I love this picture because it has my favorite animal in it: the tiger. I’ve had an affinity for tigers ever since I got a tiger stuffed animal, lovingly christened Tidy because of my inability to say the word “tiger” when I was 1. I still have him, and he will definitely be coming to college with me. So I’ve loved tigers. They’re such beautifully fierce creatures, proud of their strength and ferocity. But you know, you can’t really tell in the picture above. Because that tiger was in a zoo, tamed and assimilated into a life that includes far more human interaction than there should be. Don’t worry; I’m not going to get into the morals of animals in captivity (though my mother would love that). No, I am going to talk about humans in captivity.
Say what? People aren’t in cages or chains. Though, there is still human slavery, in the vein of sex trafficking. It’s disgusting and demeaning, and just thinking about it makes me terribly sad. But as awful as that kind of slavery is, I actually want to talk about a different type of slavery, one that people really don’t think about. This is a mental slavery, one whose chains are lies.
Yes, lies are powerful enough to shackle us. Especially right now, with all the technology that makes the media so prevalent in our lives. These are the lies that tell young girls that unless they’re a size 0, they’re fat and ugly and that nobody will ever love them. These are the lies that tell us to reach for the stars but don’t give us a rocket to get there. These are the lies that constantly make us compare ourselves to others. More than anything else, these are the lies that always say, “You’re just not good enough.” It’s a mind game, because we’re pushed to perfection, but when we fall short, even by a little bit, it’s deemed a complete failure. I know that whenever I make even the smallest mistake, I criticize myself harshly. I may get a light reprimand or warning from someone else, but then I take it on myself to punish myself. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s a good example of the emphasis our society puts on the impossible goal of perfection.
But then failure feels comfortable. Imperfection makes us complacent. Who am I to try to be great when I know how unlikely it is? Marianne Williamson wrote (you may know this from the movie, Akeelah and the Bee), “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”
This is where the tiger part comes in. We are all like tigers, strong and beautiful. But we’ve been tamed, made to believe that we’ll never be good enough to be great. And then we start to fear that. Courage, also, falls prey to the stifling of human greatness, whatever form it may come in.
The truth can set you free. Throw off your shackles because you’re stronger than you think.