Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Your Best Foot Forward

I just ran across this article and found it fascinating. (Go ahead and take a look at it.) It is a useful glimpse of what people with some mental illnesses go through, and as such it is a help in understanding them and perhaps empathizing a bit more with their struggles.

I don't want to minimize the very real struggles of mental illness. Mental illness is hard, and perhaps doubly hard when you are able to put a brave face on and make people think you're okay. Your already invisible illness becomes more invisible and you probably feel even more alone with your struggles.

But on another level I think we could all take side-by-side photos of who we really are versus who we want the world to see. We post a picture of our darling little child in the pumpkin patch, but only moments before we were yelling at him in frustration. We tell about our promotion at work but not about the way we just snapped at our husband. We take a picture of the homemade bread, applesauce, and soup we cooked for our family tonight but not the chicken nuggets from the freezer bag we served them the night before.

One of the complaints against social media is that you are comparing someone else's "best foot forward" with your own secret worst moments. You can feel like the world's worst mom when you compare your kids' Halloween costumes with the hand-stitched ones someone else made. To make yourself feel better you put your own best moments on display, but then you feel like a bit of a hypocrite because you know there were some not-so-good moments immediately before and after whatever you posted.

Last spring women posted no-makeup selfies, I think related to breast cancer awareness or something. Maybe that's a start. But more than that, I want my public persona to be completely genuine. I want to be the same person at home that I am at church and driving the kids to school and standing behind the slow person at the grocery store and stuck in traffic.

If I'm having a bad day, I want to be the kind of person who answers honestly when someone asks me how my day is but doesn't take out my grumpy mood on whichever child is not cooperating with my plans . . . or whichever one is closest. I want to be the same amount of patient and kind with my husband and children that I am with the people I work with. I want to be totally willing to open my home to my children's friends because I know that who we are behind closed doors is the same as who we are when we're outside.

So I guess my challenge to myself is to make my home-alone portrait match my best-foot-forward portrait, and vice versa. No surprises, no gimmicks, just unapologetically me. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes friendly, often shy, always thankful for the life I have and living it the best I know how.

And so this week I'm going to be more mindful of being the same person at home and when I'm away. I'm going to not overthink what I say to people who ask me about my day or what I post on facebook, but just be genuine. And I'm going to post about real life, not just the smiles and successes.

How about you? Do you feel like you have a secret dual life?

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