This is an action that does not come easily to my first-born, perfectionist, afraid to fail self. I have a habit of taking even the easiest of things and making them 10 times more complicated than they need to be. Generally, the over-complication of my life starts with hours of mental angst over a task, a conversation, a grocery list – you name it. I’ve perfected the art of throwing myself into a full-on tizzy (see: perfectionist tendencies).
The only problem with all of this detail loving, OCD living? I fail at it. Every. Single. Time. There is absolutely not a chance in you-know-where that I’ll be able to live up to this ridiculous standard I have set for myself. And I’m learning that that’s okay.
After years of setting myself up for failure (at least in my own eyes), I’ve realized a few things:
1. No one is going to think less of me if I don’t pull out all the bells and whistles. In fact, I’ve found just the opposite can happen. If I take time to just BE in the moment – not worrying about how I look, if that party decoration is placed just right, or whether I’m going to say something stupid – these are the times when I make the deepest connections with people and enjoy life the most. People can smell a fake a mile away; they can tell when we’re putting on our “everything is awesome” face. People also respond in the most amazing ways when we are present and genuine. And they’ll laugh right along with me if, heaven forbid, I burn the cookies or get lipstick on my teeth.
2. The times when I am trying my hardest to FORCE success are the times I am the biggest failure. Even if it looks like a success on the outside, forcing your way through life leads to insurmountable guilt and shame if things don’t turn out just the way you planned. I have heaped so much condemnation on myself in the past because my expectations of what I should be/do/think are completely unrealistic. I’m not talking about setting goals or dreaming dreams. I’m talking about expecting things from yourself that are based on lies. Thoughts like, “If I don’t accomplish this by the time I’m 35 then it’s over,” or “I’m afraid that if I tried that then this (bad thing) would happen and everyone would see what a failure I am.” I am (slowly) learning that I have to give myself some grace even when I feel I’ve failed. I’m still a good person with good intentions and if I just let myself relax I can handle life with more ease and peace than if I force myself to be perfect.
3. I cannot and will not be able to control every aspect of a situation. Ever. I am a card-carrying control freak. I swear one of my hobbies is thinking through a situation or task and planning my response to every possible outcome. This is incredibly tiring and (surprise surprise) has never won me any sort of award. In fact, it can actually keep me from doing the important things because I need to be certain everything is going to go off without a hitch. I overthink an outcome until I’m worn out by even the prospect of a potentially good relationship/opportunity/idea. Do you know what good my control-freakishness has done me? It has made me a tired, cranky, not-so-fun-to-be-around mess. It has forced me to focus on tasks rather than the people I love. It has kept me up at night with fear and worry that I’m forgetting something. Here is what I’ve learned, though: tomorrow takes care of itself. It always arrives – right on time – whether I’ve worried about it sufficiently or not. And you know what? So far, I’ve managed to survive every tomorrow I’ve come up against.
So, I’m learning to let go. I’m learning to calm myself. I’m learning that being busy isn’t as important as just being. I’m learning that it’s okay to not get everything on my to-do list accomplished. I’m learning to just focus on what’s important and let life take care of itself. I’m learning that the more I stop struggling and lean into surrender the more I’m capable of actually doing. I’m learning…I’m not there. And that’s okay.