“We want people to see us at our best, but we need them to love us at our worst because our worst is just as much a part of ourselves as our very best!”
Other People’s Expectations
There are many things that may keep us from revealing who we really are. One of these things is other people’s expectations. Being a famous person or a person in high position often requires us to maintain a certain reputation without which, we would lose our credibility, and even our position may be in danger.
Some of us experience this in one way or another, too. We may hide some aspects of our personality because we are expected to behave in a certain way by the people around us. This includes our peers, our parents, our mentors and colleagues.
Sometimes, our efforts of hiding our true selves stems from our lack of boundaries. In our attempt to be accepted, we have learned to focus so much on pleasing other people that we have lost a sense of our true selves along the way. Healthy boundaries are what keep us from knowing who we really are and how other people see us. When we lose these boundaries, our sense of who we are may already be dependent on how other people see us.
Black and White Thinking
“Black and white thinking” is seeing one thing as either very good or very bad, and nothing in between. There are no gray areas here, everything is grouped into an extreme category. When one can no longer be good, then one is classified as bad.
If we learn to apply this to our sense of self, then we’d be in trouble of always trying to keep up a perfect image less we fall into the other extreme of being evil, and with that, we could no longer accept who we are.
We have to learn that we are neither perfect nor totally corrupt. We are stained with imperfections, yes, but we have also been originally created in the image of a good and loving God. We have various aspects of being, we have some aspects of ourselves that we are proud of, and some that we are not so proud about, but all of these things belong to us, we are a whole person composed of diverse and sometimes seemingly contradicting components.
“The tyranny of the image of the perfect Christian leads to its own type of depression, a depression that swirls around the fear that God doesn’t love those who don’t live up to ‘my’ – not God’s – expectations. By confusing God’s expectations with our own, we are led to a sense of failure and defeatism. We expect perfection of ourselves (‘God, I thank you that I am not greedy, dishonest, and unfaithful in marriage, like other people,’ Lk 18:11). God instead, extends the gift of reconciliation.” – Surviving Depression
In our subconscious attempt to integrate the many conflicting parts of ourselves, we sometimes resort to self-sabotage. Since we could no longer put up the perfect image that we want other people to see, and since this merely leaves other parts of us rejected and unloved, we resort to the other extreme. In this mode, everything comes out in reverse. What has been hidden for a long time suddenly comes out. What has been feared for so long suddenly happens.
Hence, we see quiet people suddenly erupt in anger. We see successful people suddenly throw away all they have and walk away from the limelight. We see strong people suddenly appear weak and helpless.
The Purpose of Failure
The purpose of failure in such a case is not to remain in failure, but to re-integrate one person’s many conflicting parts into one integrated whole that will achieve true and lasting success.
The part that is angry is given a chance to heal.
The part that is fearful of other people’s expectations is given a chance to be accepted.
The part that is hurting and weak is given a chance to be loved.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.
-John 8:6-11, NIV
What’s Left After We Fail
Once we hit rock bottom, many of our fears depart from us. We realize that the thing we feared most has already happened, but we are still alive. We have feared our lack of possessions, but we realize that even without such things, we are still ourselves. We have feared our lack of power, but we realize that even without that, we have the power to do something else, something good and something beautiful. We realize that even in our simple lives, the important things remain.
We are after all, not our jobs, nor our bank accounts, nor our titles and positions. We are more than that. God has meant us to be far more than that! What’s left after our failures is our true selves, and with that, we can start the real journey towards our true passions and desires.
“The real measure of a man’s worth is how much he would be worth if he lost all his money.” – Harold J. Smith
“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” – J.K. Rowling (Bestselling Author of Harry Potter)
Being loved for our best selves is something we should rejoice at, but being loved for our very worst is a joy that reaches to the innermost parts of hearts, healing us, blessing us, and providing us with the strength we need to live a full and beautiful life.
“If you will love me I cannot promise you that I will not hurt you. I cannot promise you that I will not make you cry and that I’ll never break your heart. But if you will love me, I will bare my whole self naked before you, and I will reveal to you my soul. If you will love me, you can be certain that it is I that you will love, not a mask that fools you and gives you only what your eyes desire to see. If you will love me, you can be certain that you will love the depths of me, all of me that is in me, and I in turn will love you with all of me, with all my soul, with all my mind, with all my spirit, with all my flaws and beauty, and with all my very heart.” – Will You Still Love Me Even If I’m Not Perfect?