Audience Versus Community

 

You know what is real? The pressure to perform.

In leadership, the classroom, my personal relationships, I find myself stepping on to a stage this year. The more I accomplish the more I feel the pressure to nail my performance in every arena of my life.

We find ourselves feeling this pressure from the very beginning of the year. Where does this come from? Who told me that if I miss a line or forget my cues that I will be rejected?

It’s time to take a hard look at the root of the problem. The problem is that when we see our responsibilities as a performance to be rated and reviewed by our audience, we won’t ever be pleased. Even if we’re receiving positive feedback, calculating our worth from those who surround us will build a wall between us and our community. 

It was so easy for me to make friends the first year I was at Lee. It was a simple formula of name, fun fact, major, year. People found me funny, smart and kind. It was easy to keep this up with the quick hellos that we’d exchange. I felt known, liked and comfortable. I became a persona instead of a person. 

As time has progressed I’ve developed real relationships. People I have shared a fair share of awkward silences and boring moments with. We’ve made it through meetings, car rides and long nights in the house. In each of these relationships, I have had this moment of panic when they realize that I am not always funny, organized or put-together.

God is going to reveal me as a flawed human being as fast as he can and he is going to enjoy it because it will force me to grapple with real intimacy.

-Donald Miller

In this quote I am able to identify that piece that is missing in my life. The pressure to perform comes from a fear of intimacy. I don’t want people who depend on me to know I could fail them. I don’t want my friends to know I have almost no discretion when it comes to a funny meme and a stupid meme. I don’t want my professors to know I am not going over the top studying for their class every night. I want to be a perfect person, a good performer.

Unfortunately, being perfect is impossible. The first two weeks I’ve been at school I felt like I learned that lesson over and over. I am sure my friends were sick of hearing me say it: “I failed.” I felt like I was failing in every arena because I continued to be a flawed human being. I was so scared that I would be rejected for my flaws.

There were only a few people I was honest with about these fears and I found myself drawn to them. I wondered what had changed as I found myself becoming more and more introverted this year. I could only recharge around the people who already knew how flawed I felt. As I read Scary Close by Donald Miller I realized it was because I wasn’t putting on a performance for them. I had nothing to hide. They knew how imperfect I could be. In fact, they expected imperfection from me.

As soon as I realized this was the case, I was able to make a choice. I could either celebrate the discomfort of flawed relationships or I could hold back and keep up the performance. The choice wasn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s scary to accept your flaws. It’s scary to be unashamed of the awkwardness of growth. But it’s humbling. It’s worth doing it afraid.

Because in order to be a good leader, friend, daughter, student – whatever the case – I am going to have to be flawed. I am going to have to strive for excellence. I am going to have to laugh at myself. I won’t be able to do it all, and I won’t be able to do it alone.

But the performance comes after the verdict this year. I am loved. I am accepted.

So it’s time to get messy and work. I am dropping my mask and learning how to live in my community instead of performing for the audience.

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