Do you ever feel like you just don't measure up?
Do you feel like no matter how hard you try, you can't ever do enough, be enough, or ever compete with everyone else? We all know that life is not a competition, but sometimes it feels like we are coming in dead last--and no one is around to cheer on the loser. Sometimes we're not sure we'll even make it to the finish line.
I felt that way a couple of weeks ago. It hit me pretty hard when I got on Instagram for the first time. I usually don't struggle with depression, but this started a downward spiral I couldn't get out of. Because everything I saw on Instagram was perfect.
Perfect bodies, perfect homes, perfect families, perfectly inspiring messages that touched my heart, but made me feel completely inadequate at the same time. It was rough. I was ugly crying and my poor husband tried to help, but I could tell he didn't quite know what to do! I knew I needed to snap out of it, but try as I might, I just couldn't shake the feelings of being the most ridiculous low life ever in the creation of...ever. It took me several days to get grounded again.
I'm in a good place now, but I know I'll probably have a day like that again. It happens. Maybe you'll have a day like that, too. (Though, I hope you don't!) Here are some things I want to remember the next time the perfection snare gets me again:
1. Don't objectify yourself
We often talk about how society turns people into objects and how wrong it is. Media especially, seems to objectify women at every turn. It makes me really mad, yet I realized during this experience, that I do this to myself-and often! Every time I compare my looks, my weight, my home and my talents to others, I turn myself into an object. In fact, it got so bad that I started crying to my husband that there was no reason that anyone would ever want to read anything I write again because I am "just a fat lady who lives in an ugly house, who can't take good pictures."
Look at what I just reduced my whole existence into. How sad is that? There is more to me, and there is a lot more to you, too. Don't label yourself by a few cruel judgements-you would NEVER do that to anyone else, why do it to yourself? Your relationships, your talents, what you give to the world...you are a person who is important in other people's lives. Be sure to look at the whole picture.
2. Look at the trade-offs
My husband taught me this. When I started ranting about all of my other imperfections, my dearest love took a deep breath and waded in. (Bless his brave heart!)
"Life is about trade-offs. Look at the trade-offs you have made:
Which of those choices would you take back? Would you rather be in debt, give back your other talents so you can pursue photography, never have given birth to some of your kids or return the time you spent with them? I'm not saying that people who are successful on Instagram have made these choices-- their lives and talents are different. But for you, it looks like you've done an amazing job and I think that in a world of trade-offs, you have chosen the best things." I realized then, that I really wouldn't change anything.
What trade-offs have YOU made? What would be the consequences if you could change those choices? When we look back, I think that for the most part, you and I have picked the most important things.
3. Recognize that everything you do for others is a gift
Recently, I had someone amazing apologize to me for "not doing more". I was astonished. This woman is helping me, and she was apologizing! I told her that everything she does is a gift--and how could I possibly think it wanting? I am so grateful to her!
As I thought about it, the same applies to each of us as well. Every time we change a diaper, it's a gift. Every time we make dinner for the family (even if it's leftovers), it's a gift. Every time we volunteer to help an organization or a person, it's a gift. It might not be perfect--but it's a gift. We need to recognize this and treat it the same way we would anything else that might be under the Christmas tree. Maybe it's not exactly what was on a Christmas list--but it was given out of love and it was the best they (or I) had to offer. Who can ask for anything more? Who can criticize that?
4. Remember that perfection is a lie--and that imperfection can be a really wonderful thing.
As I was talking to my sister Jessee, we spoke about the allure that perfection has. How we all want to be that perfect person everyone admires, or hide our imperfection and not acknowledge it-even to ourselves, sometimes. Here is a portion of what she wrote on Facebook soon afterwards:
"Having two physically handicapped daughters, I can't play that game. I can't hide my girls, and I don't want to. I have given birth to two children whose bodies would never be deemed perfect. They are categorized as "abnormal", "defective", "dysmorphic". And I am not here to argue about that. My precious girls do indeed live in imperfect bodies, with many limitations and difficulties.
What I am here to propose is that perfection, as society represents it, is an illusion and a lie that most of us spend time and money trying to chase and claim. No one can ever really capture perfection.
But yet, here we are comparing everything from our eyebrows to our vacations with the Facebook friend we haven't seen in ten years. We feel so haunted by those perfect faces, bodies, kitchens, etc that we see on Instagram and Pinterest, because that is not our reality.
There is power in imperfection. Because there is power in truth. The truth is that none of us are perfect. Well actually, the truth is that only One of us is perfect. And when we allow ourselves to be imperfect, we allow our kids, parents, neighbors, spouses and friends to be imperfect too. There is power in owning that we make mistakes, that we have limitations, weaknesses and follies. We are free from the burden of our cover-up, and free from the shame of being human.
Just because something is imperfect, it doesn't make it useless or undesirable. Something can be imperfect, and yet be incredibly powerful. Something can be imperfect while also pure and good. Something can be imperfect and still be inspiring. I look at my babies, and I see imperfection. I also see beauty. I see sweetness. I see a miracle.
My girls are beautiful. Beautifully imperfect."
Jessee helped me realize that I would never take an "imperfect" niece and shove her in the closet and shut the door. So, why do I want to do that to parts of myself, sometimes? I am learning to embrace my whole self fully. Admittedly, it's a new thing for me, but it's part of being authentic and honest, even if it's just to myself.
So for the record: I'm a lousy housekeeper AND I make gourmet caramel apples that are out-of-this-world.
Reply in the comments below!
Hi, I'm Jen! I adore chocolate, I'd rather read than clean my house, and I haven't seen my abs in I-don't-know-how-long. But I love my husband and kids to death and try to Raise The Good within myself and my family by making wise and uplifting media choices and having a deliberate family culture. You are probably doing the same thing. Let's share what works with each other!
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