“The mask of a good reputation is a hard one to take off. So much of who I am is wrapped up in what I do or what I have abstained from all my life.”
Emily Freeman (Grace for the Good Girl)
As I walked out on a leadership meeting, I could feel the edges of my mask beginning to peel off with the perspiration that I would be found out. For several years I had painstakingly worn the look of perfection: being the dependable one, the leader, the go-to girl in all situations. To let someone see my imperfections would have been risking rejection. I longed to reach out and connect with other women, but it wasn’t worth it … yet.
That afternoon as I stared out into the cloudy fog, the contents of the meeting scattered my thoughts as I sifted through childhood memories trying to pinpoint any one given moment when I first tried on my disguise. Whenever the moment was, it worked because I continued to wear it, hiding the insecurities, the failures, the real me.
Maybe you can relate? Maybe you know a woman who seemingly has it together: a good marriage, the great career, sweet kids? She is dependable, graceful and surrounded by friends. She seems perfect.
I wanted to be her. Even as a little girl, I was clumsy, picked last in playground games, wearing frumpy dresses and mismatched socks. Never on time for anything, never rewarded for trying hard on schoolwork. It wasn’t acceptable to be me. It was better hide behind the picture of poise. So I pretended to be someone else. Yet, that morning at the meeting as we discussed the themes in the book, Grace for the Good Girl, I could feel my resolve beginning to crumble and fear of being found out made me run.
And then I heard it, a whisper seeping into the depths of my soul, “Mercy comes with grace. You’ve accepted mercy but you’ve been hiding behind shame instead of accepting grace.” I had exchanged grace to carry guilt, thinking I would never be enough. That evening as I sipped my coffee, sitting in the still of the quiet, I took off my masks, one-by-one to find me underneath.
I discovered the real me, riddled with imperfections, yet graced with acceptance. I may not be on time, my kids bicker, I do lose my temper, my house is dirty but connections are made when we reveal our flaws. The MOPS leadership team ladies have become my closest friends, ignoring my messy hair and sweat pants, because they too wanted to cast off the perfectly together masquerade.
The masks will never disappear completely, this I know; already I’m itching to pick up the perfectionist-good girl look. But I’ve tasted freedom in who I was created to be and that’s where I want to stay. Which mask are you ready to let go of?
Heather Riggleman is a recovering mom of two strong-willed kids and one budding artist. She lives in Nebraska with her high school sweetheart and reaches out to moms from all walks of life on her site at Heatherriggleman.com You can find more of Heather’s stories in her new release Mama Needs a Time Out.