Years and years ago, my beloved dance teacher said something that has really stayed with me: “You only ever get the chance to make one first impression. Make it a good one.” At the time, she was simply offering some constructive criticism for our dance routine, but her words are a truth I’ve never forgotten. You only get to make one first impression.
This idea has manifested itself in different ways for me. For years, I never left the house without looking “presentable” – meaning non-gym attire and make-up for every outing, even if it was just to grab a gallon of milk. Ben often teased me about it. I’ve loosened up quite a bit over the past couple years – I’ll go to the grocery store in running shorts now, no problem. This was made easier as we’ve moved around – when you don’t know anyone in a town, you probably won’t be seeing any familiar faces in the produce section. You could duck in and out without a soul really noticing your presence…and that you hadn’t put mascara on yet.
More recently, I’ve seen how this mentality has affected my pursuit of new friendships as we moved around. I have put a lot of pressure on myself to make the perfect first impression – be witty and fun, kind and thoughtful, articulate but not too chatty.
It’s been difficult for me to nurture new relationships during times of struggle, which conveniently coincided with each move, which is exactly when you’re trying to nurture new relationships. I wasn’t sure how much I could share about what was really going on with people without scaring them off. I created this mentality that until I had it all together, no one would really want to hang out with me. And thanks to a few kind souls, I’ve realized that it’s okay to share the hurts with people who haven’t known you for years, who don’t know everything there is to know about you. Sure, it’d be great if they could meet the skinnier, less-stressed version of Kristen…alas.
As I’ve been savoring every word of Shauna Niequist’s latest book, Bread & Wine, a passage she wrote really resonated with me, reaffirming my newfound suspicion that it’s okay to let people know that things are less than perfect. She’s referring to allowing people into your home, but I think these words apply just as strongly to allowing people into your life. It goes like this:
What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t longing to be impressed; they’re longing to feel like they’re home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd…it isn’t about perfection, and it isn’t about performance. You’ll miss the richest moments in life if you’re too scared or too ashamed to open the door.
She nailed it. In the moments I’m too busy worrying about the fact that I’m not exactly what/where/who I had hoped to be at the lovely age of 28, I might be missing out on some really great people and adventures. Sure, my wardrobe isn’t what’s featured on a fashion blog, my house decor isn’t quite Pinterest worthy, and I could stand to lose a few pounds. But I have a beautiful life. And every part of it – the good and the bad – are valuable elements in my story.
When we open the door to others, we allow them to know us, to love us, to accept us. When we build walls to protect ourselves, to keep ourselves from getting hurt, we actually accomplish the very thing we are trying to prevent.
Friends, I’ll gladly welcome you into my home, wobbly coffee table and all. Our home is full of love and laughter – and that is the greatest gift.