The Image of Imperfection

The other night, my husband decided to pull out old photo albums of us from years ago. Here we were, in photos two beaming happy people. He was trying to reminisce about the good old days. Back then we had no kids, no real stresses. Happiness was captured in those photos.

Fast forward 15 years and life has changed quite a bit. The people in my life have changed tremendously as I look back. I have 3 little lives that I’m caring for, my faithful dog is gone, my grandparents are all gone, and I have 2 cats. My photo album has dramatically changed in so many ways that I can’t even count it.

The pictures taken capture small glimpses of life. No one takes photos of bad moments or sadness and anger. The photos we share are all happy and joyous for the most part. Looking at that made me realize how these images only portray certain stories and life, in reality, is far from that.

Yes, I do share my happy moments in photos. It’s only tells a partial story of life and nothing about the realities. If one were to look at those photos, one may think that I have such a wonderfully perfect life. When we look at photos of friends and their families, we see those glimpses of happiness. When things go awry, inside we feel as if there is something abnormal about us and are ashamed to even share these thoughts or stories of the realities.

Many say honesty is the best policy. Speaking up about the truth is supposedly a good thing. However, when one speaks about the truth on personal issues, honesty isn’t a good thing all of a sudden. Decades ago, women were discouraged from speaking out against the sexual harassment they faced from powerful men. We were told that it is embarrassing for the man and that were were somehow responsible for attracting it. Those who were harassed had to be quiet about it because god forbid a man be embarrassed.

Fast forward to the present time, and now women are open speaking out about the treatment they faced. As more and more women spoke out, one by one, they no longer felt the need to protect the harasser. Many men have been taken down from their statuses and images tarnished. The pictures of what looked like a good guy was forever gone and big careers lost.

I’m reminded in all of this that the image is just that: a brief moment in time of a event. It is not life. Life has many trials and challenges that’s not filled with smiles and happiness. My life is far from perfect but I hope to live an honest and good one. I can be told to not say anything about the imperfections behind that image to “save face,” but is that really doing me any good?

No one likes to hear the honest truth many times. I’ve said some honest things about my life and some have told me to stop saying stuff because it embarrasses people. The interesting thing is that I received so many messages of support behind the scenes that have told me they too have been in the same boat. I was relieved to know that I wasn’t alone in the way I felt. The images of what they lived with so didn’t match with the photos I saw of them. We start to feel cognitive dissonance with the image and belief of what we thought of this person before.

An image is such a power thing that can make us believe something that isn’t fully true. Sometimes we have to look beyond that image and realize it’s not the full story. The images have many imperfections behind it and it’s something we can try to hide or be honest with. It’s the stories behind the pictures that tell the whole truth. Pretending to hide a different truth is unsustainable and it has a cost. Speaking truth and being honest in life is much better to encourage positive change because it’s hard to pretend something is hunky dory when that isn’t the reality. Life isn’t a facade or a TV show and make believe isn’t lasting. Hiding from truth is not going to make life any easier. Coming to terms with the truth is what will be sustainable but isn’t always comfortable.

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