Somewhere along the line, in between running press notes for the media and trying to get better grades in college, this once heavy partier in college flipped and became a sort of perfectionist. This is not to say I am perfect, nor did I ever believe I was perfect. I know I’m quite far from it, and I recognize that. I’ve made mistakes, done stupid things, made bad choices. It’s just that at the time, there was a shift in my thinking, and I became goal oriented and a bit of an over-achiever, always striving for perfection. For years, I’ve tried to do my best at home as a wife and mother, professionally, in the community, and with my students, as well as in the various side careers I’ve had.
Alas, as time has worn on, and I’m much older than I was back then, with the added condition of a wonky back that doesn’t seem to heal, thunder thighs that won’t go away despite the miles I walk, and published books that yield low sales, I’m beginning to realize in my old age that it’s more important than ever to let go of the goal of perfection.
In my personal life, while Instagram and Facebook depict only the happiest of moments, there have been many struggles, as well. Day by day and problem by problem, we have worked through them. Most people do.
But it’s another lesson life teaches you along the way: nothing is ever rosy all the time.
Don’t feel badly for me—I’m not sad or depressed—it’s just that at a certain point in your life you finally realize that all you can do is your very best. That the very best is all anyone ever expects.
And yet, for some strange reason, we seem to be hardest on ourselves.
There’s a TedTalk that I’ve referenced several times. It’s called Finding Your Inner Coach by Brett Ledbetter. In this talk, Ledbetter asks this question: imagine you are on the field playing your sport and you miss a play or fumble the ball; if your thoughts about yourself could scroll on the scoreboard for everyone to see, would you be proud of what you are thinking about yourself? And likewise, would we say the same things to a fellow player?
The same is true in life. We have a tendency to beat ourselves up over things more than we need to as we reach to do it all perfectly. And yet, we disregard the most important question of all: “Are you doing the best you can?” If you answer yes, there’s no need to hold on to the idea of perfection.
This was meant to be a short post, but it’s turning out to be much longer than I imagined when I wrote the first few words.
So, let me wrap this up and end by saying this: I’m not suggesting that we should lower our expectations or give up on dreams. I absolutely refuse to do that. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t give it the old college try and always put our best foot forward.
Nope. I’m not saying that at all. We should do those things.
But there is a thing called giving yourself grace. In other words, YOU have to be content with the effort YOU gave, even if it didn’t yield the perfect outcome. All we can ask of ourselves in any endeavor is to be honest with ourselves when we ask the question, “Did you give it all you’ve got?” If the answer is yes, then sometimes we just have to be content with that.