Thursday, January 30, 2014
Not Perfect, Just Wonderful
Perfectionism sucks the joy out of life. When I was young, the standard to which I held myself was entirely unrealistic and inhumane. No one could possibly have attained the perfection I sought, yet I felt like a complete failure at age 16 because I. Was. Not. Perfect.
Back then, I beat myself up pretty badly. Why do we have such a hard time being kind to ourselves...even when we have no trouble at all being kind to others? Perhaps it has to do with backlash against the narcissists we all know. We may equate treating ourselves kindly with selfishness, self-centeredness, egotism. Who wants to be seen as having those qualities?
Perhaps it's from low self-esteem, feelings that we don't deserve to be treated with kindness. Perhaps we simply don't know how to be kind to ourselves, having grown up watching family members being unkind to themselves. Whatever the cause of our unkindness, I have a suggestion for overcoming it.
Gratitude forces us to look on the positives. Too often, we see only the flaws, the mistakes, the screw-ups, the disasters, the failings. We dwell on the negatives until our perspective on ourselves is hopelessly warped.
I put off volunteering as a liturgist in church because of my perfectionism. I worried. There are hard words in the Bible! What if I read a difficult place name or personal name wrong? What if I lost my place? What if I moved out of turn? What if I messed up assisting with communion?
What if I were a human being?
I have no problem extending grace to others who serve as liturgist and stumble. Their mistakes barely register with me. Why could I not extend that grace to myself? Why?
Once I took the plunge, however, I realized how stupid that fear had been, how it arose from perfectionist tendencies still lurking in the shadows of my soul. But I have found that my gratitude for having the opportunity to serve--my gratitude for the blessing of service--trumps any sort of mistake I can make. Sure, I've stumbled a few times, and once I even goofed during communion. But those little mistakes are nothing compared to the joy I feel reading God's Word aloud in Christian community.
My word for January has been Wonderful. Last Sunday's worship service carried the strongest feelings of wonder I've felt all month...and that's saying something as my life is pretty wonderful all the way around!
How wonderful that I was there, in God's house, with God's people, sharing His Word on Sunday. How wonderful that I can give voice to and share my joy in that Word. How wonderful that God uses my reading and oratorical skills in His service. How wonderful that my mistakes are nothing--nothing!--compared to His grace. Thank you, Jesus, for giving me this opportunity.
Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful.
We don't have to be perfect to be full of wonder.
We just need to open ourselves to gratitude for the good and open ourselves to grace for the mistakes. We just need to be kind to ourselves.
In what ways do you give into perfectionist tendencies? In what ways do you overcome them? Are you kind to yourself? Do you let yourself feel wonder even in the midst of imperfection?