I have noticed a trend lately in the blogging world and among my group of mom friends. It’s all over social media with posts I find almost daily. It’s a good trend, really, an excellent one. What am I talking about? It’s a new level of honesty and openness about struggles that women face. We like to call it “being real.”
Women of my generation seem to be feeling more and more comfortable with the idea of authenticity. We see that fake is, well, fake. We long to share our vulnerabilities, our struggles, our fears, and to be able to find someone listening on the other side. Quite frankly, I think we grow tired of pretending that we have it all together. The generations of our mothers’ and grandmothers’, at least in part, seemed to have a certain kind of expectation placed on them to hold it together on the outside. It was not considered as socially acceptable to “lose it” or to be vulnerable about fears and failures in public.
The new trend is freeing. The more this culture shift seems to move, the more women seem to feel comfortable exposing their own fears and inadequacies as wives, moms, friends, you name it.
But, I must admit, I’m having a problem here. Whaaat? How could this possibly be a bad thing? I was the one who said it was a good thing, right? Absolutely. It is.
Let me be clear that my problem is not with the authenticity itself. One of my favorite treats is coffee and good conversation with my girlfriends. I have been encouraged on many occasions by friends who have “been there” with me, sympathizing with my weaknesses and frustrations. My problem is where I am left when the sharing time is over, when my friend and I part ways and I go home to live my everyday life with its normal, everyday comings and goings.
Can I back track just a sec? I grew up thinking that holding it together and being a “good girl” was what I needed to strive for. No one taught me this; I just picked it up from various situations. My parents were very loving and verbally affirming people, but somehow I was pretty work oriented.
I became rather prideful about it actually.
It wasn’t until college at UNK and my time with a campus ministry called The Navigators that I began to understand true authenticity and grace. I had become a Christian as a preschooler, but by this point I was hungry for some “real.”
To be fair, I’m sure I experienced it prior to this, I just wasn’t mature enough to let my guard down. The Navigators thrive on a culture of small groups where I met other young women and mentors who were honest about their struggles and expressed how Christ had shown them His grace in the midst of their messes. It was incredibly freeing to realize I could share what I was dealing with apart from judgment.
So, with a story like that, how could I possibly have a problem? Honestly, this is pretty new. I have been struggling recently with feelings of failure and struggle. One of the things that has made staying home from teaching particularly challenging for me is that no one is around throughout the day to affirm my efforts or witness my progress.
There are no written standards of work ethic; I set the standard.
There’s no adult interaction at home.
The only critics around are the kids, and they can be pretty harsh.
There are those beautiful moments of glowing love and affection, but they are often fleeting. (Or the 6 year old shoves the toddler, the cat dumps over the trash can, the baby eats a crayon…you get the idea.)
So, while I found it incredibly reassuring to commiserate with my friends, I was still feeling an intense struggle when it came to daily life and my ability to press on with any measure of success. Why in the world was this? My husband was supportive, I had plenty of family and friends around to support me, I was spending a lot of time praying about my struggles; what was the deal?
It wasn’t until I shared my troubles with my hubby and met with a trusted pastor that God began to open my eyes to my true struggle. I had become so focused on needing the approval of others that I was basing my self-worth on it. I loved to “get real” with my friends, but I had never really gotten there with my heavenly Father. I knew He loved me, but there was a mental block that kept me from truly accepting His grace. If I had a bad day with my kids, then I decided I was a failure as a mom. If I got frustrated with homeschooling, I became convinced I was incapable of making it work for my family.
Essentially, I was buying into lies.
I couldn’t accept myself in my struggles, and therefore, couldn’t believe that God would either. I could be authentic with my friends or write a seemingly authentic post, but was letting shame keep me from the same authenticity before God.
This trend of laying it bare was giving me a place to be real with others, but I was stuck there. Like I said, the trend is a great thing, an awesome start. We need one another. Relationships with people are a tremendous blessing. But I was letting it stop there. I knew my struggles by heart, but I couldn’t get past them. I had bought a lie that they defined me when, in reality, that is my heavenly Father’s role. His love for me, what Christ did for me, that is what truly defines me.
I have a new identity. I can be free to be myself. It can’t get any more authentic than that.