My sister and I were in the checkout line at Target. As we waited, the gentleman behind us arranged all of his items on the conveyer belt. In the corner of my eye, I subconsciously noticed each item. Among the items were three or four Greek yogurts, and in my peripheral vision I could see, standing out like a beacon, a single yogurt….toppled over. ON ITS SIDE.
I tried really, really hard not to look over, but I couldn’t help myself.
Not only did I look at the yogurt, I stared at it. Every fiber of my being wanted to reach out and just help that little yogurt out. It needed to be standing up. But no, I thought, I can’t do that. That would be weird and awkward. So I just stood there, staring at the yogurt. Because staring at someone else’s stuff is less weird than touching someone else’s stuff. Obviously.
And so, to those of you who winced at the sight of the horrific typo in the title of this blog, I want you to know that I feel your pain.
I also want you to know that I did it on purpose.
And I also also want you to know that it’s killing me, too.
Stop looking at it.
Why it is often so difficult for me to finish what I start? Barring the things that I must do (i.e., projects at work, homework, laundry, showers…), I often find it difficult (maybe even impossible) to finish projects and accomplish goals. I stay at one thing for awhile, but after a few weeks or months, I tend to let that thing fizz out. Some of the things I love to do seem to be continuously caught in a cycle of sprinting toward something, only to stop short every time.
In fact, when I told my husband that I bought this website and that I planned to start blogging again, he asked “Are you actually going to do it this time?”
At first, I was offended, but he was right – this was the second time I had a “great idea” and “was going to start a blog” in the last year, and probably the sixth or seventh time over the course of my life. I myself had doubts about whether or not I would be able to see things through.
So why do I find it hard to finish what I start?
I think what it all boils down to is perfectionism.
Perfectionism (n): refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.
Perfectionism is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Those of us who suffer from perfectionism often do excellent work, and that is a very good thing! But when it comes to projects – and sometimes even life decisions – if we can’t see how we can make it happen exactly the way we think it should, we might as well not even try. And if we fail to perfectly follow our own regimens, then we should just stop altogether. Somehow, in our minds, quitting is better than inconsistency or imperfection.
But there is hope. Recent studies* show that we may have finally discovered a cure for perfectionism:
Balance (verb): keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall.
(*studies conducted by me involving the survey of exactly one dictionary).
The thing is, perfectionism is an extreme. Refusal to accept any standard that falls short of perfection is refusing to admit our humanity.
So I have news for you:
YOU ARE NOT PERFECT.
That is why we need to pursue balance rather than perfection.
Balance is the opposite of extreme. If perfectionism is setting yourself up for failure, then balance is setting yourself up for success.
In the movie Mean Girls, this scene happens:
Gretchen: Regina, you’re wearing sweatpants. It’s Monday.
Karen: So that’s against the rules, and you can’t sit with us.
So that’s against the rules, and you can’t sit with us.
Sometimes, I think we treat ourselves like that group of girls. We have all these silly made up rules and expectations for ourselves and our lives, and if something doesn’t fit within those parameters, we tell ourselves:
So that’s against the rules, and you can’t [insert dream/goal/idea/desire here].
By doing this, we limit ourselves and what we were created to do.
Ultimately, God knows I am not perfect. Everyone else knows I am not perfect. So why do I hold myself to a standard of perfection? To hold yourself to a standard of perfection is to set yourself up for failure.
There is nothing wise about being extreme. Ultimately, perfectionism will cost you more opportunities than you can buy with it.
Live purposefully, sensibly; seize the day. Make the most of every opportunity. Stop striving for perfection, and simply allow yourself to find the natural rhythm of a balanced life, because balance is the only thing that will leave enough room in your life for forward motion.
TO BE CONTINUED…