Tag Archives: perfectionism

Day 10: Letting It Go

I made a commitment to blog 31 days in a row. I’ve never been one to take this kind of thing lightly. I am a completer, a finisher of tasks.

Yesterday began all too early and filled up before I could blink. Somewhere along the line I realized that I hadn’t had time to think about writing, much less do it. I might miss a day.

My stomach began to twist, that toxic flavour of obligation and failure on my tongue (not only am I super-responsible, but absurdly melodramatic). Somewhere deep inside a voice piped in “Stop it! Don’t be stupid. This isn’t a real problem. Hobbies are meant to be fun, to make life better not worse.”

So I stopped. I didn’t waste another second feeling bad about my imperfect 31 Day track record. I’m writing this today, because I want to. And I may post it… if I feel like it.

How novel. To do what I want to do with my free time. To do what I want to do without apology.

That book I started reading that just isn’t capturing my attention, the one that everyone raves about and I really ‘should’ read… I’m letting that go. But I’m still counting it on Good Reads (cause I’m a rebel like that).

Not gonna beat myself up about unanswered emails and friends I don’t have time to catch up with either. Turns out, I can’t be all things to all people after all. And this friendly introvert is pretty used up most days.

Hopefully most of you are finding this pep talk kind of ridiculous. Wondering who would obsess about such silly little things. That means you live in the kind of freedom that has eluded me most of my life.

I have a hair trigger guilt reflex. All too often, I’m tangled up in invisible cords of should. Bound up. Weighed down. Constantly tripping over the harsh expectations I have of myself. Until even my hobbies feel like jobs.

It’s bullshit.

That’s the only word that fits. Nothing polite, nothing trite or gentle will do. I won’t coddle this bad habit anymore. There are enough real problems in the world, I don’t have time for false guilt and perfectionism.

I don’t even believe it anymore. I used to think I was more responsible, more spiritual, more likely to succeed this way. But it’s just pride wrapped in self-loathing, having nothing at all to do with God. Also, really exhausting, because life was never meant to be one long grueling self-improvement project.

Life is for living.


Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

– Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30)

The No-Fail Resolution

I am a woman of many words. Just ask my husband.

Usually this is a good thing, my ability to smooth out the awkward in conversations, to fill the page as a student, and to speak publicly with ease. But it can become a burden. I’m not just a talker you see, I’m a planner and a perfectionist.

New Year is like Mardi Gras for my type. We’re good at it.

We enumerate countless flaws and faults which NEED to be addressed immediately. We craft a lengthy list of high-minded goals and measurable outcomes. We paint a grand and glorious vision of our future (and yours).

In the beginning, this seems so productive, so motivational. In the beginning, it fills me with energy and hope. In the beginning, those words are perfect. And for a few brief moments, so am I.

Until I’m not.

The weight of all the words begins to drag me down. By mid-January my new expectations and obligations stop pointing the way and start pointing their fingers. Enter frustration, self loathing and complete surrender. In the long run, resolutions have done more harm than good for me.

New Year’s resolutions are like heroine for my type: thrilling, addictive and horribly self destructive.

A few years ago I discovered One Word 365. Participants choose a single word to represent the year to come. It is more of a mantra than a goal. A touchstone to focus, guide, and comfort on the journey.


I still want to do all the things, to learn all the lessons, to make all the changes, to reach all the goals… but I don’t perform better under pressure, I perform worse.

In 2012 I traded my laundry list of resolutions in for the word “Dream” – a word I disliked at the time, but felt compelled to choose. That year I learned to take risks, to embrace creativity and to see hope and blessing when life was overwhelming. So many dreams came true that year, ones I had all but given up on.

2013 was the year of “Today.” I’m not sure I would have survived without this focus. It was the most overwhelming and challenging year of our lives for a number of reasons, which were exacerbated by ongoing lack of sleep. Jesus said that “each day has enough trouble of its own;” in 2013 it also had just enough joy, help and energy to get us through. Barely.

I’ve been praying, talking to friends, and weighing my options this year. “Sleep” seems unreasonably optimistic. “Write” appeals to me, but would undoubtedly become another guilty burden when we downshift into survival mode. Glen thought I meant “Right,” exclaimed he wasn’t surprised and had a good laugh at my expense.

Instead, my One Word 2014 is:


When I’m overwhelmed, reacting with emotion and outrage and the fearful certainty that this small frustration is the first domino in the complete breakdown of civilization as we know it… Breathe.

When life is happening all around me, precious memories coalescing before my eyes and the treasures of this unique moment hang heavy in the air… Breathe.

When I lock my keys in the car, run out of gas, lose the entire paper I JUST finished writing, publically embarrass myself (because, let’s face it, this stuff ALWAYS happens to me)… Breathe.

When I pray, when I dream, when I speak thoughts into words, when I need to expunge the poison and inhale the good… Breathe.

When I don’t have time for conscious prayer or true meditation, when I am drowning in my many words, when I need a physical reminder of my spiritual goal… Breathe.

So here’s my resolution. Barring death, I can’t possibly fail this year. What’s yours? If you had to pick one word for the entire year, what would it be?

Embracing the Raggedy Edges

We have a family motto that my Mom-in-law finds deeply disturbing: “It’s not great, but it’s good enough.”

It started one year as we tried to put the star on the Christmas tree. The slightly less than straight, but definitely much beloved tree our girls had picked out. Pretty soon we were saying it all the time – hanging a banner, decorating a cake, writing an email…

I didn’t set out to make mediocrity my goal. It’s hardly the stuff inspirational speeches and parenting books are written about. I do want my children to be wholehearted and hard working; to “work as if for the Lord and not for men”.

Yet I can’t bring myself to mold them into ideal Stepford children. Not only does it require enormous amounts of energy, but it sucks the joy out of life. As a recovering perfectionist I can tell you that the mindset is both exhausting and paralyzing. It’s hard to get anything done, when every little thing has to be done with excellence.

Instead I will train them to pick their battles; to save their time and energy for those things that are most important. I want them to know that they can do anything, but they can’t do everything. Hopefully I will teach them this while learning it myself.

It is hard to accept that I have limits and to live within those boundaries. So when the ghost of Martha Stewart (I know she’s not dead, but she does seem to haunt all women from time to time) peers over my shoulder with a disapproving look, I just say that motto out loud. It’s not great, but it’s good enough.

So here’s us, where life is messy and somewhat crooked… and good enough.

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