This blog is specifically for my friends and colleagues who wear all-the-hats and worry that risks of vulnerability and imperfections may lead to rejection, shame or judgement. Tread lightly friends, this is about to get real.
“My brokenness is a better bridge for people than my pretend wholeness ever was.”
~ Sheila Walsh ~
Can we talk a bit about your humanity? Imperfections? You know, those little-known parts of you that you try to keep hidden?
I often think about the episode from Friends when Chandler found out that Monica had a ram-shackled closet. She kept it hidden for so long and then, one day, Chandler finds her messy closet unwittingly. Monica’s face crumples, mortified. She’s overwhelmed and worried that he won’t love her anymore. But, instead of rejecting her, he reassures her of his love. Have you ever had that experience? Worried that your imperfection, quirks, struggles or overwhelm might mean the loss of love, connection or worse – rejection entirely? I have.
Many years ago, I remember being a grumpy, overtired, overworked grad student. I was working frenetically on a report, felt anxious and looked horrible. My (soon-to-be best) friend, Alyson, stopped by my apartment. She invited me to go run a few errands with her. I politely declined. She pushed. I said, “You don’t want to be with me right now. I’m not myself.” By “myself” I meant the me that I wanted everyone to see. The me that was happy, upbeat, friendly and a caretaker. Alyson frowned. “You don’t me very well then. I want to be with you even when you’re bad or sad. I just want to run some errands and I’d like your company. Let’s go.” It wasn’t an option. My brain was whirling…wait, what?? Other than my mom, perhaps, I’d never felt that kind of unconditional regard. Certainly not from a friend or colleague. Either Alyson was odd, or perhaps, I wasn’t used to letting people in.
If that’s you. If you’re like me and you try to keep your imperfections hidden out of fear of rejection, please listen to me. Let that shit go. Perfection keeps us trapped, lonely and isolated. It breads fear and angst. Connection via sharing imperfections, however, links us. Being human with a few other trusted souls allows us to find companionship, battle seclusion and find refuge in the storm.
Fast forward 25 years. There have been so many moments as a mom, a wife, an ex-wife, soon-to-be new wife, daughter, sister, psychologist, expert, aunt (all-the-things!!) that I call Alyson in tears. I open my closet, so to speak, and let all the junk fall out.
“I think I’m failing…”
“I don’t think I can do this…”
“I don’t want to be married anymore…”
“My kids overwhelm me…”
“What if I can’t make it on my own…”
“How will I guide her?”
“I’m sad. I’m miserable. I’m scared.”
“What if I’m meant to be alone?”
“What if I’m in love and get hurt again?”
And she never backs out of the fire. The more imperfections I share, the more she shares. The more fear and isolation I express, the more she says, “me too.” The more angst and overwhelm I release, the more I realize I am not alone. I. AM NOT. ALONE.
And neither are you.
Begin sharing your humanity. Begin sharing your imperfections with just one friend, one colleague, on other mom at the park, one other dad at the club, one other teenager who feels lonely, one other person that feels unseen. Watch how they open up to your vulnerability.
I know it’s scary. Authenticity is freaking hard. It’s breaking open parts of you with the risk of being rejected or judged. But let me share something with you – if you’re vulnerable, real, honest and raw with someone and they reject you or judge you – that’s about THEM my friend, not about you.
I have endured a long, hard, lonely and often heartbreaking road to learn that vulnerability trumps looking perfect every single time. Don’t get me wrong, I still get off course at times. Alyson and I check in with each other if one of us seems disconnected or out of touch. We know now that it likely means the other person is struggling and having difficulty finding time, space or energy to share how hard life feels at that moment. Then we get back on track and find solace in each other’s reassurance and grace.
Find your people. Find one person. Crack it open. See what happens. And let me know. I’d love to know. Let’s make this world a safer place to land.