We met Kate a year ago through her blog, Birch & Pine. We loved her imagery, use of light, and outdoors aesthetic - It was a natural fit for Bridge & Burn. But as we collaborated on images, Kate found herself struggling to reconcile her real life with an Instagram / blogger persona that seemed to continuously demand an unattainable level of perfection. When Kate decided to open up about her struggles with perfectionism through a series of Instagram posts she entitled #unearthingmytruths, we asked her to be the first of our T-shirt tales storytellers - Here is her interpretation of PERFECTLY IMPERFECT.
We may dream the designs up, but it is you who make them mean something. "T-shirt Tales" is where we open the flood gates and let others do the interpreting.
What does Perfectly-Imperfect mean to you?
As an artist, I’ve struggled for years to get started on creative endeavors and, once I start, finishing or at least continuing the work. I needed to understand why this was happening. It was debilitating and heartbreaking. I needed to create, yet I was unable to easily turn to my artistic outlets the way I desired. After much soul searching, I finally came to the conclusion that I have a level of perfectionism where I desire conditions around me to be perfect before I begin creating. This means, on a daily scale, that I need my workspace just so - clean, tidy, a candle lit, a warm cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Music. All things set in place.
On a much larger, more crucial scale this meant that I wanted my life to be perfect before I felt I could truly start anything. Yet my life is really messy. I can’t change most of it. I can’t pretend I wasn’t abused as a child, or that I haven’t gone through a horrible divorce, that my daughter isn’t struggling with a once-absent father reentering her life (and by default, mine). That I haven’t screwed up and lost so much.
These things make me feel like I am not worthy of the creating that I wish to do, and that where I come from somehow means that I am unable to be the person that I actually am. I convinced myself I was just a big fraud. This translated into my new marriage and motherhood as well, and for many years, I just felt like I was falling apart.
"This meant that I wanted my life to be perfect before I felt I could truly start anything. Yet my life is really messy."
When I realized this very key point about myself and my brand of perfectionism, it afforded me the ability to spend the last few years working through these issues with a new understanding. To dig deeper. I started with sharing honestly about my life - it wasn’t easy,
I’d found it much easier to hide behind a facade of a pretty house and pretty things to give an illusion that I had everything figured out. In starting to share honestly, to stop apologizing for my lack of perfection, I was able to start peeling away the layers and opening myself up to a world where I could create.
Sharing real things does that. Being raw and broken, as we all are, with others and ourselves brings so much beauty and possibility. This process is ongoing - an intentional, daily practice where I give myself grace to be imperfect. That my past doesn’t have to dictate who I am, how I love my family, how I approach motherhood, how I create. That I am enough.
Tell us about #unearthingmytruths?
Social media is it’s own kind of beast, isn’t it? This past summer, I was in a really dark place. While I’ve definitely accepted more of myself than ever before, I’m still a human being that struggles. My life (outside of the tiniest fraction that is shown in squares) has been a nightmare this past year. We’ve lost so much as a family and faced insurmountable things. I was wrestling with how to share truthfully on Instagram without bumming everyone out or sharing details that…quite frankly, weren’t anyone’s business. Much of what has happened in my family’s life this past year involves other people who would be affected by my words, whether they were deserved or not. I was angry that I felt pressure to post perfection while my life was falling apart in front of me.
I began to wonder about this pressure - who was giving it? Why was I buying into it? Why did I feel the need to post images for others before myself? I saw so many people doing the same, and I knew that behind all of those grids, there were people - living, breathing, rejoicing, hurting, screaming, crying, loving people.
I decided to stand up and speak.
It wasn’t until I decided to start #unearthingmytruths that I was able to begin posting on Instagram regularly again. For me, much of my community as a stay-at-home working mom is through my blog and social media. Finding like-minded folks, people who truly ‘get’ who you are, is broadened when we have the ability to reach out to the entire world.
"I was wrestling with how to share truthfully on Instagram without bumming everyone out or sharing details that…quite frankly, weren’t anyone’s business."
When we traveled, we met so many amazing people because of relationships that first began on Instagram! People who have become friends that I visit, call, write, and text regularly. It can truly be an amazing way to connect with others, but somewhere along the way, I had stopped sharing in a way that felt truly authentic and raw. I was hoping that in sharing honestly again, perhaps even more so than ever before, it would resonate with others and we could all stop feeling pressure to post certain types of imagery or Instagram-y captions that got big likes, but instead to post images and words that inspired conversation.
Connection. While I still keep so much of life to myself, I have begun to share in ways I never have before - and because of this, have started a dialogue. We need to remember that our Instagram galleries are just a tiny portion of the person behind it. To take the time to post things that matter could speak to someone, might meet them where they are, and it becomes more than just an app. It’s human connection. Friendship. Love. And now, don’t we need that more than ever?
Photos by: Kate Oliver (@birchandpine)
Bridge & Burn Apparel: Perfectly Imperfect T-shirt in grey; Ellis Pants in Navy Grid; The Warbler Jacket (from a previous season) similar to Fall 2016 Warbler in Waxed Black Olive; Bea shirt in Olive; Bridge & Burn Ragg Wool Cap.