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.
This post contains affiliate links. Learn more here.