We're All Dysfunctional, So We Might As Well Embrace It

by Toni Hammer

Let me drop a truth bomb on you:

Al of our families are screwed up. Every. Single. One.

If you’re anything like me, your first inclination is most likely to scoff and say, “Not my family. We are perfect. We are a well-oiled machine, my friend.” And you can believe that and lean into that notion, but you’re wrong. Your family is dysfunctional too.

And that’s okay.

If you’re not like me, if you read that and thought, “Hell yeah. We’re a mess, but that’s okay. I embrace it,” then I applaud you and I want to be like you and make you my BFF. You are smart and self-aware enough to realize that none of us are perfect. We’re all a hot mess in our own way, and you don’t shy away from it. And it’s you who I want to become.

You see, so many of us feel this pressure to be perfect. To be pristine white walls, a serene blank canvas, unblemished by our family’s problems. We wear forced smiles and put filtered photos on Facebook because we are uncomfortable with the idea of putting our real shit out there into the world. There’s the fear of judgment. Fear of being shunned or blocked or pushed away. So we tell ourselves, like we tell the world, that our family is without scars or stains.

It’s not true, though, and telling ourselves and our friends that is doing a great disservice to those around us.

Take a moment and think of all those in your life who are important to you — who you have a strong relationship with. Do you love them because they’re perfect? Or do you love them because they’re real? Can you confide in them because they admit their life is hard, too, or because they constantly act like they don’t have a care in the world? My guess is that they mean so much to you because you can be yourself around them. You love them because they’re as messed up as you are, amiright?

But then we get around a new neighbor or a stranger at Zumba, and we put on the facade that our shit doesn’t stink and you better bet our kid’s doesn’t either. Our marriage is perfect. Our lives are perfect. We build up walls around ourselves because we want to be liked, but dear friend, we are liked because we are the same. We are all messed up.

All of us have imperfect marriages with communication issues. All of us have kids who don’t sleep in their own bed or who get in trouble at school. All of us have addictions in our family line or something else just as bleak which tarnishes what we want our perfect family to look like.

And it’s okay.

We are all dysfunctional, and we need to embrace it and share it with others. It’s not only good for the soul to breathe freely without fear of being caught in a lie — it’s good for others as well. We are all searching this world, looking into the eyes of strangers and saying, “Are you like me? Do you understand what I’m going through? Can I let you inside of my life and trust that you’ll stay awhile?”

It’s scary to be honest. It’s terrifying to be transparent and show your darkness. But oh, the freedom and ability to breathe easily that comes when you embrace it, when you stop hiding it and instead let others see it because then they, too, will feel like they can share their own life and soon enough we’re all just being honest with one another and feeling loved and validated, and damn, what a wonderful feeling that is.

We’re all dysfunctional. I am. You are too. Let it fly, friend. Embrace it. Let’s stop being perfect and start being real.