"Sometimes I don't see myself clearly," she said.
And I nodded because I know what it means to see myself with distorted eyes.
Sure there is the rare bird who manages to always see the best in herself, but let's be honest, not many of us are birds of that feather, are we?
Instead we tend towards seeing ourselves most easily for what we are not.
I'm not talented enough.
I'm not successful enough.
I''m not loving enough.
I'm not serving enough.
I'm not exercising enough.
And then we look around... and that's where everyone IS.
She is thin enough.
She is smart enough.
She is a better mom.
She is pretty enough.
And we build our heart walls. We put on our brave faces and our grand displays and hope people believe the stage props to be the reality of our lives and souls. And then we slowly crumble as we compare our insides to other people's outsides.
And the truth will set you free.
What if we were brave and what if we were real? Sisters who admit our weaknesses and share our vulnerabilities instead of constructing elaborate alternate realities and putting on a grand show.
I read something several years ago that has never left me. Give people the gift of going second. Sure it takes unbelievable strength to admit the things we've spent years working very hard to hide, especially when faced with the dreaded: What will they think of me? But I think generally the truth of the matter is that "they" will sigh a big sigh of relief when someone is finally willing to break the cycle that keeps us isolated, alone, and unable to see ourselves clearly. And they will go second. And that's where the beauty begins.
I've been actively trying to practice this vulnerability thing for several years now, and you know what? Only once has it come back to hurt me. (And that was from a woman who I know was in a bad emotional place herself.)
One of the hardest things for me to believe is that when God looks at me, He smiles and feels like a proud daddy. When I slip back into putting on an elaborate show to impress the people around me, I know at my core I'm often trying to impress God. That's why when one of his children comes to me and as a God-messenger sees through the facade to my core and says to that "you are enough," I find a little soul-healing. I see myself a little more clearly.
Women are notoriously catty towards each other. In my life experience, we hit our most inhumane point at about 3rd grade and it is a slow slog back to kindness, and mercy, and grace from that point forward. At this stage of my life, I look around and see that I'm surrounded by a community of kind, merciful, gracious women - but so often we are terrified of each other, still carrying our 3rd grade wounds. I want to do more than give the gift of going second to my sisters. I want to be a God-messenger who sees into their lives... sees the very core. And speak love, healing, and truth to the places of vulnerability.
I want to say more things like this:
"I think you are such a good mom. Your daughter shines when she's around you."
"You are such a kind woman. Your husband seems to be in such peace with you by his side."
"I think you are so hospitable. I appreciate the way your home feels so comfortable."
"I appreciate what you say in our small group. I know you don't always feel confident speaking up, but without fail I find that your words carry wisdom. Thank you for sharing."
I even want to say things like:
"I love your new hair color! I think it makes your green eyes shine."
"Where do you get your talent? You have done such a cute job decorating your little guy's room."
"Do you want to go shopping with me? I think you have a great sense of style and I'd love your help in picking out a few new outfits."
Can you imagine what our communities would be like if we all helped each other see ourselves more clearly? If we were raw and real, and in the face of that, encouraging and uplifting? Can you imagine if we started treating complete strangers this way? I remember once a woman I didn't know approached me in the crowd and told me she liked my hair. Another time a woman came up to me and told me she liked the way I dressed. In both cases, I walked with my head held a little higher. (And clearly it made an impact if I still remember it years later.) I'm not saying those things are what is most important in life. But when it comes to building up our sisters, there's no place too trivial to do that.
When Cora walks into a room filled with her peers, she runs straight into the fray - she starts playing and entering into relationships the moment she walks in a room. I want to be like that. I want to be so comfortable in my skin that I don't hold back. I want to be loving and generous in my compliments so that others feel uplifted in my company. I want to be real and vulnerable so that others don't see me as an opposite example of their inadequacies. I want to see myself more clearly so that I can help others see themselves more clearly.