Isn’t it funny how when we offer our opinions to the world, our deep held convictions and principles, they are quickly tested? I have been feeling rather tender going through this writing process. It’s emotionally tiring work, opening up your heart for all to see. But it’s worthwhile. It’s the only way I want to live because there is freedom in it. And I know that by walking this path I can help lead others to take off their masks and come out into the light of the fullness of how much they are loved.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wrote earlier on intimidation. Some of you could relate to me and shared how people have also called you intimidating. Some said they were on the opposite side of the fence and often felt intimidated by other women who they “make out to be way cooler, more together, talented, fill-in-the-blank with numerous other traits [they] admire… And [they] feel insecure.”
Insecurity is a toxic poison. Problem is, we all experience it. I think it’s just another word for Shame- the feeling that we are not enough. Perhaps insecurity is simply shame triggered by seeing qualities in another we wish we had. The lie is that we are the only ones. No one else feels this way. No one feels socially akward or self-conscious of their post-baby body in a swimsuit or their ability to speak eloquently or that their talents are worth sharing. No one else feels embarrassed and insecure about their parenting abilities when their three year-old talks back in public or bites another kid in preschool. No one else wonders if inviting a group of strangers into her home is such a good idea what with the dust bunnies and ancient greasy oven hood and floors that don’t exactly shine (ain’t nobody got time…).
We all feel it somewhere, somehow. Whether its about our looks, our homes, our talents, our relationships, our money, our status…. the list goes on.
I’ve been on both sides of the intimidation/ insecurity spectrum. Usually, no one needs to do anything in order for us to feel insecure other than just be themselves in a way that is bold and confident and secure. I get that. But every once in a while my insecurity is triggered when I feel shamed for being myself- sharing too much, being too bold or outspoken, having too strong opinions that are different from the rest of the group. Or even from being too vulnerable and admitting my messy, needy heart. That is indeed the worst kind of shame- when, because of their own fear of being known, someone makes us feel bad for admitting the truth about who we are. The most painful relationships in my life are the ones where I have tried to be real about who I am and instead of being met with compassion it is met with superiority or silence.
When insecurities rule your interactions with others, you have no hope of being known or really even knowing another at a heart level. I have had relationships poisoned when a friend’s insecurities led to her holding on to bitterness for years instead of talking to me about how I had hurt her feelings. I have felt the desire to run and have had all my walls come up when a friend’s insecurities caused her to desperately seek my approval and validation. It cuts both ways.
Earlier today I was venting to a dear group of online photographer friends about a rejection I was dealing with. I had submitted images to a very cool stock agency…and they were rejected. Part of the response was “To see the type of work we accept for “X Agency”, please visit our curated collections on our homepage.” The message I’ve heard was “sorry, you’re just not cool enough. Did you look at how cool our images are? Are you a skinny beautiful photographer with a flair for fashion who lives in the LA area and has a house full of succulents and drives a vintage VW bus? Nope? Then you’re not one of us.” Obviously I’m projecting the teensiest bit here. Maybe there are some other issues at play. I don’t know why it hurt so much. Perhaps because I did look at their galleries and loved the work I saw and felt like mine could fit in there.
But here’s the ugly truth about looking outside for validation: My friend Lauren said “Validation is sneaky. It’s really like a drug. You get your fix from some extra likes on your facebook page or because maybe you were featured somewhere. But the feeling never lasts and you’re always looking for that next source of validation. And it just makes you feel so empty inside the longer it goes between those moments. There are certain aspects of photography that make me feel so fulfilled and I try to hold on to those but the temptation for the immediate gratification from validation is so tempting. Also PS I am personally over the boho hippie desert crap.”
I feel ill when I think about all that I know is true about me, all that God says about how he loves me with this fierce, jealous, passionate, never-ending, never-giving up love and that I so easily cast it aside for a digital hit of affirmation. What is it that keeps us looking for validation outside of who our Creator says we are? And isn’t it a bit tricky that part of the way we experience his love and affection is through the love and affection of other human beings?
We really can’t separate insecurity from judgement. When I feel insecure around someone, I often fear that they will judge me. If I am around someone who is always well-dressed and put together (read: showered and wearing makeup, something other than yoga pants) I assume they will judge me for how I look. They might, indeed. But it’s really none of my business what anyone else thinks about me. When I visit someone’s house that seems to be perfectly decorated with a place for everything and everything in it’s place (not to mention clean) I feel embarrassed when I think about the pile of mismatched socks that literally live on the bedroom floor, the fact that my youngest basically sleeps in a storage closet, the kitchen with it’s mismatched counters and dirty floors. Truth is, these are stupid, shallow, superficial things. They certainly aren’t my highest priorites, yet they still get to me.
Friends, let’s make a promise to each other: let’s promise not to judge each other in our insecurities. Let’s not stand back to back to see how we measure up against each other. When we do, we are robbing something deep from both of us- the chance to enter into another’s human experience, to shine out of who we are, to grow from each other’s strength and weaknesses.
Because we are handmade people, and as such no two are exactly alike, nor were we meant to be. We have flaws and imperfections, but we also bear the fingerprints of our Creator all over our entire being.
“…that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s Mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge….” 2 Colossians 2:2-3
Guess what, I think I know what the antidote to Validation might be. With no nasty side-effects. You’ll have to come back tomorrow for that.