“We’re going to have to let truth scream louder to our souls than the lies that have infected us.”
— Beth Moore
I have this pesky little habit. Well, in all honesty, I have several pesky habits, but the one I’m referring to here is the habit that I have of constantly looking down.
I look down when I walk, fearful of stumbling on any obstacles in my path.
I look down when I talk, often avoiding eye contact.
And I look down on myself, playing the comparison game and brandishing insecurities, shame, and regret.
I don’t want to live in the dark shadows that I see when I look down, I want to look toward the light, but sometimes that little voice is just too loud to ignore. You know that little voice? The one that rushes to rash judgments and harsh criticisms, telling me that I’m not enough. That little voice that tells me to put on my armor, to protect myself, and to hide my weaknesses. That little voice that says that everyone else has it together, that I’m inadequate in one way or another.
Not only can that little voice be so damn loud, but sometimes looking down is just safer. When I tell myself that I’m not a good enough wife-mother-daughter-sister-friend-writer-woman, I’m leaving room for improvement. When I tell myself I’m not worthy, I’m just preparing myself for disappointment.
But isn’t all this shame and doubt a form of self-indulgent punishment, a way to keep the focus on me and my shortcomings, instead of looking up toward the inherent holiness that lies in all of us? When I look down on myself, am I not training myself to look down on others more easily, sharpening the sword a little with each condemnation? When I chastise myself for mistakes and fumbles, am I not giving myself the tools to do the same to others?
And what about all the things that I am missing when I constantly look down on my flaws and imperfections, when I focus on the ways that I am different and feel like I don’t belong? Did I fail to see the helping hand reaching down to me when I was struggling? Did I fail to see and know the pain in someone else’s eyes? Did I miss out on the belonging that comes from love because I was too focused on the differences?
Maybe I’m the only one who looks down on myself, but something tells me that I am not alone. In fact, the tendency to look down just might be part of the human condition. As my good friend Lisa wrote this week, “our perception of ourselves is almost always different, in part at least, than what our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors think of us.”
So we look down. Because looking up is scary. Uncomfortable. Risky. Vulnerable.
Looking up means that I have to take my eyes off of my own feet, off of myself. Looking up requires that I stop carefully monitoring every step I take, making sure I don’t trip or fall and hiding my missteps when I do stumble.
Looking up asks me to trust that my feet will be guided where they need to go. Trust that if I stumble, I can balance myself. Trust that if I fall, I can pick myself back up.
Looking up asks that I let go. That I let go of the past and the mistakes that lie therein. That I let go of the shame in my flaws. That I let go of my attempts at perfection. That I let go of the comfort of what I know and step into the Big Beautiful World of Unknowns.
Looking up means acknowledging that there are no easy answers, that this is not a world of “either-or,” but a complicated world of infinite “ands.” Looking up calls me to bear witness to the beauty, to the ugliness, to all that is.
Looking up means I look outside of myself to something bigger, vaster, and more difficult to see. Looking up means turning my face to the sun, so that I can feel the warmth of grace.
I want to rid myself of this nasty habit of looking down. I want to learn from my mistakes, instead of dwelling in the shadows of shame. I want to let go of my attempts at perfection in my home, in my family, in my writing, in my body. I want to look up and answer the call to look outside of myself to something bigger, braver, bolder. I want to start affording myself the same mercy that I would grant to others. It will be a hard, long process, but I want to stop looking down and start looking up. And out. And around.
Because, really, the only thing that looking down does is give me a nasty crick in my neck.
Do you struggle with looking down? How do you practice looking up and out and around?
This post is also part of the weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge. Special thanks to Angie McMonigal Photography for her fabulous photos. Make sure to visit her website or facebook page. Her work is both stunning and, well, inspirational.