Our Awkward Lovely Selves

Why is awkward such a curse?  Why is being in human contact so painful that we will vie for just about any alternative to escape. Enter:

  • Food
  • Porn
  • Smartphones
  • Texting
  • Gossip
  • Avoidance
  • Sex
  • Shopping
  • Drugs
  • Work
  • Shall I go on?

I wonder if Awkward is a symptom instead of a cause. I heard a story once about the power of the photograph.  Read that again. The Power of a Photograph.  The story goes that a group of people were interacting, sharing, relaxed and comfortable in their own skin. They were even “unaware” of personal flaws until…the introduction of the photograph. One woman was said to be quick to smile, full of laughter and joy— until she  saw her face for the first time in a photograph. IMG_1970

Try to give yourself time to envision this.

Our children are INUNDATED with images of themselves. From newborn photos in the hospital, to annual growth pictures, to school pictures, to now Facebook and Instagram postings, our children are constantly seeing themselves captured in time. They are constantly “on display.”  I even remember seeing a great shot on a school field trip of one of Charis’s friends.  I said, “Hey, let me get your picture.” She immediately straightened her back, threw her shoulders back, cocked her head to one side, and then gave me a perfect cover girl smile. Obviously, my original shot of her was ruined, but her “photo coaching” was evident.

So try hard to think of life without the constant evaluation. No concern of whether you are with makeup or without. No selfies. No Kodak moments. Just living life as a fluid experience.

Back to the laughing woman. She saw her own captured image for the first time and for the first time she became self conscious. Conscious of her self.

The wrinkles when she laughed, the gap in her teeth, the way her eyes squinted unevenly, all these unique attributes were, before this moment, simply part of who she was and blissfully un-critiqued.  But no more.

We live in an age of Self Conscious.  How do I look? How do they look? How do I look compared to them?

The temptation is so strong. Case in point. I am in Nashville today having joined Chuck on a business trip.  We got up at 5 a.m. and had a three hour car drive.  So I washed my face, brushed my teeth, pulled my hair back in a ponytail and headed out the door. I was completely at ease until Chuck dropped me off at the Starbucks near Vanderbilt.

I went in the bathroom and saw my reflection. Without even “thinking” I compared my appearance to the college, preppy, professional, cool lookers I had passed on the way in.  Wow, I thought, I look awful.

Really? In a span of walking from the front door to the bathroom, I went from completely at ease to completely self critical.  That, my friends, is the curse of Self Conscious. And, may I go further? I believe this root produces a nasty offshoot called Awkward.

We get in social settings and our fear of conflict or failure or criticism chokes our hearts and emotions to such a degree that we seize up and morph into this ball of Awkward. We’re so concerned about what to say, how to say, should I say. It all comes back to looking to each other for definition and approval.

I tell you there is freedom. And that freedom comes not by winning the game of perfection, or isolation.  No one wins when there is only one standard of beauty. No one wins when we resort to emotional shut down to avoid the tension.

Freedom comes when we acknowledge the fear of being less than and allow Perfect Love to have His say. That is what transformed my Starbucks moment.  “I belong to my lover, and His desire is for me.” (Song of Songs 7:10)  Oh yeah, there is a bigger story being told here.

It really is the diversity, the collage, the imperfections of humanity that make us truly alive. It is the beauty expressed in each of us that lets us truly see the beauty of God. It is the love of God that helps me love me and thus love you.  Why? Because if He can love my crazy, psycho self with all my inconsistencies, I am confident He can love you too.  Understanding the “Level Ground of Love” that we all stand on really does change our need for approval from others.

Freedom comes when God’s compassion for the human condition becomes our standard instead of our own self conscious assessment.

And the whole awkward business? It is uprooted when we shift off Self. Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone blows it. And NO one knows how to glide through this life thing without an occasional crash.  Therefore everyone can relate to the need for grace.

We need a bigger view. The pressure’s off. Just be you.  I’ll be me.  Let’s just laugh and love together and let go of the Kodak moment. We are more than a snapshot. We are more than just awkward.

Photo Credit by Salem Spicka

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