Will You Go Or Send Your Representative Instead?


So often when we struggle we feel alone, like we’re the only ones to ever face a similar sadness or hardship. We hide our stories, smother our feelings, and paste on a smile before facing the world.

But when we choose to be open and honest, we find love, support, and community. We find that we’re far from alone. We’re actually normal, but unfortunately even being normal means feeling alone because no one talks about the hard times. We all act as though everything is fine.

In Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton describes this inclination to send our representative, a socially acceptable facade, rather than our true self when we need to face the world. 

 Set Up For Failure

Childhood offers too few years when we are blissfully unselfconscious, when we can dance off-beat, sing out of tune, laugh until we snort, and wear our tender hearts on our sleeves without worrying what anyone thinks or knowing that we’re being judged.

Melton describes a familiar awakening, which for her occurred at age 10.

“My body made it impossible for me to succeed at being a girl. The universe had presented me with some very obvious rules for femaleness: Be small and quiet and wispy and stoic and light and smooth and don’t fart or sweat or bleed or bloat or tire or hunger or yearn.

But the universe had also already issued me this lumpy, loud, smelly, hungry, longing body — making it impossible to follow the rules.

Being human in a world with no tolerance for humanity felt like a setup, a game I couldn’t win.”

The world has even more competing demands: be smart, but not smarter than the boys or they won’t like you; be pretty, but not prettier than all the other girls or they won’t like you; be athletic, but not too athletic or you’ll be a tomboy; work hard, but make it look easy or your efforts won’t count.

Our idol was an anatomically impossible Barbie doll who could do it all but still fawned over a man. Heaven forbid we should be short, strong, or (the horror) brunette!

Learning To Be Fine

We enter this world as observers, then as brutally honest kids without filters. Over time, though, our mimicry of adults teaches us to create a personal representative to deal with the world and to keep our real selves hidden where they won’t be seen so they can’t be criticized.

“We started out as ultrasensitive truth tellers. We saw everyone around us smiling and repeating “I’m fine! I’m fine!” and we found ourselves unable to join them in all the pretending. We had to tell the truth, which was: “Actually, I’m not fine.”

But no one knew how to handle hearing that truth, so we found other ways to tell it.

We used whatever else we could find–drugs, booze, food, money, our arms, other bodies. We acted out our truth instead of speaking it and everything became a godforsaken mess. But we were just trying to be honest.”

Melton’s book is one you won’t be able to put down. Her powerful and gorgeous writing will make you think the next three books you read were written by monkeys.

But in some ways it’s like watching a train wreck. You’ll see her hit bottom, recover, then relapse, and it’s all so refreshingly raw and honest.

I hope that we won’t have to suffer as much to learn these same lessons, but as readers traveling with her on her journey we can begin to understand the process of falling apart and of rebuilding ourselves.

Don’t Buy It

Maybe, just maybe we can resist society’s instructions to hide our true selves. We can turn off the advertisements that encourage us to spend our way out of our feelings.

“Feel lonely? Feel sad? Life hard? Well that’s certainly not because life can be lonely and sad and hard, so everybody feels that way. No, it’s because you don’t have this toy, these jeans, this hair, these countertops, this ice cream, this booze, this woman . . . fix your hot loneliness with THIS.

So we consume and consume but it never works, because you can never get enough of what you don’t need.”

Instead of relying on consumerism to polish our lives and buff out our feelings, we can choose to trust each other with our real selves — even when we’re hot messes.

We can fill our corners with safe people who understand that life isn’t perfect and want to live it with us anyway.

We can let our true selves show through our fictional shiny smiles, and give others permission to do the same.

Consider this the biggest, baddest trigger warning of them all if you choose to read Love Warrior. You will laugh, you will cry. You will see yourself in her words and you will begin to understand yourself and others like never before.

Suddenly, so many things will make so much sense and you’ll see the harm we do to ourselves and each other by hiding the truth. Will you vow to ditch your representative once and for all?


Do you remember when you first created your representative? How often do you send her to stand in for the real you now? Share your stories in the comments below.

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Comments 5

  1. oooh that’s a really loaded question! I don’t know. I hold back a lot at work because I’m really expressive and emotional and know that’s not the place for it, but is that bad either? Other than that I try never to be who I’m not. I think there was a point in my 20s where I was like this but as I get older, a lot of those masks fade away.

    1. Post

      I think it’s good to let the masks fade, at least in safe places. With friends, it helps us have a closer relationship when we can tell the truth and show our flaws.
      At work, you’re right. I don’t think they’re ready for us to do away with the facades because the whole culture is based on “everything’s fine.” Especially as women, not being “fine” can have significant repercussions. But maybe it won’t always be this way and we can help change it.

  2. Wow, Julie! This is a tough one. You’re making me think. I’m with Tonya on this one. When I was younger I had a lot of representatives. I remember how I had to feign undying support for heavy metal rock, otherwise I wouldn’t be cool. But I always found this music to be obnoxious and morose. Thankfully, as I aged, I became less concerned with hiding my true feelings. If people don’t want to have anything to do with me because I prefer the Partidge Family to Led Zeppelin, so be it.

    1. Post

      Mr. G., I agree, the world probably isn’t ready for a complete absence of representatives, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could put them away while we’re with friends and family?
      And isn’t it wonderful that we can be proud of being uncool now?

  3. Great post, Julie! I just had a conversation with my step mom in regards to her daughters wedding planning. They are fighting with each other constantly over stupid things like centerpieces and shoes for the wedding. At one point my step mom said “I don’t know why she hates me so much”. Well, one reason is because she is forcing her daughter to be something she isn’t (similar to what we are taught to be as girls at a young age) but the other is because of the main reason I fight with my mom – when I am not fine I don’t pretend to be. I don’t go along with things that make me feel uneasy or not authentic. Their generation smiles and says it’s fine even if it isn’t. When my mom does it I can see right through her but I can also sympathize because I used to do it too. I hope this is proof that things are slowly changing and we are starting to stand up for ourselves more often, but it takes time to know yourself well enough to do that. I have a representative but I reserve her for work purposes. She’s diplomatic and kind, funny but stern, and she can serve 50 people on a 30 min turbulent flight while maintaining a smile. On most days, if I sent myself to work, I wouldn’t make it past boarding the first plane! 😂

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