A little while ago, a friend of mine told me that I seem too perfect. I give off an air of impermeable strength. It's not the first time someone has put this label on me but it is certainly not a tag I would hang on my own. The exchange reminded of a time when a girl walked up to me and informed me that I'm "intimidating." That one comment from an innocent 18 year old haunted me for a while.
The most recent comment by my friend started a new internal dialogue for me. What is the right amount of vulnerability to display? When someone asks how I am and I'm rushed to a meeting, should I stop and let my heart fall out? "Hi! How are you?" is not a true invitation to tell you that I'm struggling. There does not seem to be a quick way to tell the truth and so often the truth is not as simple as the answer to such a short question. Perhaps the reason we get perfect images of one another is not so much because we are pretending but because we ask perfect oriented questions in places that are designed for passing not pausing.
We live in a filtered image or a let it all hang out kind of world. One extreme tempts us to make our lives look more attractive than they are. The other extreme is one train wreck story to the next in an effort to just keep it real. I'm not sure that we serve ourselves or our relationships well when we live in either extreme. I'm more unsure of hyper-perfection or drama as a good glimpse of an authentic life.
How can we live lives that are intentional and real in a world that is insta-published and snap-documented? I don't know that the answer is for us to all just stop applying retro filters or to get off social media in order to get real with people. Perhaps a solution among many is to live real life with people... To remind ourselves that people do present their best selves at work and online...and that may be okay. Our real pain and struggle should happen in the context of friendship conversation. We should embrace the expressions of one another's faces in the space of our homes and coffee dates or on a long-run with a treasured friend. We should ask questions that elicit real answers and then wait long enough for the life of it all to hang over the edges.
PS. Keep on posting your cute kids and your happy couple photos. I love seeing your vacations and smiling dog pictures. I love seeing your best days and I cheer on your good.