The other day I had a Mammogram.
And I had a revelation.
I walked into the little room and undressed as was told, covered myself with nothing but what felt like a paper napkin, then was ushered into what I like to call the “torture chamber” by a woman whose eyes were squinched in serious. She proceeded to jump right in and grab my breast with her chilly hands and place them on the cold hard machine. And then she cranked and cranked the vice until my sad little boob was nothing but a flat little thing. I looked down and trying to lighten the awkward situation said, “Look at that! It’s a pancake.”
She said nothing.
Which made it even more awkward.
And then she said, “Lean in!”
I tried to lean closer but it hurt, so she cranked the machine again.
“Lean in!” She barked.
Finally on my tiptoes, I leaned as far forward as I could with my pancake-boob lying there looking so sad and defeated, and held my breath.
And I had a revelation. It was this:
That every woman can achieve her dreams by leaning in to two very uncomfortable but necessary postures.
1. Letting go of perfection.
In my own story perfectionism led me away from a persistent thought gnawing at my brain telling me I wasn’t good enough. If I could just be quieter, if I could just be nicer, If I could just ____ fill in the blank. Then everything would be ok.
Because I was too much and too much wasn’t good.
Perfection was my balm for the pain of who I was.
And it didn’t work. It led me into the vortex of a life and death battle with an eating disorder.
You see, everyone wants to be perfect. But no one wants to be with perfect.
In the pit of my despair when I found myself alone, afraid, and in the ICU of a hospital, I finally I let go. Don’t confuse this with a simple act of letting go. It was more like a shedding. An uncovering of everything I was trying to become for the world and allowing the person God created to rise up underneath.
Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump: you may be freeing him from being a camel.” – G.K. Chesterton
You can read more about all of this in my memoir, Table in the Darkness.
What happened? God wanted to heal me, but the question was…did I want to be healed?
I had to get in the game, the game of life. And I had to stop trying to be someone else and be the person that God created me to be. It was extremely difficult, but it was so worth it. I have been living in recovery now for over eighteen years. And I learned in the process of letting go of perfectionism and being the hot mess that I am, and allowing Jesus to be the perfect one, I learned to own my own story.
Owning our own story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy…the experiences that make us most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our own light.” – Brene Brown.
Which leads me to my second mammogram revelation:
2. Leaning into vulnerability
Its one thing to stand naked with you breast being squished, but it is an even more frightening experience to not only own your own story, but also begin to share it with the world.
Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity.” Brene Brown
I didn’t understand what that meant until ten years ago.
I had three boys under the age of three and got the hair-brain idea to write a book. I wrote and wrote and wrote. And got rejected over and over again. You know why? Because I wrote like everyone else. I wrote funny like Anne Lamott and then flowery like Ann Voskamp. And none of it worked.
Because I wasn’t writing like me. I was once again being someone the world wanted instead of the person I was.
I finally shut the door and began to write the truth. My truth. My story, which included the suicide, the cutting, and the most naked vulnerable parts of myself. All of it. On paper. Yikes.
And then I got a book contract. And I was terrified, so terrified I almost didn’t sign it. It was my dream; eight years it took me to write it, and all I could think about was, “What will everyone think of me when they read this!”
Why aren’t we vulnerable? Because it is easier to put on a mask, to lean back and show the world what they expect us to be.
Vulnerability is scary.
What I have learned from telling my truth and telling God’s story all raw and real and dirty and beautiful…is that vulnerability helps take down the walls of perfection. It helps us be real. It leads us to connection. The women who have shared their stories with me, because I got naked on the page…have been remarkable and courageous and encourage me to press on and to lean in.
So if you have a dream, something you feel like God is calling you to…I encourage you to lean into the uncomfortableness of these two postures. Letting go of perfection. And embracing vulnerability.
Then go and do what God has gifted you to do!
I believe that every woman can achieve her dreams by leaning into vulnerability and letting go of perfection.
Every Day God invites us on the same kind of adventure. It is not a trip where He sends us a rigid itinerary, He simply invites us. God asks what it is “He’s made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribably need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made. And then leaning over us, He whispers, and “Let’s do that together!” – Bob Goff.