I’m asking you to take a closer look.
The world asks us all to put our best foot forward. To be fun, to be chill, to be cool, to be strong, dependable, easy to get along with.
Work demands our game face. We’re competing constantly. At all times on display, being assessed, critiqued, counted on. Competing every day for the chance to bring home groceries again next week. Even when we’re really good at competing, we always know we’re one misstep from it all being taken away. So we tread carefully. We hide our struggle.
Our friends and families may be a little more understanding. But when we show our weakness, sometimes their pity and patience only last so long. Some of us just can’t be bothered with another’s feelings, but I think far more often, it’s just that we’re fighting our own battles, too. And sticking around to watch his battle might make hers a lot harder. So when we overshare, over-need, our lifelines start to distance themselves, and we quickly learn to hide our struggle at home, too.
Hiding. Always hiding. Doing fine. It’s all good.
But please, look closer. We’re deep creatures. With deep happiness, but also with deep sadness. Deep fear. Deep pain.
And the constant fear that our deep feelings will get us kicked out of each other’s good graces means that our fear and pain and sadness and anxiety and depression and trauma and stress and anger and panic and burnout and insecurity and heartbreak get deeper and deeper and deeper. Because it’s dangerous not to hide.
So when you see a smile, look closer.
When you see success, look closer.
When you see beauty, look closer.
When you see laughter, look closer.
Sometimes you’ll find the smile is real. Sometimes you’ll find that underneath the smile, there’s a dam about to break. Sometimes you’ll find that the smile and the struggle are both very real together.
And sometimes, the person you were most sure has it all together, turns out to be barely holding on. I feel like I see this again and again and again.
So please, practice looking closer.
There are happy people. There are healthy people. There are people without mental illness, trauma. People who aren’t as fragile as others. People whose smiles are a lot deeper than their frowns. I think.
But what I know is that if you’re willing to look closer, you’ll be surprised how many of us are broken.
The longer I live, the more I see this vision of an earth crawling with a bunch of anxious creatures who just desperately need someone to give them a hug.
Brokenness isn’t all there is. There’s beauty and happiness, adventure and connection, accomplishment and excitement. There’s so much good in this world. It’s the stuff that we talk about all the time! That thing went well! Way to go at this! Look where I did a thing! We don’t often hide the good stuff.
So please, when you see the good stuff, don’t forget that underneath may be someone who really needs you to ask if they’re a little broken, too. Someone who might need a hug, a smile, a shoulder, a chat.
What about you? What are you hiding?
We’re all in this together, friends. Let’s be brave: Hide less. Hug more.
And every chance you get, take a closer look.
P.S. And if you can truly hear this yet, please know that your brokenness is okay. You are exactly you, and that is a good thing. So maybe “broken” is the wrong word…