I came across this article I wrote for this magazine back here and it somehow reminded me if I'm doing all that I can, and seeking guidance in the right places, I am enough and I need to take it a little easier on myself.
I just thought I'd share what I wrote. The first part is familiar because I used a story in an old blog entry, but the rest is new, with some insights from Dave. Here you go:
Although I have a horrible memory, there are a few things I remember vividly from growing up: the summer my Dad had us lug big rocks up to our cabin at Bear Lake as the only way to make some money, and how my second grade teacher's name was Mrs. Whaley which I thought that was the grandest name in the whole wide world. I remember little things like how sometimes when we lived in England my Mom would play the piano as we'd fall asleep at night (and I remember how wonderful it felt to be lulled into dreamland by it) and I remember clear as day how amazing I thought I was at manipulating the "bars" at recess in third grade. I could do the "dead-mans-fall" over and over and over again like nobody's business.
One of those things I remember was the way my Dad would sometimes tuck us up onto his lap as kids and talk to us about what we were good at. He'd ask us what we thought our talents were and each time we suggested something he'd wholeheartedly agree, and write the first letter of each talent we named on one of our fingertips. For example, if I told him I thought I was pretty ok at taking care of babies, he'd write a big "B" on one finger for "babies," then perhaps an "F" on the next finger for how I could do flips on the trampoline. He'd also add in what he thought we were good at when we got stumped.
It made me happy.
It made me feel capable.
Because really, if my Dad thought I was good at it, then it must be true.
It was such a simple world back then…the world of my youth. But as I grew, like many of us, I became more exposed to the real world. The world where neighbors could back flip circles around my wimpy trampoline flip and my supposed babysitting and art skills dimmed almost to obliteration when compared to the flashy talents of others.
So I set higher expectations on myself.
I began to strive to reach that pinnacle peak where I would be “enough” to all those around me.
But I realized that the trouble with that tactic is that if I compared myself to others, I’d never, ever be enough. Because it’s part of human nature to compare our worst to their best. And that’s not what “being enough” is all about.
We must realize that the only person we can truly compare ourselves to is ourselves. We want to be our best selves. And we are the only ones who can discover who that “best self” really is amidst the layers of self-criticism and uncertainty that filter in from the world.
My husband is a runner. He didn’t start out that way, but he set his mind to work at it and took off. He has become a good runner not because he has pined away watching others wishing he could be as fast or as smooth as they are. He realizes everyone has different lung capacity, different length stride, different motivations. So he sets goals for himself, completely unrelated to those guys he admires in the running magazines. Or even his friends. Only he knows how much he can push himself. And only he can decide he’s going to go the distance and how far that “distance” will be.
We are all runners in life. Without a doubt we are surrounded by people on all sides who are going to be able to do things better than we can. But we need to let that go. We need to set goals and strive to be the best we can be, completely unrelated to how talented someone on Pinterest or Facebook may seem to be. In our generation we are surrounded on all sides with things that show us the strengths of others. We see all the good on blogs and Facebook where it’s easy for life to look perfect on that one-dimensional view we get from cyberspace. This can be inspiring and uplifting or it can throw us into a swirl of depression.
I got this note from a blog reader the other day and I’ve been thinking about it ever since:
I feel like I am stuck in a world with so many expectations. Expectations to have a perfectly clean and organized house, expectations to have the picture perfect family life with the perfect relationship with my husband and the perfectly groomed and well behaved children. It seems like everywhere I turn on blogs and Facebook, etc. I get those vibes. It seems like the harder I try, the harder I fall. I try to be the best I can be and it seems like I get more impatient, my house gets less organized, and I seem farther away from the gospel than ever. What do you do to keep it all together?
My answer to this is that I try not to compare myself to others. I try to compare myself to myself. Sure it’s great to be inspired by others. Sure it’s great to have role-models and to strive for excellence. But the tricky part is to figure out what is enough for us personally. That is what will bring true happiness.
If we believe in ourselves, we can make good things happen. And that will be enough.
The other day I got out my ballpoint pen and scooped my seven-year-old up on my lap to talk to her about her talents.
She beamed. She looked just like I remember feeling after getting my fingers all marked up years and years ago.
Delight poured out of her for the next hour.
And before long she had her sisters gathered around on the couch and was telling them about their talents. They were mesmerized. In each other’s eyes they were “enough.” And because of that, they glowed.
I think it is essential to observe right here and now that being enough does not mean we’re at the end of the ride and we can just coast by in life. We need to be striving for greatness and to propel ourselves forward in all that we do. In fact, my husband thinks that along with writing what kids are good at on their fingertips, we should add a few things they need to work on on their toes. Because working hard gives us confidence and happiness. We will never really be done striving to be our best self. And that’s ok.
But the key to remember is that it is our best self we are looking to be “enough.” Not some random person in the virtual reality our computer screens bring into our homes, or a friend, or a neighbor from down the street. We’re competing only against ourselves. And with each step of becoming ourselves we become happier and more confident.
How I hope that my children can remember not to compare those talents on their fingertips to others who may have completely different strengths and weaknesses than they do.
And that they can figure out some good things to challenge themselves on to write on their toes as well.