Several months ago, I recorded a promotional video for Loveable.
It was a solo project. I spent hours scripting it, rehearsing it, and then finally setting up sound and video in my therapy office. Finally, I spent several hours recording it.
I wanted it to look just right. After all, Loveable is written in a fatherly voice, so in the video I wanted to emphasize my expertise as a professional—you know, balance out all that touchy-feely stuff. When I finished filming the final lines, I dismantled all the equipment, put it away, and patted myself on the back. Until I looked down. And discovered my zipper was down.
Through the entire shoot, in every scene, my zipper was down.
The whole point of the video was to assure everyone I have it all together, and I couldn’t even remember one of the most basic elements of putting oneself together. I scrambled to review the video and, thankfully, you cannot tell in the video that the proverbial barn door was open.
But that’s actually my point.
We go around pretending like we have it all together, and the problem isn’t that we fail to do so; the problem is that most of the time we succeed.
In the well-produced video we call life, for the most part we look like our zipper is up. But it’s not. It’s never up. We never have it all together. We’re all making it up as we go. As my friend and business partner says, “There are no grown-ups.” And as one wise blog reader says, “We’re all a bunch of stooges.”
I’m a stooge.
You’re a stooge.
We’re all a bunch of stooges.
So why are we trying so hard to pretend otherwise? Because pretending has become a way of life. Indeed, for many of us, it’s become the purpose of life. Much of contemporary culture and our most cutting-edge technology—from Facebook to Instagram filters—is designed to make us look like we’ve got it all together. And the better we get at pretending, the more it feels like the norm.
Then, we pretend even harder.
Meanwhile, everyone is walking around feeling like an imposter. Why? Because I’m the only person who gets to spend all day with me, the only person who is truly on the inside of the public persona. So, I’m the only person I know for sure is pretending. Everyone else just looks like they’re drinking a latte.
So, we go around wondering if we look like an imposter and fearing we might actually be an imposter, when the truth is, of course you’re an impostor! We’re all making it up as we go. We’re all stooges. Everyone is walking around with their proverbial zipper down.
You just can’t see it in the video.
Several weeks ago—two months after the video and the barn door—I was on The Dear Daughters Podcast with Susie Davis and, in the middle of the interview, Susie told me I seemed calm and wise and she’d like to spend some time around me.
It’s tempting to say thank you to that and to leave it at that. It’s tempting to maintain the illusion that I’ve got it all together. But I refuse to give in to that temptation. I refuse to contribute to the charade. I refuse to reinforce the myth that some of us have it all figured out and the rest of you need to spend the rest of your life figuring out why you don’t.
So, I told her that five minutes before the interview my son had freaked out when a spider crossed his leg and the screaming had threatened to overlap with the beginning of the call. In response, I was neither calm nor wise.
And you know how it felt to admit it?
Freeing. No more pressure. No more pretending. No more proving. No more perfection. When you confess something like that, you discover the biggest burden in life isn’t feeling like a stooge, but thinking you’re the only one.
The biggest burden isn’t feeling like a mess; the biggest burden is feeling alone in your mess.
So, can we please unburden ourselves a little? Can I please just say it?
Do you sometimes feel like your zipper is down?
In fact, given my track record, it might actually be.
In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.
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Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.