Editor's Note: This article summarizes the practical applications of Timothy D. Willard & R. Jason Locy's recent bookVeneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society(Zondervan, 2011).

Our culture relentlessly pressures you to cover up your imperfections with the veneer of an image that shows worldly success. But no matter how hard you may work to seem successful, you can still feel like a failure inside, because even if you do achieve what our culture views as the “perfect” lifestyle, something will still be missing.

What is that missing ingredient? The most important one of all: a close relationship with God. Without that, you’ll be broken deep within, despite the veneer on the surface of your life.

Here’s how you can go deeper than the surface lifestyle our culture promotes, so you can discover God’s perfect love and find real fulfillment:

Don’t try to live like a celebrity. Ironically, the more you shine a spotlight on yourself while you’re seeking approval from others, the less satisfied you’ll feel. In God’s eyes, you’re valuable even when you’re not visible. Fame and fortune may bring you temporary happiness, but they can never bring you lasting joy. If you allow yourself to decrease and invite God to increase in your life, you can discover the extraordinary life God has planned for you.

Don’t search for meaning through consumption. Every purchase you choose to make naturally reflects your personality and values. But if you think that you must buy certain products or brands in order to find personal meaning (such as buying a certain shirt because it makes you feel cool rather than simply because it’s functional), you’re giving products too much power over you. Never define yourself by your consumer choices, because that’s settling for far less than your true identity as God’s beloved child, made in His image.Only your relationship with God can really define who you are as a person.

Don’t use the virtual world of technology to escape the real world. Hiding out in an online fantasy won’t bring you real satisfaction. God has wired you for real relationships, nurtured through face-to-face contact. Even the greatest online experiences can’t match the beauty, complexity, and depth of the real-world relationships God intends for you to pursue with Him and other people.

Shift your focus from success to faithfulness. Base your decisions on how you can best be faithful to God rather than how you can be successful according to cultural values. As long as your motivation is to express your love for God by doing your best to obey Him, you’ll be a true success no matter what results you get from your efforts – and God will give you the grace to recover from mistakes and keep moving forward toward a good future.

Shift your focus from impressing others to being honest with them. Stop trying to impress other people by projecting a certain kind of image. Instead, ask God to help you clean the veneer off your life and honestly show the people close to you the kind of person you really are – brokenness and all – trusting that God will work powerfully in your relationships when you do so.

Encounter God in a transcendent way. Stop trying to shrink God down to a size in which you feel comfortable with Him. Instead, make peace with the fact that God is much bigger than what you can fully understand, and embrace His mystery and awesome power. Spend time in prayer approaching God in a way that helps you discover the wonder of who He is, rather than simply accumulating knowledge about Him or approaching Him only as a religious act. Pour out your deepest thoughts and feelings to God in prayer, and invite Him to change you as you spend time with Him. Listen carefully to what God has to say to you in prayer. Be willing to make sacrifices and take risks as God leads you. Trust God with every part of your life, holding nothing back from Him.