A friend of mine called me to confide in me about how she was struggling in her marriage, and after listening to her story and meeting it with compassion instead of the judgment she feared, I confessed that my marriage wasn't going so well either. I shared with her the struggles Matt and I have been dealing with for several years now, and her response was, “I would never have guessed that in a million years. You two just seem so perfect together.”
A week later, the same friend called to tell me that she had finally opened up to a few other friends about her marital struggles, and lo and behold, every single one of them had confided in her about their own marital struggles. She said, “Lissa, why have I not known I wasn’t alone? Why have I been suffering, thinking I was the only one whose marriage was screwed up, when I’m surrounded by people I love who are going through the same thing?” We pinky promised to talk openly with people about the ways in which the “perfect” image others might have of us is complete BS.
I was talking to another friend who is also going through a rocky patch in her marriage, and she was telling me how much it pains her to drop off her kids at school and see all the happy mothers with perfect families. I told her all she’d have to do is dig one layer deep to find some way in which everyone in the school yard was suffering in at least a small way. The ruse is the lie that leaves us all thinking everyone else has it together- except us.
Show Us Your Imperfections. I Dare You.
Earlier this week, I posted this on Facebook:
I grow tired of people who are so invested in their image that they pretend to live perfect lives, which only leads others to compare themselves and judge themselves as not perfect enough by comparison. Why can't we all just admit that we're perfectly imperfect- and that our imperfections and scars make us beautiful and unique and relatable? Just in case I've pulled the wool over your eyes, I am FAR from perfect. I'm in marriage counseling. I have hairs on my chin and stretch marks on my butt. I battle my own ego. I can be bossy and demanding. I have to tame my ambition to avoid being a workaholic. So please don't put me on a pedestal, and please don't put yourself on one either, since it only distances you from those who would connect more if only they knew that you were as beautifully flawed as they are. Tell us one thing about you that keeps you off the pedestal- one perfectly imperfect way thing that makes you real!
213 of you beautiful people revealed who you really are in response to the invitation. (You can read the awesome responses and add your own here.) Reading everyone’s responses just left me feeling so connected, so understood, so accepted, in spite of my flaws and growth edges. It makes me sad to think about how much of my life I wasted feeling lonely and disconnected because I was too busy trying to project some sick, twisted image of perfection. I was so afraid people would reject me if only they knew who I really was that I presented this sanitized version of myself in order to try to please people. Of course, it backfired. Not until I finally stripped off the masks and revealed who I really am under the false image I was projecting did I actually start to attract the love and acceptance I so desperately desired.
As I headed to Albany, New York last week to film a 90 minute public television special, as well as 6 hours of additional DVD content that would be included as part of the PBS fundraising pledge package, I knew I was walking into a situation that was completely out of my comfort zone. I so wanted to feel like I was going to just nail it on that television set, that I would get it all perfectly right on my first try, that I would wow everyone with my professionalism and TV chops, that everyone would come to me later and say, “Lissa, you’re a natural!”
So I loaded myself up with expectations, hoping I’d get it right, wanting to impress my producers and please my publisher and all that jazz. Naturally, heaping myself with expectations of perfection only left me feeling stressed and overwhelmed in the months before the film date. And then, suddenly, I was backstage, about to appear before a live studio audience to deliver what I hoped would be a perfect performance. (No biggie.)
Permission To Be Imperfect
Suddenly, inside my head, I heard the soothing voice of Brené Brown (with whom I just did a free teleclass - you can listen to us here). When Brené was about to appear on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, she wrote herself a permission slip, which she hid in her pocket. The permission slip said, “Permission to be imperfect.” So right there, back in the wings, I wrote myself the same permission slip, and when I stood in front of that studio audience, I told everyone to bear with me because I was about to give an imperfect performance.
I then proceeded to royally flub up several times, stuttering over my words and misreading the teleprompter. Fortunately, the special was prerecorded! All I had to do when I screwed up was stop, admit my mistake, and try again. The audience had even been prepped so that if I said the same thing twice, they were supposed to pretend they were hearing my hopefully wise words for the very first time!
What If Life Had “Do Overs?”
After a few mistakes and do overs, I said to the audience, “Wouldn’t life be great if we were allowed to just pause and get a ‘Do over’ in other aspects of our life?” And then I realized I’ve done just that. I married imperfectly - twice - and I’ve now been with husband #3 for almost eleven years. (Do over! Do over!) I wound up unhappy in my job as a practicing physician, so I went through a massive career change. (Do over!) My health broke down because I wasn’t caring for my body or my mind, but I was blessed to get a do over in my health and am now down to half the dose of one of the seven medications I was once taking.
I have been pausing, admitting my mistakes, and doing life over again time after time! And this, I’m realizing, is one of the essential keys to a happy life.