Recently while exchanging catch-ups with a friend–how she is in her hemisphere these days and how I am in mine–she mentioned the new dynamic she’s found in the ward she recently moved into. She’s found some awesome people who have gelled with her, and she’s made some funny connections from past wards’ social circles. Then she adds: “. . . but the girls in my ward are very competitive. Which makes me sad. Like I was at one girl’s house and a bunch of us were trying to make plans to go out dancing for the night. . . . They’re all blonde, nearing 30, working professionals. One of the girls turns to me and says, ‘You’re making me not want to go out because you look too cute. Ugh. I don’t think I’m going out anymore.’ WHAT? This girl is gorgeous. She has Disney princess features. And instead of being vulnerable about her insecurities, she made me the problem? It was really icky.”
Reading that suddenly felt very familiar to me! We like to compare and compete in all areas of our lives: appearances, career success, social interplay, boys. In moments as trivial as Pinterest night at the chapel and as stressful as double date night with the girls, it’s easy to hide our insecurities behind a mask of quiet belittlement and outward attack. That’s a dangerous road to walk when we intend to have our eye on success. Too frequently already are we faced with far more direct attacks on our talent, our credentials, or in that case our appearance. We have so much already to overcome without the added adversary of misdirected bitterness from each other. What a foolish foe to add to our brain’s radar.
I think given our common goal to be sisters in Zion, we must be willing to replace all that with a consciousness of our own vulnerability. Yep, contrary to the I Must Be Perfect All the Time credo so intimately groomed by the Relief Society for years, susceptibility to weakness must become a greater priority to us all.
In Brené Brown’s uber-popular TED Talk on the power of vulnerability, she mentions that those who succeed at finding open, honest connection with others do so because they believe themselves worthy of connection from others. Sam phrases it beautifully and succinctly in The Perks of Being A Wallflower: “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
For me, that concept is an important thought, but not because we need to work on feeling like we ourselves deserve more love. Sure, that is always a good idea, but it’s not one I’m particularly convinced is new to us in any sense. We have been told since we were Sunbeams that we are literally children of God; we subscribe to a theology that encompasses personal revelation and eternal progression. Our faith articulates a self-confidence that we still manage to work around in our ironically faithful and careful construction of our self-doubt. Regardless of how much we tell ourselves individually that we “deserve more love,” we continue to develop mental inhibitions as psychological habits separate entirely from our spiritual ones.
No, I think the Brené Brown/Sam idea is significant because it gives us a blueprint to follow in building each other. I need to work on not simply loving my sisters more, but communicating to my sisters that they deserve more love. It’s not saying, “Oh come on, you’re pretty!” but saying “You have the right to look in the mirror and smile.” It’s admitting to each other that we trip, and it’s constructing a community that’s okay with that. It’s encouraging each other to be bigger than our insecurities and fostering an environment in which we trust each other with our worth, allowing ourselves to be served by one another and investing in a mutual greatness rather than individual affirmation.
If we are more willing to let ourselves be seen by one another in both our successes and our failures, I believe it will be easier to see each other achieve good things, and it will be easier to achieve good things ourselves. We just have to get to a point where we are as articulate about our shames and fears and weaknesses as we are with the personal elevator pitches we offer to people when we first introduce ourselves at parties. Our peaks and valleys and every nitty gritty detail in between must be accepted and fostered as natural in the membership in our communities of women. Our efforts to succeed should not be defined by our compadres’ failures to do so. Let us be builders, ladies.
At this point it’s worth mentioning that I myself would never be caught dead going dancing with a group of friends on a weekend. Dancing straight up terrifies me. I am the most awkward dancer, and it’s even more awkward because my job title right now (“dancer”) totally fools people into thinking that shouldn’t be the case. So there, if this is my night to go out with the girls, I’ve laid out my worries for all to see. Maybe we can go bowling instead. After all, my bowling skills slay.