Thursday, September 6, 2012

emotionally photoshopped

My Grace for the Good Girl small group started this week, so I've started re-reading the book. (I read the whole thing cover-to-cover last week - I am looking forward to going at a slower pace over the next eleven weeks) and as I've been thinking about the masks of the "good girl" the "prettied up, exaggerated versions of ourselves" I thought about this ad I saw a couple years ago. It shows the process of how a typical advertisement photo is created - and photoshopped.

from Crazy Stupid Love

I wrote a couple weeks ago about how I like to only show my good side. The "perfect" side, the stuff that makes me feel better. Today I was thinking about how this is sort of like an emotional photoshop job. I would rather not post photos of myself without any makeup, in bad lighting. I'd rather not show you the dark circles and lines under my eyes.

I like to photoshop them out.

I have a friend who is very good with photoshop. She did a series of self-portraits a couple years ago and I remember reading her blog post when she finished. I couldn't find the post but what I remember from it was that she felt an emotional disconnect between her self-portaits and her real-life-self. There were loads of commenters on her Flickr page saying "you're so gorgeous" when what they were seeing was a photoshopped version of herself. She found herself wondering why the people in her real-life were less blown away.

I can be like that too.

I only show the pretty side of life. The "everything's fine" line is really safe. There are even lines I've learned that are mock-transparent. So maybe you will think I'm this awesome, strong person who is just vulnerable enough. But I've got loads of places I don't want to go with you. I've got topics of conversation that call for quick subject changes. The stuff I don't want you to know about me. The junk I have that I'd rather you didn't see. The struggle that I keep to myself. I really don't want you to see the struggle, not the depth of it. I don't want you to know the "not fine" me. I don't like her very much. She drives me crazy. I don't want to be her. I want to be the photoshopped version of myself. I want the mask to be real.

But that's not real life.

Somewhere in there, my weakness and inability is a blessing in disguise. The pain and struggle is hard but that doesn't make it bad.

I don't know why I have this crazy, twisted idea that I ought to be strong all the time. I shouldn't struggle. I shouldn't wrestle with God. It shouldn't be that hard for someone like me. I should instantly forgive. I shouldn't doubt. I should be angelically submissive and continually overflowing with gratitude.

I'm not her.
I'm not that good.
I'm grumpy.
People pleasing.

I like to photoshop that out of the emotional landscape I show to the people around me.

But that's not love.

Love sees the junk and stays.
Love is there for the meltdown and watches with compassion.
Love thinks the best.
Hopes for the best.
Expects that there is more and better just around the bend.
Love receives with open arms.
Love is snot-covered & puffy red from crying eyed beauty.

If we were perfect we wouldn't need love.

When I show only perfect I keep people from being able to love me, keep you from showing your real self, keep you from being loved by me.

We keep each other at arms length. Afraid if you get to close you'll smell the stink of real life and not want me. You might not like me.

I'm not "enough"
I need
I'm not "together"
I'm a mess
and my life is messy
and I don't always understand how to interpret the narrative of my life

But trying to live an emotionally photoshopped life is spiritually constipated and it sucks. I am fumbling and tripping through this place of learning to be more honest and I tremble as I try to find the courage to be more transparent and let you into my mess and my lack. But I think that love is worth it.


  1. These are very good reminders. Thank you!

    I've struggled with this too. I think everyone who is honest with themselves, truly honest, will realize they sometimes slip into this.

    The thing is, sometimes we get tempted to even try to play this game with our prayer life. We pray these mealy mouth sanctimonious prayers, when really inside we're screaming and raging about how deeply hurt we are. Like God doesn't know that.

    I do love you. I know our family can find it difficult to be open with each other, and express what we're truly feeling. I want you to know I'm really thankful for you, and glad you're my sister.

  2. First- This made me cry. I do the photoshop version, too. And this
    We keep each other at arms length. Afraid if you get to close you'll smell the stink of real life and not want me. You might not like me.
    is so flippin true. Not that anyone would like or want, but holding at arms length. I do that, too. But dude... real is beautiful. It is more vulnerable and attainable than anything out there. It takes a strong person to admit that they aren't strong, and struggle, and take joy all at the same time. This post was magnificent in every. single. way!

    Magnificent in every. single. way!
    {worth repeating!}


  3. Love you lots (read between the lines)
    and lots,
    all the time, good and bad,
    happy and sad.

  4. Oh yes! Being real is risky but worth it.

  5. "When I show only perfect I keep people from being able to love me, keep you from showing your real self, keep you from being loved by me."

    mmm. good stuff.


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