The Theory of Everything is a compelling movie with fantastic acting. The story though, based on a true story, was all tied up in a nice little bow. One story reduced to a Hollywood plot line; two people, they fall in love, he is diagnosed with a life threatening illness, they struggle, and they overcome. Tied up and sweet.
After I watched it, I went on-line and researched the REAL story. I found a different story that detailed his complex and demanding personality, their explosive fights, how they really met, the difficulties with the in-laws, and the intrusive nurse who he had an affair with. Some of this was subtly hinted in the film, but most of it was removed from the movie. Hollywood knows that audiences want the plotline to make sense.
But, when we reduce stories and people to the ideas of how we WANT them to be, we miss the full messy, complicated, and often unlikeable truth.
We do that in life. All of us.
Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
We can’t be authentic if we have these labels covering us.
We see someone and we assume we know the story. Or we look at Facebook and create a story from what is shown to us.
Or we create a story that fits our paradigm. I did this for many years when writing my book, told only part of the story. Because what did it mean to put on paper all the stuff I didn’t like? It meant I was telling the truth, and the truth was scary. The truth made me and others look bad, or gave others an opportunity to label me. But, I knew I had to tell the true story. The real story. Not one that fit all pretty on the shelves of a Christian bookstore, but the real ugly, messy, unflattering and hopeful story.
Often times we do this out of fear, because what if we were like those we are criticizing, and what if there is something I see in that person that I might also see in myself? Yikes!
So we categorize and put people in nice tidy boxes. We all do it.
But when it is done to us and we know it is done to us, we often end up in the murky pool of shame.
I am not who I want to be in shame. And neither are you. But when I am in shame, when I am in the place of never good enough, a place where my stomach turns and the thoughts in my head berate me, when I am in that place I can be perceived with unwanted identities.
I reduce myself to these unwanted identities and sometimes you do it for me.
And then we miss the story. You and I both. Brene Brown explains it like this; If you reduce me to ____you will miss the fact that I am_____.
Here are some examples of how we do it to others:
They are thin, they must be successful.
They are fat, they must be lazy.
They are rich, they must be happy.
They are beautiful, their life must be wonderful.
Here is how I do it to myself:
I made that same mistake again, I must be a failure.
I yelled at my kids again, I am such a bad parent.
I write such stupid things, I am not really an author.
When we do that to ourselves and others we are no longer curious, we are no longer exploring and open to life.
We miss the story. The entirety of it.
When I do it to myself, I land in the pit of shame.
Stupid Shame. Shame, in my experience, reduces me to unwanted identities. Then I miss the fact that God has something in store for me, something around the next corner, because my eyes are clouded in grey and my mind peppered with negative labels.
When we reduce ourselves and others to a label, or a diagnosis, or even a judgment we miss the story.
We miss the adventure.
I would prefer the movie would have told more of the real story. But what I really would prefer… that the rest of us walking in our lives would authentically tell our real story, either to ourselves or in a safe relationship with others. It is a risk for sure, but it is how we connect, how we grow, change and live.
I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
― Brené Brown
I am working on this. It isn’t easy, I find I am most critical of myself and most forgiving of others.
I am working on it. Won’t you try too?
Great books to help with this:
The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God’s Best Version of You, by John Ortberg