“Steph, I know you’re not perfect.” He looked at me joking, but deeply serious. “Do you know that I know that? Did you think you had me fooled?”
“I love you. Stephanie, I love you and your bad days and your messy hair. I love you when you’re crabby, I love you when you don’t make sense. I love you when you’re sad or mad or angry. I love you when you’re frustrated. I love you when there doesn’t seem like there’s any sparkle in the world- or like you forgot to be sparkly in it. I love you when you’re lost and confused and can’t figure it out. I love everything about you- everything.”
He looked at me, his eyes full of resolute love, seeing things in me that I’d been squeezing my eyes shut, hiding from, and loving me for those things- not in spite of them. He was seeing and loving something in me, deeply, that I had yet to even acknowledge existed.
I’m exhausted. Deeply, soul-crushingly exhausted. For 4 months, or 24 years, or what I imagine to be somewhere in the middle, I’ve believed a gigantic lie about myself.
I’ve believed that in order to be loved, I have to be perfect.
Growing up, I was the queen of the teen magazines- taking notes on what the perfect, older girls did, and trying to replicate their perfection to the best of my 8th grade ability.
I would try my very best to always have perfect nails, perfectly plucked eyebrows, perfectly styled hair and perfectly toned abs. At best, I could get a few of those going, but never all at the same time.
It got worse as I got older, because I began to notice that perfection could go so much more than skin deep. I began to make lists of how I was going to be the perfect journalist, perfect girlfriend, perfect college-aged me.
And then becoming a Christian it got even worse. Instead of just expecting perfection from my relationships and careers, I began to seek perfection at the deepest, soul level.
I began a journey with the Lord to heal every wound, every lie, every blemish that I could find- seeking an intangible perfection that always seemed to be just one step ahead of me.
I believed in the deepest places in my heart that if I could just be perfect, if I could just get it right, if my soul could just be completely healed in every single way, then life would be what I wanted it to be. Only then would I be satisfied.
And in the past four months, things have gotten much worse- a culmination of all of the above.
I became a career woman and a Christian, combining my college quest for perfection with that of my Christian life. Having my first real house and my first real kitchen, I expected myself to be an overnight Martha Stewart, delicious smells always wafting from my oven. I became a girlfriend and a long-distance best friend, and began living out my dreams of being a writer in a very real way.
All of a sudden the stakes are higher, and surrounded by productivity books with a ladder to climb, I began a quest to demand real perfection from myself in every single way.
And I’ve had it!
I’ve expected and expected and performed and performed, always coming up short, and always believing that if I could just work harder, download one more productivity app, and sleep a little bit less that I’d get there. I’d be the plate spinning, world changing, heart-warming version of myself that I’ve always wanted to be- perfect and deeply loved.
And I just can’t do it anymore.
I’ve spent the last few nights, naked (not physically…) and ashamed in front of the two people closest to me in Georgia.
I’ve cried and showed them the emptiness of my palms and of my soul- admitting painfully, for the first time, that I just really am out of ideas.
In a small, but very real way, I’ve admitted that I’m not perfect- more to my surprise than theirs. And I’ve admitted that I don’t want to admit this, because I don’t want it to be true.
But it is and they love me and I think it’s about time that I get on board.
I know that a life with Jesus is about freedom. I know that He couldn’t care less about our spinning plates and our resumes. I know (at least in my head) that I’m deeply loved and accepted and approved of by the Creator of the universe, and I just think it’s about time that my heart begins to really believe that.
And so in a way that makes me cringe and want to hide with shame in my imperfection, I’m taking some real steps to unwrapping this perfection lie- this thing that has had me spinning and performing and trying and striving for so long.
And here’s step one:
New Years is the time when we feel like we have a gigantic do-over. All of the things that we were too busy or lazy to do in the past year, all of a sudden seem possible and we begin to make big promises of what the coming year is going to be about.
Well- I have enough on that list, so I’m going to make a different kind of list.
I’m going to make a list of things I don’t do- things that aren’t making my to-do list in this next season of life.
I’m separating out the things that are important, that are real and that are only mine to do- from the pressures that I put on myself constantly, demanding more and more of myself until I’m finally forced to throw in the towel.
I want my priorities to have all of my attention, all of my love, all of my devotion, without the noise of all of the extra pressure.
So here’s my list:
My “To Don’t” List
- I’m not a master chief. I don’t spend time cooking unless I’m feeling particularly creative, or unless I’m really, really hungry.
- My apartment isn’t perfectly clean. I’m committed to keeping it to a dull roar, not letting it get too out of hand, but it just doesn’t need to be perfect.
- I don’t spend a full hour with Jesus when I first wake up- 15 minutes, 30 minutes, but not an hour. It’s just not going to happen in this season of life and that’s ok.
- I don’t look perfect everyday. I just don’t. I don’t have to be a 24/7 style icon. Sometimes I just have to throw some clothes on and call it good.
- I don’t gift. I love the people in my life with my words and with my actions and with my time. But I’m not the one who sends cute care packages. I’m just not. And that’s ok!
- I don’t craft. I don’t DIY and that’s fine.
- I don’t take all of the photos on my blog- maybe I will at some point, but that point isn’t today, and that’s ok. I think that Pinterest does a pretty great job.
- I don’t finish every single book that I start. I don’t need to. Just because I haven’t finished it, doesn’t mean I didn’t learn something from it. That’s ok.
- I’m not best, best friends with everybody. I have a wonderful group of people around me- people that I love deeply- but I don’t need to force every single relationship into that soul-mate category.
What is on your ‘to-don’t’ list for 2013?