Life is a Marathon

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”

We live in a world of quick fixes and step-by-step solutions. I’ve read so many articles in the last year about following a few simple steps to make myself better in some way. These articles always sound something kind of like this:

  • Do these 5 things, and you will lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks!
  • 7 steps to becoming a better girlfriend!
  • 4 steps to say goodbye to depression for good!
  • 5 tips for a great body without diet and exercise!

These examples might be a little exaggerated, but I think they say a lot about us as people: We want to be better, but we don’t want to do the work to get there. If our weight loss doesn’t happen fast enough, we quit. We want to complete the few steps to becoming better and then be done. I am so guilty of this. I want to fit each aspect of my life into a little box. I think we try to make our life situations like simple math problems. We identify the problem, figure out a solution path, solve the problem, and then move on to the next thing. We like happy endings. We like checking off the to-do list. But life isn’t like that at all! Life is messy and no matter how hard we try, we cannot stuff it in a box for us to control.

Something I have learned is that quick fixes DO NOT WORK. Yes, you might lose those ten pounds in two weeks. But as soon as you go back to your normal routine, the weight comes back. My process of becoming a better girlfriend/wife does not end with step 7. Any results that last will take hard work and patience, two things that do not come naturally to us in our society.

Life is a marathon. I have never run a full marathon, but I have run a half marathon. Something that I learned throughout the training process and the actual race is that there will always be highs and lows. During the highs, you have to pace yourself and during the lows, you just have to keep moving. One of those highs is the beginning of the race, when there is the temptation to start off sprinting. My natural tendency is to throw myself 100% into everything right at first, but then I do not have the strength or endurance to continue pressing onward in my endeavors. The hope that things WILL get better is what gets you through the lows. When it feels like you can’t breathe, like you are falling apart, like you’ll never reach the end, you reach for that hope. There is no clearcut transition, but after some time, you realize that you feel a little better. No matter what you are going through right now (depression, grief, failure, low self-esteem, etc.), your circumstance will get better. Will it get better exactly when you want it to with five easy steps? Probably not. Is it ever going to be perfect? Not in this world. But it will get better. Progress.

I used to strive for perfection and give up at the first instance of failure. If I did that in a marathon, I would probably have to quit at about mile 2. Now, I want to strive for progress – moving forward at a slow, steady pace. This isn’t meant to be another “how to fix your life in a small number of easy steps” blog post. I’m here to tell you that life is a marathon – it’s not easy. There will be many highs and lows along the way. We are not commanded to be the fastest runners in the race or the most perfect people in the world, but we are commanded to endure. So, keep moving forward…one step at a time.

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“When I wake in the morning…I want more than just okay”

“The moment when you first wake up in the morning is the most wonderful of the twenty-four hours. No matter how weary or dreary you may feel, you possess the certainty that, during the day that lies before you, absolutely anything may happen. And the fact that it practically always doesn’t, matters not a jot. The possibility is always there.” – Monica Baldwin

Mornings. I hate them, yet I love them.

At the moment my alarm goes off, I hate mornings. If only I could have five more minutes of sleep, I would feel so much better. So, I snooze. And snooze. And snooze. This lasts for fifteen minutes on a good day…over an hour on a bad day. I purposely set my alarm for about an hour before I have to get up, so I have time to snooze. I’m pretty sure this is illogical. 

After I’m out of bed with coffee in hand, I love mornings. There is just about nothing I love more than having a free morning where I can get up early and have time for unhurried reading and prayer, working out, and productivity. And did I mention coffee? Yum.

But there’s so much more to my love of mornings.

Mornings bring hope.

       Mornings bring expectancy.

                            Mornings bring joy. 

You see, last night was no good for me. After a long day of work, I found myself unhappy: unhappy with how I look, unhappy with being alone, unhappy with how I’m handling school, unhappy with my future financial situation. Often, I find that there is a total disconnect between what I know in my head and how I really feel. I know I am blessed. I know I am healthy and relatively fit. I know that I have friends and family to support me. I know I’m doing well in school. I know that I’m richer than the majority of the world. But no matter how much I know all of these things, sometimes my feelings overtake that knowledge. The voice inside me tells me something different. That I’m not good enough. Nights are often the hardest times of the day for me. I think it’s because I have had an entire day for these thoughts and feelings to build. 

But. 

Then comes the morning. One of my favorite literary characters, Anne Shirley (from Anne of Green Gables) said, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” Another of my favorite literary characters, Scarlett O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.” This is how I feel in the morning. Hopeful. Yesterday might have been filled with mistakes, missed opportunities, pain, tragedy. But today. Today doesn’t have to be like that. Who knows what today will bring? That thought is so exciting to me! Of course, I know today will have its own mistakes. But today might also have its own triumphs. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Joy. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to bed crying, thinking things are at their worst, that they will never be better. But joy comes with the morning. I wake up knowing things CAN be better. That I can choose joy today. 

So, to all of you people like me who struggle to take those first two steps out of bed in the morning, take a deep breath. Breathe in the hope and potential of this new morning, and breathe out the tragedy of yesterday. This morning is a gift. Today is a gift. What will you do with it?

 

 

 

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“I raise my voice to the dark horses…”

Today, what I want to say is much better said by someone else. Below is the link to a blog post that continues to change my life every time I read it. Please take the time to read these creative, honest, and hopeful words, and I can almost guarantee that you will be inspired. 

Here’s the link:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jon-foreman/the-dark-horse-joan-of-ar_b_558967.html 

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Love Alone is Worth the Fight

So, it’s no surprise to most people reading this that I love Switchfoot, but please hear me out on this one. The other night in Baton Rouge, a church from Mississippi came and protested Switchfoot outside their concert venue. They brought signs and megaphones. The lead preacher yelled over the intercom that people who listen to Switchfoot and go to their concerts are going to hell because “music that moves the body before the spirit is carnal and sinful.” They targeted specific fans and called them sinners and wouldn’t have a conversation with anyone who tried to talk to them. You’ve seen these types of people before.

So what was Switchfoot’s response? Well, I was amazed by Jon Foreman’s (lead singer) response on Twitter. He said he was stoked about the protesters and asked fans to show them love and respect. But his response didn’t end there. Jon walked out there to where these people were yelling, introduced himself, offered all of them bottles of water to drink, told them that he loved them, and attempted to have conversations with them. Now, how many famous music artists would actually do that? It’s one thing to say something like that on Twitter; it’s another to get out there and practice your message of love. If you’re curious about these protesters, watch a little of this video (Jon comes to talk to them at about 2:06): Protesting Switchfoot

The video I’m including at the end of this post is of Jon doing an acoustic aftershow after the concert (obviously). Please PLEASE watch it. He’s singing a song called “All of God’s Children,” which he is planning to release on a solo album/EP next year.

We can’t shout people to Christ with our arguments and condemnation. We’re all morons (as Jon puts it) who are loved by an extravagant God, and we are called to love people as God does. The Bible says they will know we are His disciples by our love. All of God’s Children – Jon Foreman

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Coffee Shop Musings: But Not Today

As I sit in various coffee shops to read, I like to observe the people around me. I am curious about them, and I would love to talk to them and get to know them, but I almost never do. Sometimes, I wish I wasn’t so shy. There is a boy sitting across from me reading Matterhorn. I knew I’d heard of it, so I looked it up. It’s about the Vietnam War. He ordered a large dark roast coffee, and he still has a flip phone. I imagine that he is glad to be on spring break and have time to read for pleasure. I am so interested in people. I want to know their situations, what they like, what motivates them. Is this normal? I don’t know. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by how different I am. Part of me relishes it, part of me hates it. I feel isolated because I have so much to share, and it feels like no one really gets it. But today, I want to be positive. Today, I feel some hope inside. Today, life is beautiful.

I wonder if the other people in here are like me, enjoying reading alone but not alone. There’s something about a coffee shop that makes you feel like you’re a part of something.

A guy walked in with a Bible and a notepad, and of course, my first thought was that I hope he notices me. Why? When will my thoughts stop being consumed with finding my soulmate? There is a conflict within me: to hope or not to hope. I want to hope…I do. But at age 23, my hopes have been dashed so many times. At some point, I started telling myself to stop hoping. No hope means no disappointment, no pain. Except that’s not entirely true. The land of the hopeless is no good place to be. It’s full of constant harshness, constant bitterness. No hope really means bitterness and resentment. I dislike the person I am when I am absent of hope. To clarify, I always feel some hope because I know one day I will be in heaven, and all pain will be gone. But that’s not the only hope we should have. If I am trusting God with my future, I have hope in this life. I want to hope. Is it odd that I feel like hoping is taking a risk? Would I rather stay in my safe cage of bitterness than dare to keep traveling and searching for something more? Unfortunately, a lot of times, yes. But not today. Today, I am making a conscious choice: I choose to hope.

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Be the One Who Gives Hope

I am going to ask you to use your imagination for a moment.

Imagine you wake up from sleeping, and you can’t see anything because it is so dark. You don’t know where you are. You stand up and start to feel around to try to find something – anything – to help you figure out where you are or what to do. After stumbling around, you finally realize you are in an enclosed place, some sort of pit, and you are alone. You first instinct is to shout for help, but if anyone hears you, he or she is too consumed with his or her own life to stop and help you. You long for a lamp, a candle, a fire…anything to bring a glimmer of light to your dark pit, but none comes. You begin to wonder if you will forget what you look like; you are already starting to forget what your life was like before this darkness. After what seems like days, you hear footsteps somewhere distant. The person with the footsteps says, “Why don’t you just pull yourself out?” and walks away without a backward glance, but the voice remains, echoing in your head. You don’t WANT to live like this, but you see no way out. You wonder how long it will be before someone cares enough to find you. You can feel any hope you had slipping away with each passing moment. You try to sleep, in hopes that your despair won’t find you in your dreams, but you can’t. You wonder what you did to deserve this…why you are the one who’s alone in this darkness…why no one seems to care enough to help you. 

If you can imagine the scenario above, you now know what it’s like for people who have depression. Depression. This word has become so familiar to me that I almost forget about the stigma the rest of the world places on it. Still, it isn’t an easy word to define, especially to someone who has never experienced it. Depression is not something that someone can just decide not to have. So, if you know someone who struggles with depression, be the person who cares. Be the one who doesn’t seek to fix the “problem.” Be the one who listens. Be the one who gives hope.

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Whose Life is Better? The Sickness of Comparison

I have a sickness, and I think it’s a pretty common one. No matter where I am in life, I find myself comparing my life to the lives of everyone around me. Whether it’s my body or my love life (or lack thereof), I’m looking to see if my life measures up. I personally think this sickness of comparison may be one of the number one causes of unhappiness and discontentment among all people, but especially young people.

When we’re living in a constant state of comparison, we often decide that someone else has it better than we do. For example, I look at some super tiny girls who do not even try to look so skinny and great, but yet, they are. They eat tons of food and don’t exercise, but they still look like a model. Then, I look in the mirror and see the imperfection that is my body and think about how much worse it would look if I didn’t constantly monitor what I eat and how much I eat of it and if I didn’t run or work out at least 3 times a week. If I start thinking this way (and I REALLY struggle with this), my first thoughts are, “Well…THAT’S not fair. Why do I have to try so hard to look mediocre while they look perfect without trying?” There are so many more examples of this in my life: my dad dying, me being single with all my friends getting engaged/married, grades, friends, me not knowing what I am supposed to do with my life, etc. These thoughts have the potential to consume my life, and I hate to admit that some days, they do.

There is another side to the sickness of comparison: finding satisfaction in accomplishing more than others. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am competitive. I love games, and I want to win. While this might be (pretty much) harmless in a game of Bananagrams or Settlers of Catan, it’s not so harmless when it comes to the important things in life. I usually fall in that first category of thinking everyone else has it better than me, but because of that, when I do accomplish something that others have not or feel like I’ve come out on top for once, I am proud. I pride myself on the little things such as being super disciplined or even being “spiritual.” I’m not saying we should never be proud of ourselves at all, but when that comes with feeling superior to others, it’s wrong. Anything and everything we have accomplished is only by the grace of God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). God has given us every good thing in our lives, so we should be grateful and not proud, for we’ve accomplished nothing on our own.

So, what is the remedy for the sickness of comparison? I’m just learning myself, but here are some thoughts that might help:

1. Remember for whom you are living your life.

I don’t know about you, but I fall into the trap of trying to please everyone and meet the ever-so-high expectations of others. A lot of times, my unhappiness that is brought on by comparing myself to others is not due to not being who I want to be, but not being who everyone else wants me to be. Using the example from above, I look in the mirror and think I look all right, but then no one seems to notice me or give me any indication that I am attractive, so I start thinking, “Okay, no. Guys like her, so I need to be like her.” Then, I come to the conclusion that to be like her, I need to stop eating unhealthy food and start exercising. These practices become part of my everyday life, and they are not bad things, but who am I doing them for? Am I doing them for God? No, not really. Am I doing them for me? Maybe a little. Am I doing for some nonexistent, potential guy who might notice me? Yes. And that guy is NOT who I should be living my life for. When I’m fretting about what I am going to do with my life and what career I’m going to have, it is mostly because I worry that I will disappoint my mom and my family and that I won’t live up to my reputation. Basically, I want to be seen as successful by others. I want to be important, to be admired. But see, all of this points to living my life for others’ approval. The verse that has been used often to describe my dad applies here: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23). Yes, God wants us to work hard! BUT, it is for Him, not for anyone else.

2. Be thankful for what you have.

It is pretty darn easy to start feeling sorry for yourself when it seems everyone around you has more than you do. And I’m not just talking about material things. I’ve struggled so much with being alone. I was a bridesmaid in three weddings in 2013, and I played the piano at two (I think). Not only that, at least three more of my friends have gotten engaged within the last couple of months. Don’t get me wrong; I am SO happy for them. But it leaves me feeling sorry for myself and asking God why. Why have I always been alone? Let me give you and myself a reality check: we are blessed beyond measure, and we have so much. Now you might say, “Wait. You don’t know what my life is like.” That is true. But let me ask you this: Do you have access to clean water? Do you have access to medicine and doctors? Did you get the opportunity to go to school and graduate? I recently read that 780 million people in the world do not have access to clean water. Many of them walk for miles and miles each day just to find water that is contaminated with bacteria and animal feces. Friends, we are rich! I doubt that these people would be super worried about not finding the perfect guy/girl for them, as their families die around them from illnesses that our doctors could cure; as they spend their days working instead of going to school. Yes, it’s easy to feel sorry for ourselves when all we think about is ourselves. If you want to compare your life to someone else’s, try comparing it to someone in Haiti or Uganda, and I think you’ll find that you have a lot to be thankful for.

3. Know that everyone has their struggles.

I think one of the most damaging aspects of the sickness of comparison is thinking that you are alone in your situation. You look around and everyone seems happier than you and you think, “I’m the only one who feels like this.” After my dad died, all I could think about was that everyone else my age still has his or her father. I tried to go to a support group for loss of parents/siblings, but everyone there was way older than me, so I felt sorry for myself. I felt alone, like no one could understand how I was feeling. Ah, but that is so untrue. There are so many young people who have lost their parents in tragedy and some who never even knew their parents. And even if the people around me didn’t really understand how I felt, they were experiencing their own struggles, their own trials. No one’s life is perfect. No matter how much stuff a person has, how successful he or she is, or how happy he or she seems, I promise you that person is struggling with something. We are a broken people who form relationships with other broken people and try to live our lives in a broken world. We all experience pain. Keep in mind that even if someone’s pain seems less than yours, it might not be to them.

4. Find true contentment in Christ.

I know this might not seem like the most practical answer, but it is the most important. None of these things that I’ve mentioned is going to make you happy forever. As I mentioned before, you can have all the riches, beauty, earthly love, and success in the world, but in none of that will you find complete fulfillment and satisfaction. True contentment only comes through a growing relationship with Jesus, not from getting what someone else has or being more successful than someone else. Now, I’m not saying it’s easy because I surely have not arrived. But I can say this: the closer I am to Christ, the more focused I am on Him and not myself. We are here to serve and glorify God in all we do with the gifts that He has given us. Instead of focusing on what we can’t do, let’s focus on what God can do THROUGH us. God has a perfect plan, and we must submit ourselves to his sovereignty, throwing away how we think things should be. Until we do that, I’m convinced that we will be unhappy and discontent, stuck in our sickness of comparison.

I hope reading about my struggles with comparison helped you in some way. Thanks so much for reading…until next time!

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Patience and Contentment

Patience – the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset

Contentment – A state of happiness and satisfaction

I used to think that I was a patient person. After all, I am a good listener and I don’t get angry very often. Over the last few years, two things have helped me realize that I am not the patient person I thought I was: rush hour traffic and waiting for my future to happen. Now, I could rant about traffic for ages and never get to my second point, which is much more important, so I will hold off on the traffic rant for now.

The future can be a scary thing. At some point in life, I think we all have dreams or visions of what we want our future to be like or at least what we think it will be like. For as long as I can remember, I have just wanted to become the person that God made me to be and fulfill my purpose in life for His glory. The scary part is that I have no clue what that looks like exactly. I don’t do well going into things blindly. I have always said that if God would come down and tell me exactly what He wants me to do with my life, I would do it wholeheartedly without question. But that would not require much faith or trust.

I see my future as this far away place that I can’t seem to reach. In true American fashion, I want it all now instead of patiently waiting for it. I want to find the love of my life NOW; I want to know I’m fulfilling my calling NOW. It’s almost like I think my life actually starts when and if I ever make it to that place. This mindset is totally absent of patience and trust in God, who holds my future, and it also hinders how I live today. Jon Foreman said

“I’m learning how much I have to learn, how little I know, how fragile my understanding is. I’m learning to be thankful and patient; today is all that we will ever have in this life. If we spend our time obsessing with the future or regretting the past then we will never live. Tomorrow will always be tomorrow and yesterday cannot be changed. The wise man seeks God in the now and brings both his regrets and fears before Him.”

I look around, and it seems like I am the only one of my peers still waiting for these things. I immediately start to question. Why do I have to wait? What is it about me that puts these things out of my reach? Will I ever be married? If not, why do I have to be the one who doesn’t find my soulmate? What is the use in my natural talents if I can’t find any substantial way to use them? And the questions and doubts go on and on. Something that sticks out to me as I read over these questions is that they are all centered on myself and what I think will make me happy. These questions are all natural but also selfish.

I think that patience and contentment go hand in hand. The kind of contentment I am talking about is not the idea of being complacent and stuck in a comfort zone. I think we should always challenge ourselves to change things for the better if that is possible. However, some things we cannot change, and I find that sometimes the harder I try, the farther away those things seem to be. The kind of contentment I am talking about is one that can only be found in Christ. The things of this life will never satisfy us. A person can have a seemingly “perfect” life – love, success, money, beauty – and still be discontent, wanting more. While I am impatiently waiting for these things, I cannot enjoy what I have right now. While I beg and plead for God to fill me in on my life’s calling, I miss the opportunities that He has for me to serve Him right now. In my state of impatience, I cannot be content.

We have to realize that as we live each day, God is preparing us for our future. Sometimes I think that I would like to wake up tomorrow, move to Africa, and serve as a missionary for the rest of my life. While that wouldn’t be a bad thing, I know that I am not ready for that. I have to be patient. I remind myself constantly that Jesus did not start his earthly ministry until he was thirty years old. What we are experiencing now is making us who we are. The best advice I have ever been given is to take things one day at a time. If I start thinking about years down the road and whether or not I will have this or that, all I can do is worry. But, if I look at just today, the worries become a lot smaller. A friend of mine once compared our lives to an alarm clock. We are asleep and the alarm goes off, and we hit the snooze button and think “I’ll get up when the time is right” or “I’ll get up when I’m not as tired,” and we go back to sleep. We cannot live our lives saying “I will be content when…” If we live that way, we are bound to never understand true contentment.

I feel like my thoughts have been everywhere in this post, but I hope my point is clear. As I work on being content with what God has for me right now and patient for what He has in store, I encourage you to do the same.

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Different Faces, Different Fears

Here I am again, with things on my mind. Today at work, I thought of four different things about which I could post. I finally decided on one tonight, and maybe the others will follow soon. 

First, I want you to look into the past and picture an earlier version of yourself. I’m thinking back seven years and picturing 15-year-old Lydia. Think about your personality, your interactions with others, your activities, how you viewed the world. Now, consider what has changed since then. How is your view of the world different? In what ways are you a better person?

I, for one, was incredibly naive at age fifteen. My naivety had its pros and cons. Sometimes, when I read some of the things I wrote at that age, I long to be that girl again, thinking that the world is simple and easy to understand. While it’s true that I have become more cynical through painful reality, it’s also true that I have become a better person. There are many ways in which I have grown over the years, but one has really stood out to me lately: I do not judge people nearly as much as I used to. As I talked about in my last post, I am a perfectionist. I have always tried really hard to do “the right thing” in order to please God, please my parents, etc. As a young teenager, it was hard for me to understand why others seemed not to try as hard as I did. Because I followed the rules and did what I was told to do, I thought I was better than everyone. Don’t get me wrong. I was never one to take pride in my accomplishments or abilities; in fact, I hated getting recognition for anything like that (and still do). But I felt superior because I cared about doing what was right when others seemed not to. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to do the right thing, but looking down on others in order to feel good about yourself is definitely wrong. 

Since then, as I have faced difficult times, I have become more and more aware of the fact that we are all same. Without God’s grace, there is no distinction between a good person and a bad person…at least not one that really matters. There is a Tenth Avenue North song called “All the Same” that I recommend you listen to. This is my favorite part:

“Different faces, different fears,

different failures lead us here;

Show us how

We’re all the same, desperate for a change.

We’re all the same, we need Your love, we need Your love.” 

 

Over the last few months, I have been grieving the loss of my daddy, who was probably the person I loved most in the world. Let me just tell you: it’s hard. No longer do I judge those who fall into the pit of depression or those who turn to drugs to try to escape the pain. I can only praise God for his grace because without it, I have no idea where I would be as I try to deal with this grief. Life is not easy, and the world is not simple. We all have different fears and failures, different pasts and pains. Let us not compare ourselves to each other, thinking that we’re better, or judge another person for how he or she lives life. If we compare ourselves to God, we find that we’re all the same. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). People do not need our judgment, they need our love. They need God’s love…don’t we all?

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Perfectionism: a vicious cycle, an unlikely idol

“The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible waste of time.” –Edwin Bliss

Today, as I sat at Starbucks reading my Bible, it occurred to me that I have things to say. What I mean is, I have thoughts that I want to share with whomever is willing to listen to them. While normally I satisfy this want by writing in my journal, I have realized that my journal rarely talks back. So, my natural solution to this is to start a blog. Even if Jodi is the only one who reads it, at least I know my thoughts are out there.

I have been a perfectionist for as long as I can remember. However, it took most of my life so far to figure out that it is not really a good thing. I just looked up the definition: perfectionism – the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. I have come to realize that most of the issues with which I struggle somehow stem from my striving for perfection.

As a kid, I sought to be perfect in the sight of any authority figure. I wanted to please my parents, my teachers, my Sunday School teachers, etc. more than anything. I know that doesn’t seem so bad…after all, on the surface, the desire to do the right thing because it is right often produces the same results. But I craved affirmation and acceptance a lot more than the satisfaction of doing the right thing. And with that yearning to please came the fear of disappointing those same people. The fear of causing disappointment was actually a stronger motivation to be perfect.

And so began the vicious cycle of perfectionism. The cycle starts with demanding unrealistic expectations of oneself and figuring out what to do to reach those expectations. Then, when those attempts to be perfect inevitably fail, the perfectionist experiences extreme negative thoughts and feelings involving self-blame and self-reproach. The thoughts “I’m never good enough” or “I can’t do anything right” are common among people like me. Next, these thoughts and attitudes end up hindering any progress at all. I can’t count the number of times I have thought “I don’t know why I even try. I am never going to accomplish anything.” Interestingly enough, striving for perfection usually results in procrastination and stagnancy. Finally, the perfectionist realizes he or she has gotten nowhere, resumes the unrealistic expectations, and starts again.

Until I got to college, I had no real understanding of perfectionism as a weakness. Nothing had challenged me quite enough to realize it until then. When I got to college, I realized how much better others were at everything. I was immediately aware of my inadequacy as I listened to others in my piano studio and saw tons of skinny, beautiful, fashionable girls walking around campus. So, I resolved to work as hard as possible to “fix” myself. The problem with my perfectionist, “all-or-nothing” mentality is this: it can’t last. After about a week of depriving myself of fun and good food, I’m done. The burn-out is already there. As I progressed to harder math classes in college, I was forced to lower my standard of perfection, and by my senior year, I had a pretty good balance with my schoolwork. True, there were still piano lessons that ended in tears and days when I loathed myself for not being good enough, but those days came less often than before.

My whole life, I have struggled to find out how to pursue excellence without pursuing perfection. I still don’t really have the answer, but there is one revelation that is key in my recovery process: perfectionism is my idol. When I was a teenager in my youth group, we talked about the idea that today, the idols we make aren’t usually made from stone. An idol can be anything that you put before God in your life. It can be money, a car, a job, and even family. One way to pinpoint an idol in your life is to consider what you think about and dwell on the most. I dwell on fixing myself. Whether it’s being a better person, losing weight, being successful, pleasing others, or even pleasing God, I’m dwelling on it. I know the only way I can conquer perfectionism is to acknowledge that it is an idol in my life and to confess it to God and turn it over to Him. However, that is so much easier said than done. I pray and try to let go. Then, I feel as if I’m not doing any better, and I get mad at myself for that and give up.

The very idea that I could be perfect in my own strength is ridiculous. Until I am willing to let go and turn my strivings to fix myself into strivings to know God more and experience his grace fully, I will be bound by perfectionism. This is my struggle, this battle within myself.

I don’t know if anyone who reads this will relate to it or not, but I hope that it helps someone see that the harder we hold on to our desires to be perfect, the further we are from actually making any progress.

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