A couple of years ago, a friend who coached high school track told me about a girl who stopped being able to high jump. Despite having performed beautifully the previous year, the girl became convinced that she couldn't, and completely psyched herself out.
I have thought of that girl several times over the last couple of months. I did reasonably well academically in the fall, and it messed with my mind this semester. Perfectionism is eating my brain, and chasing me through my days. Zombie Perfectionism. It's horrible. It's not even inflated expectations-- high expectations are good, they demonstrate belief in one's capacity. The zombies don't say, "you must get an A!" Perfectionism for me is nasty, hissing, low expectations. "That was a fluke. You can't possibly do well again. Everyone's going to see that you're not good enough."
My closest friends are freakishly, alarmingly, shockingly smart. Really. And I love that about them, I love learning from them. I'm bright enough, but my IQ (as West Wing's Josh once claimed) doesn't break the bank. There's a part of me that looked at going back to school as a chance to play in the big leagues, to prove that I belong around those really smart people. That's when the Perfectionism Zombies took over. They ate my love of learning (do you know how much I love new ideas and new books and beautiful words?), they devoured my self-esteem, and they ripped the holy crap out of my reliance on God.
I have one more week of class, 3 more assignments to finish. I've done fine, but not great. Strangely, I've also done less. Not less work (although maybe fewer total pages have been written), but less balanced-life-stuff. Less joy, less dusting and ironing, less prayer. I'm starting to notice that when I do laundry, pay attention to loved ones, sew a little, the perfectionism abates. When I round out my life, my worth doesn't hinge on how well I'm doing that one thing.
So here I am, learning for the bazillionth time to be a whole person, and to rest with God instead of darting off on my own. It's damn hard to turn things over to God when I'm spending all that energy doing it MYSELF. It's so, so, so hard to trust that I'm good enough without being perfect. But I think I have to pick between trying to be perfect at something, or letting God make me whole. I'd rather be whole.
For the moment.
The Feast of the Annunciation
13 hours ago