Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes)
– Walt Whitman
There is some very real force inside of me that desperately wants my life to line up. I want who I am to line up with who I think I am. I don’t really like the idea of contradicting ‘myself’.
There are categories I want to fit in to. I want to shape different parts of who I am so they fit into some nice tidy boxes. I think ‘Oh someone who is really a ‘insert label here’ wouldn’t/shouldn’t do / think / say / want / feel ‘that’.’
Normally the label is something like: ‘serious career professional’
And the that is something like: ‘want a baby blue manicure’
Or something like – ‘Surely someone who is really a ‘hip young thing’ shouldn’t ‘hate Friday nights out’.
Or ‘Surely someone who wants to change the world wouldn’t find themselves wasting two hours on Pinterest.’
‘Surely someone who is really a feminist shouldn’t actually love being in the kitchen.’
‘Surely someone who was serious about their health wouldn’t eat an icy pole for breakfast.’
‘Surely someone who really loves God wouldn’t have so many big questions.’
And sometimes it’s in the really big things, like…
‘Surely someone who watches Gilmore Girls couldn’t secretly love Dean, Jess AND Logan.’
Why do I feel such distrust and dislike for these contradictions within me? Why do I feel like there is some neat, concise definition of who a serious professional or health junkie or feminist or Christian really is? Why do I feel some weird need to choose between three fictional love interests on a girly TV series?
There is a fear, and I don’t believe it is mine alone, of being ‘found out’. Of being found to be lacking, or longing, or lying.
There’s actually a psychological term for the fear of being found lacking. It’s called Imposter Syndrome. Apparently it’s particularly common among high-achieving women, and up to 70% of people feel like frauds as sometime in their life.
As for the fear of longing, how easy is it to announce to someone ‘I need ______’? To tell a boss you need time off? To tell a friend you need their support? To tell a partner you need some extra tender loving care? There’s something strange in our culture that insists on self-sufficiency and belittles those who admit their longing.
I’ve been aware of the fear of lacking and the fear of longing in my life. I’ve been working through it, slowly. But only now do I see how Fear One and Fear Two have also snowballed into Fear Three – my fear of lying, of being caught out as a walking contradiction.
I’m afraid I’m not enough to be a ‘serious professional’ or a ‘solid Christian’. I’m afraid of announcing my desire to ‘change the world’ or be a ‘hip young thing’. And yet in the midst of it all, I’m afraid that people will see my underside, my soft belly, the part of me that desperately longs to be enough, and they see the contradictions and the parts that don’t line up and I will be called out as a liar.
I so resonated with this post – The Can’t Also Crisis – by blogger Kelle Hampton. I read her words and the heart of her post really struck a cord. She wrote: ‘Shielding, defending, purposely preventing natural human contradictions just to make sure our identity lines up perfectly outwardly is exhausting and, frankly, a waste of energy that could be poured into our loves of life.’
And.. “I find myself still struggling to painstakingly find equilibrium with every choice I make today. Make sure everything adds up, aligns, checks out with what you believe. It’s like I’m looking for errors and contradictions in my own life, and there’s a word for people who do that in other people’s lives: Assholes. I’m being an asshole to my own self, and I need to quit.”
I. need. to. quit.
I need to drop the definitions, break down some imaginary boundaries, and embrace the fact that the contradictions make, not break, my identity.
That I can be perusing Pinterest, cooking up the storm in the kitchen tonight AND discussing the big issues of faith and feminism at the same time, all while wearing blue nail polish.
That I am a three-dimensional, multicolour combination of my history, passions and personality, and that’s so much better than squeezing myself into a black-and-white, too-small, confining, defining, limiting box.
That I am large, so of course, I contain multitudes.
P.S. – Since we’re talking fears, here’s a powerful and inspiring series from Momastery on Our Sacred Scared – the deep fears that we hide. Fear of being a fraud, and not thin enough, fear of not being smart enough, or losing a marriage, fear of being what the bullies said, or just not being enough, fear of messing up the kids, and what anxiety is doing to the family, of not being successful or happy enough. There’s some very powerful stuff in there.