The other night at the Academy of Country Music awards, Miranda Lambert accepted the award for best country single for her semi-autographical song, Tin Man. In the song she sings about swapping her wounded heart for The Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz’ armor. She says, “Hey there Mr. Tin Man, you don’t know how lucky you are. I’ve been on the road that you’re on and it didn’t get me very far. You ain’t missing nothing cause love is so damn hard, take it from me darling, you don’t want a heart. By the way there Mr. Tin Man, if you don’t mind the scars, you give me your armor and you can have my heart.” She did this while standing in front of her ex-husband Blake Shelton and his girlfriend, Gwen Stefani. Imagine the courage it took for her to own that space.
In the Wizard of Oz, the scarecrow longs for a brain, the Tin Man wants a heart, and the Cowardly lion yearns for courage to face the world. There’s a lot to be learned from the Wizard of Oz classic and the song Tin Man. It made me wonder, would I swap any of these characteristics given the opportunity? Would you?
I have a big heart; I love people, animals, and generally try to see the good in the world. I remember someone once asking me, if your heart were a tree, what kind of tree would it be? An unusual question, yes, but interesting nonetheless. I envisioned a huge beautiful sequoia tree because of its enormous stature, which is funny, because on my best day, I’m a walloping 5 feet tall. Having recently visited California, maybe now I’d answer a Redwood instead, because Redwood trees live in family circles; generations live forever along side of their offspring. I love this idea. My Mom passed away a year and half ago and I want to believe she’s still with us, just in a different sort of way. So of all the qualities I have, my heart is the thing that has kept me going, literally and figuratively and what brings me my greatest joy. So I wouldn’t swap my heart for anything. And I have brains, I’ve made it through many years of schooling, and while I’m not the smartest person in the world, I now realize I don’t have to be.
So given these options, I’d swap my armor for more courage. Like the Tin Man, my armor has weighed me down. It’s hard to make courageous choices when you’re covered in steel. I’m not sure when I put this armor on exactly? Was it in elementary school when my friends said I wasn’t cool enough, that I was too nerdy and not popular enough to be their friend anymore? Was it when my parents divorced and I felt lonely and lost? I can’t honestly say when, but I know that whenever it happened, I unconsciously made a decision to protect myself from further pain and disappointment by wearing an invisible shield. I stopped letting people see all of me, I believed that if I tried to be perfect, to show only the good sides of myself, the world would like me better and I’d like me better.
I worried a lot about what other people thought and I was often afraid to try new things because I was concerned about how it would look and feel if I messed up and failed. The researcher Laura Williams says, “Comparison is the thief of happiness,” and Oprah just said this weekend at the commencement address at USC School of Journalism, “Stop comparing yourself to others, you’re on this planet to be YOU, not someone else’s imitation of you.” Clearly many of us spend a ton of time comparing ourselves to others and to unrealistic fictional images that we can never live up to. We diminish our self worth and dim the sparkle of our individuality by doing this. We try to attain a level of perfectionism that is impossible to achieve because it doesn’t exist. Brené Brown says, “Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame. It’s a shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”
Our imperfections are what make us who we are. Every one of us is imperfect and the more we embrace our imperfections; share our authentic selves, the easier it is to connect and to be courageous. Your courage will inspire me, and my courage will make you braver. Courage is contagious, it’s a pay it forward kind of deal.
Miranda Lambert telling her story of heartache in the song Tin Man was incredibly vulnerable and brave. By the end of The Wizard of Oz we recognize the scarecrow was smart all along, the Tin Man had an enormous loving heart that only he couldn’t see, and the lion was full of tremendous courage that didn’t surface until it had to. My guess is that for most of us, if we look deep inside and allow our true authentic selves to shine; each of us already has the courage, heart and smarts to be who we want to be. We just need to be brave enough to take our armor off, muster up our courage, open our hearts and allow ourselves to take flight.