I’m not sure when it became expected that women have it all together at all times. Maybe it was back in the 50s when characters like June Cleaver portrayed the ideal woman as a heel-wearing, meal-cooking, house-cleaning, child-rearing Stepford queen. Or maybe it goes back further than that. Perhaps someone told Martha her house wasn’t up to HGTV standards, so she felt the need to run around perfecting it while the Messiah sat in her living room, waiting for her to stop her frenzy and choose what was best.
Whenever it began, this idea that we have to have a spotless home, perfectly groomed/educated/stimulated children, an expertly-executed meal plan for the week, and a designer wardrobe to boot, is crazy. And for the most part, I don’t think it is perpetuated by men. I’m pretty sure we as women have brought this upon ourselves and upon each other. We’ve created an unattainable expectation that none of us can reach. But we can’t admit that to each other. So we put up our guards and paint on our faces and tell each other we’re okay. Things are great. Life is wonderful and it’s totally going according to our carefully crafted plans.
But what would our lives be like if we were free to be real with each other? If we let each other in on the secret we all know already anyway: we’re not okay. We are flawed and messy and we don’t have it all together, and we need a gallon of grace just to make it through the next hour.
Let’s Tell the Truth
Here, I’ll go first. Here’s my truth. I don’t throw Pinterest-inspired birthday parties for my kids. I buy a few decorations on Amazon two days before, then run flustered to Party City the morning of to grab the balloons and other last-minute crap someone had to remind me to get. I don’t read the endless emails my daughter’s school sends out every week, and I do the bare minimum when it comes to participating there. I have a pile of mail the height of a small mountain growing on my kitchen table, and I’m just kind of hoping there aren’t any bills in there I forgot about. I don’t RSVP for stuff on time. I drink way too much coffee. I’m constantly caught in the crosshairs of running a business, running my house, running around with my little people, and running ragged.
I’m a young mom. And while I’m fairly successful on paper, I still feel self-conscious when I’m in a room with other moms in my life space who have 10 years on me. I leave out details in conversations that would give away how young I am—and for what? The fear that someone I barely know might look at me differently, judge me, reject me? Outwardly I’d laugh off such an idea. Who cares what some random person thinks of me? Inwardly, I shrink down. I can’t let them in and truly see me, 100% of who I am. So I put on my front and laugh, talk about surface-level things that keep them a safe distance from me, and go on my way.
Much of the time, I’m tired, worn out, stretched thin. I try to make it to the gym a few times a week. Sometimes it happens. Then sometimes it doesn’t, and I feel guilty about that. But I’d also feel guilty if I spent an hour there when I could be working or cleaning my house or doing something with my kids. Because somewhere deep down, I feel like I have to be constantly doing something for someone else or I’m messing up. Time is a closely guarded asset, and at the end of the day I still feel like I didn’t have enough of it.
I struggle with pride, envy, judgment, doubt. I feel let down and left out, often. I fear failure and inadequacy. Far too often, I’m quick to anger and slow to forgiveness. I take offense when I shouldn’t. I store up bitterness for a rainy day, when I can spew it forth like venom at someone I care about.
These are my shortcomings. Okay let’s be real, this is the abridged version. These are the things that shout “I’m not okay!” to the world, that I try my best to suppress except in the most intimate of circles. Because somewhere along the way, I let the world tell me I needed to be perfect, lest I allow it to define me otherwise.
Finding Freedom in Authenticity
But what would be so bad about seeing each other for who we really are? Dark circles under our eyes, broken hearts and broken dreams. The real us. The version of ourselves that isn’t perfect, but is perfectly covered by grace.
That’s the blessed thing about this faith we claim as women of Christ. We serve a God who knows without a shadow of a doubt that we are not the Pinterest-painted versions of ourselves we claim to be. If we can accept that He sees us as we are and loves us anyway, then we can go confidently into our places—our friend circles, our offices, our mommy groups, our churches—and be who we really are.
Here’s the crux of it: When we’re honest, we’re relatable. And when we’re relatable, we get the opportunity to speak truth in ways we never could from our high horse looking down. Grace shines when people see our inadequacies. When we’re honest about our failures and our insecurities, we have the opportunity to show others the light. When we can say Hey look, I’m messed up. I don’t have it all together. But look at this beautiful gift of life I’ve been blessed with despite my failures—that’s when we can point others to the One who’s making us okay. The One who is in our corner despite our flaws, who makes beauty from our imperfections and testimony from our heartache. The One who cares more about our authenticity and our compassion than our ability to make the perfect gluten-free cupcakes and do all the things perfectly.
So let’s go forth in this life and be real with one another. Let’s take a chance on our fellow women to see the best in us, even when we present them with the raw, unfiltered version of ourselves. And let’s take every chance to be authentic, because that’s our best opportunity to reflect the light of grace that our Savior so freely shines upon us.
This post was originally published on andrewandtiannaphotography.com.