Not every day, but on more days than I would like to admit, I reach the end of the day feeling dissatisfied. I find myself wrestling with a nagging sense of disappointment, disillusionment, and discontent with the items left unchecked on my to do list and the expectations I had for myself I didn’t meet.
I got the bills paid, but the laundry is half finished. I made the phone calls and sent the emails I needed to send on behalf of the Lamb Center, but didn’t get in any of the writing time I had planned. I spent some time in prayer, but never got around to exercising. I called the friend who has been on my mind, but never called my mom back. I am apparently a failure as a parent because my kids are grown but still can’t figure out how to empty the dishwasher or pick up their room. And, of course, I STILL didn’t tackle all the piles and clean out all the closets, cupboards, laundry room, file cabinet, etc. that I have been threatening to clean out for
Oddly enough, I do generally find time to squeeze in prodigious amounts of time on Facebook, my favorite blogs and other forms of mind numbing Internet entertainment. 🙂
One of my favorite writers, Shauna Niequist, tells the story of the day she knew she needed to adjust her expectations and let herself off the hook a bit. As she glanced back over a lengthy to-do list, she found her gaze settling on the words at the bottom of the page:
DO EVERYTHING BETTER!!!
For most of the women I know, and probably a number of men, “do everything better” is a pretty good summation of their expectations for themselves.
I can’t decide if it is pride or foolishness or both that leads me to believe I really can and should do everything better. If I think about the disappointment in my day which I described above, an expectation of perfection is really at the heart of the issue. Simply put, it seems I am disappointed that I still haven’t figured out a way to do everything perfectly.
I love this quote from Ann Voskamp:
Perfectionism is slow death by self. Perfectionism will kill your skill, your spark, your art, your soul.
How much is enough? What percentage of my expectations for myself do I need to meet in order to be satisfied? How much of my avoiding, numbing, procrastinating behavior is related to striving for the unattainable and continually setting myself up for failure?
Is the alternative to just give up and settle for mediocrity? If I don’t at least try to improve in the areas where I struggle, am I living up to the potential placed within me by my Creator? How do I find the balance of good enough?
And here, right here, is where many of us get stuck.
We answer the seductive call of perfection with comparison and competition, depression and denial, rationalizations and reasons why tomorrow will be different. Many of us know in our heart we are saved by grace alone and that our worth is found in our identity as beloved children of God, but the discontent remains. We still aren’t good enough.
We still aren’t perfect.
But we don’t want anyone else to find out, so we pretend. We share our shiny moments on Facebook or in the hallways at work, school or church and we stuff the rest under the bed.
And we feel lonely because we think we are the only one with a bunch of crap crammed under our bed.
So, if any of this is true for you, I am here today to say you are not alone.
As my 51st birthday approaches, I think it is safe to say that I am not going to figure our how to be perfect in this lifetime. My life is a beautiful mess, full of great joy and frequent struggles. Most days, I am at peace with that truth. Other days…other days I find myself back in that cycle of disappointment and wonder if I am the only one.