I am all for sharing my messy moments, being real and honest and vulnerable about how I don’t have it all together and likely never will have it all together all the time.
But as a culture, have we lost sight of what true authenticity is? When does our messy authenticity cross over into self-shame? Where is the room for celebration?
I absolutely believe that we can get trapped in a dangerous game of comparison when we share only our victories or picture-perfect moments, especially when it comes to social media. But I also believe we can get trapped in a dangerous game of shame and self-deprecation when we share only our failures and messes—the proverbial and the literal dirty laundry. Why does it feel so easy to air the hard stuff and so difficult to share our wins?
I’m currently reading Lean In, in which Sheryl Sandberg makes the argument that women are more likely to downplay their accomplishments, chalking up their successes to luck or having help from others. We want people to think we are less competent than we truly are, partly because we don’t know how competent we actually are and partly because, as women, we’re perceived negatively for being competent and confident. (It sounds crazy, right? It’s for real. Check out pages 30 and 39–40 of the book.)
I want to hear about your promotion at work. I want to cheer you on when your blog post brings in thousands of views. I want to see your clean house. (By the way, you’re not a bad mom if you ignore the advice “the housekeeping can wait” and you keep up with laundry and dishes. And likewise, you’re not a bad mom if you don’t.) I want you to celebrate the fact that you do rock at life.
Maybe today you got up early to work out, nailed a presentation at work, cooked a healthful dinner, got your kids to bed on time, and enjoyed some time connecting with your husband, and you’re thinking, Yep, I’ve got this.
Good for you! Let me celebrate with you. I want to know when you feel like you’re on top of the world and doing it all—and doing it all well—because I know how rare those moments can be, and I want to give you all the praise hands and confetti cones and heart eyes and fist bumps.
I want to know about your victories, your mistakes, your successes, your failures, your good, your bad, and your ugly. Your honesty about missteps and struggles helps me to feel less alone in mine, and your successes give me hope that we’re all going to be okay, we who feel like we are doing it all and doing it halfway at best. I’m certainly not advocating that we throw humility to the wind, because it’s a noble, beautiful, Christlike virtue. But we could do well with a little more celebration of ourselves and of others. We need to share our real struggles and our real victories. We don’t need to gloss them over or pretend they’re better or worse than they really are.
Tell it to me like it is, layer on your meaning, and speak your piece. When you do, you’re connecting with a deep part of my heart, and I’m right there with you saying “Yes, me too!” or “Yes, well done!” or “Yes, amen!”
Let’s create opportunities for connection in our best and worst moments, and in all the everyday moments in between. And let’s celebrate when we’re totally winning at life, because who else is going to do that for us?