Monday felt like Monday today. I tried to avoid it; I even gave myself a pep talk before getting out of bed. “It will be okay. You have so much to be thankful for. Choose joy.” Before breakfast, the third sibling tells me what the first one did and how angry they are over the whole debacle. A child is caught in deception and pride. Another child refuses to listen or learn. Anger. Explosions. What am I doing? Where is the growth?
I sigh, even though I feel like screaming, and I turn to what I can control and fix: chores. (Yep, total coping mechanism….but at least it’s not alcohol, right?)
Grading papers. Check.
I go out to weed our floundering and fragile garden and notice that 1/3 of the seeds didn’t germinate properly. I’ll have to re-seed, I think. I nurture what is trying to take root and grow and I’ll replant what didn’t take off.
I’m sure you see where I’m going with this analogy (You’re a smart kid).
Gardening is kind of like parenting, yes.
Parenting can feel frustrating–even futile at times. Are they listening? Do they care? Because I can’t make them care. Nope. And the inefficient, 1-step-forward, 2-steps-back process can drain me quicker than public speaking or a 3-hour hike.
In my anxiety and angst, I call the principal (because all teachers need a sounding board/reprieve). When I say principal, I am referring to my husband. He shows compassion and understanding and reminds me: you know, we aren’t any different with God. He has to constantly remind and instruct us over and over on the same things. Yes, yes, I know God is patient with me and my mess-ups and such, but…these kids.
I decide to grind wheat berries, because after all, I am a diligent homeschool mom. Don’t worry; I don’t wear blue-jean jumpers. I leave to transfer laundry upstairs and when I come back, my grinder has literally burnt the wheat and melted the internal plastic on the edges. What in the world. I rush the stench outside and rinse it as best I can, but there’s no redeeming this catastrophe. The $75 blender top container will have to be replaced.
Suddenly, I feel 13 and stupid. And before tears expose the heart of my deceptive self-talk, I leave the kitchen and escape to my room. What is happening? Why am I wrestling with such negative perceptions? Perhaps I’m coming to the place that says, “You do mess up, but that doesn’t make YOU a mess up.”
But no…I am in a place of identity crisis…over what? Burnt wheat berries and rebellious kids.
Because I know my identity can’t be tied to how responsible and self-sufficient I think I am. Hello, where’s the rug I was once standing on? Pulled out with such force I find myself fanny down on the concrete. This understanding that I am not the sum total of my mistakes (“You could have been more careful.”) or the sum total of my successes (“You did that so well.”), but that my worth is totally untethered to my doing–resting instead in the heart of a God who says, “You are mine and I love you…no matter what.”
I’m crying because I am wrestling.
I’m crying because I feel like a prideful hypocrite.
And I’m crying because I sense that these lessons should have been established before now and that makes me feel even more immature.
I can’t make all my blunders right. I can’t fix all that’s damaged and broken in this world (including myself), but I can make life acceptable because I am acceptable (Not because I check every box or control every error or carefully avoid all mistakes, but because I am His and He is mine). Isn’t that enough? Shouldn’t it be? And if it’s not, what do I need to release to get my heart and mind to that place of acceptance?
Perfectionism was only achieved by One person on Earth, and He was God. So, I really need to get over myself.
I never thought I was a perfectionist because I wasn’t afraid to take risks or tackle tasks with a “good-enough and done” attitude. But I see more and more the ways I refuse to accept error in myself and it is bondage because it’s rooted in pride. Do you struggle too?
Find ways to accept where you are and not beat yourself up; here is what I am trying to teach myself.
- Understand that life is not Yin-Yang (black or white). We live with a lot of grey; be okay living in that.
- Honor: If you wouldn’t say those critical things to a friend, then don’t say them to/about yourself.
- Try to avoid defensiveness responding to constructive criticism. Humbly acknowledge where you can improve without thinking you have to be perfect to avoid feeling like a failure.
- Emphasize progress over ideal–and often, impossible–achievements.
- Ask yourself “Why am I doing this?” Motives do matter. Is this about serving or sustaining self-image?
- Zoom out: Will what you are stressing over matter in a month, a year…even a day? Perspective.
- Forgive yourself. Get out of the ditch. Brush yourself off. And get back to walking down the right road.
- Perfectionism crushes confidence and keeps you bound up in fear of failure. Don’t listen. Keep trying. And when your best doesn’t come out, give yourself permission to have bad days.
Someone once said that perfectionism is the most paralyzing form of self-abuse.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made by a Loving Father (Ps. 139). Don’t underestimate your ability to mess up, nor His ability to constantly love and accept you through it all. If our Perfect and Holy God says, “I receive you,” shouldn’t we have the humility to accept ourselves?