Today on the blog, we’re talking about stress and how to deal with the pressure of competing priorities. Read on. And if you want more, then join me in the process of moving from perfectionism to wholeness – from stress to rest – by signing up here to get updates on the launch of my book, Enough.
Halloween is nearly upon us, which means it’s going to be Christmas tomorrow. Not really, but that’s often how this season feels, isn’t it? November through January can feel like a blur of parties and presents and competing priorities. Blink, and two whole months have suddenly passed by in a flurry!
Somehow I’ve already managed to double-book myself – not once, but three times. As a result, I’ve reneged on RSVPs, declined party invitations, and missed a dear friend’s birthday celebration. And I’ve mistakenly committed to being at a church retreat in Santa Cruz and my company’s holiday party on the same weekend in December. Yeah, that’s not going to work out so well.
As my plate gets more and more full, I feel the tug between needing to prioritize and not wanting to let anything go. There’s too much to do and yet I also feel like I’m not doing enough.
Do you know that feeling? When it’s all too much and you’re either going to cry from the sense of overwhelm or freeze from decision paralysis? When you’re operating on autopilot because it’s all you can do to just get your work done – or maybe not even that – and go home and crash at the end of the day?
The struggle is real.
When I get to this point, I know it’s time to stop, slow down, and seek God. We weren’t made to live at a breakneck speed. We were made for life-giving creative work paired with rest and enjoyment of that creation (Genesis 2:2-3). We were made for relationships not requirements (Genesis 2:18-25). And yet in our culture of FOMO – fear of missing out – it’s easy to get sucked into simply trying to keep up. No one wants to be forgotten.
But the truth is that if we’re all feeling this way – and I’m pretty sure most people do to some degree – then the best thing to do would be to just cut each other a little slack. Otherwise, we’ll just drown in the sea of expectation and exhaustion.
I’m a mantra girl. Repetition helps me slow down – plus I need constant reminders in order for truth to stick in my mind and heart.
One of my newest mantras is: I’m doing my best. Or, when focused on another person: He’s doing his best or She’s doing her best.
“Doing your best” has developed a bit of a negative connotation. Many people look at it as a concession.
She was just doing her best. = She failed, but at least she tried.
He did his best. = He went for it but missed the mark.
I’m doing my best. = I’m complaining about the fact that I’m incompetent.
It’s unfortunate that we’ve taken the word “best” in this context and made it something negative, something “less than.”
What if you actually believed that your best was truly best – the best you can do in a given moment, and the best for you, for your soul? What if you started assuming the best intentions in other people? What if we gave each other a whole lot more grace?
We’d be less stressed and more pleasant people to be around. We’d be healthier more effective in our work – because stress has been proven to mess with everything from our digestion to our decision-making. We’d be more comfortable in our friendships, and more understanding when things get off course – because most of the time, we really are just doing our best.
But believing that we’re doing our best takes time. It takes a re-training of our mindsets. It requires aiming for “good enough” instead of “more” and “better” and “must be perfect all the time.” That’s the recovery from perfectionism that I’ve been journeying through over the last few years. It’s the whole point of the book I’m writing: Enough.
What if “good enough” really was good, in our minds? What if “enough” was enough?
We wouldn’t second-guess every decision. We’d be more content with our choices. We’d live from a place of gratitude instead of scarcity. We’d experience more peace instead of constantly needing to accumulate more or do more.
GK Chesterson put it so well: “There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”
As I continue to press into this concept of “enough,” I have to continually remind myself to desire less and be thankful for what’s in front of me. Even if that means saying no to some good things. Because a frayed-at-the-edges-constantly-hustling-always-on Laura isn’t good for anyone.
Of course, it’s easy to get pulled back into the vortex of perfectionism. Which is why we recovering perfectionists have to surround ourselves with a supportive community and gather practical tools and truth mantras to re-train our minds and learn new ways of living. That’s the whole point of Enough, and I can’t wait to share more with you soon.
On the road to recovery, the desire for perfection doesn’t go away; it simply gets re-shaped, re-defined.
Jesus says, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21, NIV)
He actually gives us the recipe for perfection here. And what is it? It’s less. It’s letting go. The antidote to the striving stressful life is to give it all away.
The perfection we receive in return isn’t the polished, accomplished, admired image that the world we live in is constantly chasing. This perfection is wholeness, completeness, rest. The Greek word for “perfect” in the verse above is “teleios,” meaning brought to its end, finished; lacking nothing necessary to completeness; perfect. The way to be perfect is to lack nothing; and to lack nothing, we have to give it all away. When we let go, we open our hands to a life of wholeness instead of back-breaking strife.
So, in this season that is ripe for stress, I’m embracing one more mantra that one of my favorite authors repeats to herself: More love. Less hustle. Or, as another way of putting it: More softness. Less stress.
When I’m out there hustling and striving and straining to be and do all that I think I should, I’m a mess. When I’m out there just loving and being soft with myself and with other people, God can actually use me and gift me with the peace and enjoyment he longs for me to have. Because you can either be perfectly-polished in the world’s eyes and admired – but absolutely dying on the inside. Or you can be known and loved – and more free and full of life as a result.
So, I hope you’ll join me in making this a season of softness, not stress. A time for heart, not hustle. When commitments come up and you start to feel that stress creep back in, ask yourself:
- Can I take this on from a place of love and graciousness? Or do I need to say no in order to honor existing commitments?
- Would I be saying yes because I feel obligated or afraid of disappointing someone? How can ask God’s help in removing that fear?
- What needs to change in my heart to make me a more loving, peaceful person?
- How can I care for myself in this season? What would nurture my soul?
Now, go out and enjoy this day. Take time to be slow. Because when you do, everything else will flow more smoothly. It really will be good enough.
And if you’d like to join me in moving from perfectionism to wholeness – from more striving to less stress – sign up here to get updates on the launch of Enough.