put them out there for others to believe. I continue the cycle even though I hate it. The more of us who play this silly game of pretend, the more of us who get roped in. The rules become more like law with each person who plays, and I have played a part in furthering it all.
Because I work far too hard to look perfect on Sunday mornings, I convey the impression that others should, too. Because I cover up my bad days as mommy and act like motherhood is easy for me, I give others the idea that there is something wrong with them if they are struggling with the same things.
The only cure is transparency. Be real. Honest. Tell people about how those things have seeped into my consciousness and changed the way I see the world and the way I live. Once I tell people I’ve been playing along with make believe rules, the charade is done. There is no point in playing when your secret strategy is laid out on the table.
So again, maybe none of this makes sense to you. Maybe you’re wondering what on earth I mean by any of this, or maybe you’re speed-reading at this point to get to the end. I don’t know. What I suspect, though, is that there is truth here for more than just myself. My hunch is that some of you might find this refreshing, and that maybe – just maybe – open conversation about something we’ve all felt under the surface will be a good thing for all of us. If anything here resounds with you, will you do something for me? Will you pinpoint the make-believe truths in your life and kick them to the curb? They’re easy to find. They’re those thoughts that haunt you. They pop up from nowhere and linger on. They make the simple parts of your day the most stressful. They change the way you see yourself, often in a split second. Take a baby step today. Do something the way you want to, without considering what someone else might think or say or feel or do. Be yourself. In return, I will continue fighting the ridiculous make-believe truths in my own life. When I see you being yourself, with no pretentions or facades, I will feel free to be who I really am, too. I think it will probably go both ways.
I’m hoping so, anyway. I want out of this game. I’m done.
(I know all of this is real because as true as I feel this is in my heart, I’m worrying right now as to whether or not I should post this. I’m worried, strangely, about what you might think. Ironic..)
Journeying with you,