A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when I came across a post that piqued my interest. It was a candid picture of a mom who was obviously a bit frustrated with her little boy. The caption underneath it was a rather long explanation of why the young mother in the picture rarely posted about what her real life looked like, opting instead only to post photos that she would want to hang on her wall.
She explained that sometimes people questioned her about this, wanting to see a more balanced depiction of her life. But she wanted to spread goodness and, to her, that meant sharing only scenes that illustrated happiness.
A conversation that I recently had with a dear friend explains why I respectfully disagree with that position.
This friend is amazing in every way. She is kindness and compassion personified. She is constantly helping people, even when it is inconvenient. She does everything in her power to love God and live by His precepts. Every time I talk to her, I am inspired to be better.
Despite the awesomeness that I see in her, she was, at the moment of this discussion, feeling more overwhelmed than anything.
“Lynnette,” she said while trying to fight back the tears, “I can’t seem to get it all together. My kids don’t always listen to me. My house is usually in some level of disarray. I feel like everybody is expecting perfection from me and I just don’t have it to offer.”
The pain in her words was almost tangible, and my heart wanted to break. This beautiful woman who would do anything for anyone could not see the goodness and light that radiated from her countenance. Instead, she felt like she could not measure up to some unrealistic standard of excellence – a standard that everybody appeared to be reaching but her.
I told her about all of the incredible things that I saw in her, followed by assuring her that she was not the only one to struggle with kids who are sometimes disobedient and leave their stuff all over the house. That is the story of my life!
My kids are sometimes a hot mess and often ignore my counsel. I’m not always patient with their blatant disregard for my instructions. OK, I have NO patience for such things.
Plus, my house will never be sparkling clean when I am sharing it with six other people who are not exactly neat freaks. I guarantee you will find some prominent messes if you drop by at any given time, especially when my whole family is home.
I believe those imperfections and challenges and others like them are common, so why sweep them under the rug? I think we should talk about them openly and honestly because they are universal and relatable.
In a world of highlight reels and status updates that show only the best, it is easy to get bombarded with messages laced with perfection and start to believe that everybody has it together but me. Hearing somebody talk about their challenges is like therapy; it makes me feel like I am normal and gives me the strength to tackle another day.
That is why I look for friends who are willing to discard pretentiousness and let me into their lives. A few such confidants are worth more than a thousand people who regularly feel the need to put on an air of flawlessness.
Real people are my people, and they enrich my life in ways that are difficult to put into words.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that you should air your dirty laundry on social media for the world to see, or use that space to complain about the difficulties of your life. I don’t believe in focusing on negativity, and some things are assuredly best kept private. A great deal of thoughtful discretion is a good idea when deciding what is share-worthy on a public platform.
However, when relatively small daily struggles (that sometimes feel monstrous) are the name of the game, I think it is possible to talk about them in a way that says, “I’m not perfect, but I can find joy and hope and beauty in the messiness of life.”
Perhaps you don’t want to paint that picture online, opting instead to post only the good, and that’s OK. I’m not here to tell you how to use social media.
But, at the very least, I beg you to find a trusted friend (or family member…or counselor…) with whom you can talk about your real life, challenges and all. Chances are pretty high (like maybe 100%) that you are not alone in those struggles, and there is strength in numbers.
As women, we need each other. We need love and understanding and support. Sometimes, we need a cheerleader. Other times, we just need somebody to listen. Often, we only want to know that others have similar challenges and we have not fallen completely off the deep end.
As sisters and mothers and friends, let us provide that for each other. Let us have the courage to be real, thus giving those in our circles of influence permission to do the same. It is a happy way to live.
What do you say?
P.S. I’m always here to listen. Feel free to contact me anytime.