There are beautiful, perfect people and there are flawed specimens of humanity. That’s okay. Don’t try to soften the blow – I know which group I belong to. How about you?
I’m guessing you’re in group B too, and I’m glad – you and me can stick together.
When I watch TV or shop online or stream a music video, I mostly see very attractive people who wear outfits I could never put together, do their hair in ways I don’t dare to, and who seem to occupy an alternate universe – an ideal world where everyone is cool and attractive, or at least, adorably hip and likeable. Have you noticed?
Sometimes I run across people in real life that are like this, but often if I take even five minutes to talk with them, the mirage crumbles and anxiety, fear, pain or some other evidence of a real person behind that first impressive impression leaks out. I find people less threatening when they seem flawed and worried like the rest of us.
This morning I watched a music video and it lifted my mood and warmed my heart, not just because the singing was nice. A family stood in a field, next to a waterfall, in a number of natural settings, singing. They had colour-coordinated their outfits, combed their hair and taken some pains to make a beautiful visual impression… which they did. They hadn’t, though, jumped on the makeover train of everyone-looks-great-in-the-same-way, as many people seem to do when they reach a certain level of success or skill. They looked like real people. Like a family you might meet at church or at Canadian Tire. And I really liked that. I need that.
In her book, Comparison Girl, Shannon Popkin tells readers about a school girl who looked different than her peers. One day the other students decided that different meant ugly. And the girl decided that they were right.
“Our enemy,” Popkin writes, “loves to use difference to cultivate our attitudes of superiority and inferiority. He doesn’t care whether we compare and emerge with an inflated ego… or a sense of deflated worth… Either way, our enemy wins by dividing us.”
She goes on to write, “In the kingdom of heaven, everyone belongs. In God’s family, everyone is celebrated – not because we are all the same, but precisely because we are different. Our goal is to create unity, not uniformity.” (55)
It’s easy to get stuck in selfie mode – to get dressed to impress and to set the light to flatter our skin tone, to choose a perfect background for the Zoom meeting, to fixate on appearances until we are stiff and prickly and obsessed with others’ perceptions of us. Without meaning to, we create a distance that can be hard to bridge.
Let’s just agree to be flawed together. It’s not that we can’t try to be our best, but isn’t life better when our focus shifts outward, seeking to enjoy others, to notice and celebrate their strengths and to graciously overlook their flaws? I’ll still do my make-up and choose flattering clothes, but I’ll also try to keep from obsessing over details you might not even notice; I’ll resist the urge to try to appear perfect – I’ll keep in mind that it’s easier for you to like me and know me if I let you see me.
I hope you won’t fixate on my crooked teeth or my rosacea-ridden nose.
I promise not to fixate on yours. Defects, that is.
Watch this music video; I’m sure you’ll fall in love with this family, like I did.