We want a secret formula.
The 6 tips.
The 7 tricks.
The 8 steps.
Tell me how you got there.
Give me a pattern to follow.
Like a dog hunting for his bone, our noses stuck to the ground, we’re all experts at sniffing out the secrets for an abundant and successful life.
We stay on the heels of those we admire, snatching up every morsel they throw down, and furiously jotting down notes on what they did to get where they are. We hope we can copy and paste her certain steps and eventually, voila, we’ll have what she has.
So what do we do…
- We buy the cute pillows she has in her house.
- We make our coffee like her in the morning.
- We purchase the workout pants she wears to the gym.
- We make the recipes she makes her family for dinner.
- We read the books she’s reading this month.
- We make her morning rituals our morning rituals.
- We use the same paints as she does when we sit down with our brush and water.
Eventually, usually without us realizing it, her life becomes our life.
This is when innocent imitating and learning from others becomes a form of idolatry.
Of course, the danger doesn’t lie in seeking out and following in the footsteps of kindred spirits whose beautiful lives breathe encouragement into our soul, but when we define success for our lives on her terms.
Here’s where you and I must learn to hold these two gracefully in tension- copying others and being an original.
How can you tell if you’re leaning much towards the copy side? It’s easy to diagnose:
- We don’t just desire a couch like hers in our living room, we want her whole house and hate our own.
- We don’t just want to make her chocolate chip cookies, we want her cooking skills.
- We desire to mimic her healthy routines, but it eventually turns into wanting her body.
- We are captivated by her writing style, but then we lose our voice entirely.
- We are interested in what supplies she uses in her creative times, but end up feeling envious over her artistic abilities.
- We want to know where she gets her jeans, but later we realize we aren’t happy with our own body.
- We are curious to hear how she built a successful business, but then we try to do it exactly her way.
You see where this is all going don’t you?
Copying, at least for me, can turn into an unhealthy obsession with another person’s entire life.
My first instinct upon noticing this is equally as terrible: I promise to become the most original. In my aim for extreme uniqueness I expose myself to loneliness, fear and frustration. I only take a step if it’s completely other worldly.
I can’t do what anyone else is doing. I need to be different, offer a new voice. I stop gathering ideas or inspiration from my friendship circles and close myself all from all outer influences. I over-analyze every action and risk before I take it. And our worst fear- being called a copycat.
You see, originality isn’t without its dangers too.
Here’s the truth: Copies and originals aren’t opposites. One isn’t worse than the other.
Austin Kleon writes, “All artists begin by copying.” Copying comes naturally for all of us, and for good reason, it’s how we learn.
Think of all the skills and habits you developed from copying. I’ve learned how to play piano, draw, paint, write, cook. From closely observing wise women I’ve become a more whole and happier wife, mother, and friend.
Within the sway between copying and originality we discover, what I term, the practice of becoming me. We don’t ever want to lose the feeling, the tug-of-war between looking at her and doing my own thing, learning to follow a prescribed recipe and cooking from scratch.
Kleon concludes his article with this, “Eventually you can’t help but move from copying into something of your own.”
If we keep at it, the back and forth motion leads us to the secret we were looking for all along- our truest self. The girl who knows she is enough, there is no one like her on the planet, but the girl who also quietly, unashamedly watches the ways of others on the lookout for more clues into her deepest identity.
This post is part of The Sway Series, where we’re talking about what happens when we enter into the tension, the muddied up middle, giving up on either/or and embrace both/and, finding our truest selves somewhere in between extremes.
Back and forth, up and down, it’s time to head out to the fringes, explore the valleys and mountaintops, and learn to sway between them all with God.
You can read the rest of them here.