“Is it in perfect condition?”
A friend of mine recently shared a post on social media that resonated with me for an entirely different reason than she most likely intended.
This friend owns an antique business and I happen to be a huge fan of hers, partly due to her incredible sense of style but perhaps even more so because she is “real” and has the type of grit that can only come from a life fully lived and all that goes with that. She would describe her wares as ‘junk’ but, nothing could be further from the truth. She has quite a keen eye and is truly gifted at finding uniquely beautiful treasures that the average person might overlook or dismiss.
One day a prospective client was inquiring about a piece that was for sale and asked my friend if the item was ‘in perfect condition.’ The question, while innocent enough, sparked a reply from my friend that went as follows (edited):
“Nothing in my store is ‘in perfect condition’. Some things are very old, and everything has had a previous life. However, it’s all in great condition and certainly ready for the next chapter in its story. Each piece, whether there is an imperfection or not, was hand selected. New and ‘perfect’ will never be found in my market… but good quality ‘junk’ at amazing prices will be!”
My friend’s reply struck a chord with me. You see, I’ve spent a lot of time in my life trying to give the appearance that my life was in perfect condition, even when nothing could have been farther from the truth.
Growing up an only-child and the daughter of a Pastor, I was born a people-pleaser and I learned at an early age how important it can be to keep up appearances.
Once I had a family of my own, I wanted so badly to be the “perfect Wife and Mom” but what I remember most about that season of life is feeling that I was falling far short at both.
Whether it was in my personal life or in my career, the more I tried to be perfect, the more my self-esteem struggled. It seemed the goal was always moving, and we all know that it’s harder to hit a moving target. From the outside looking in, I might have seemed to have it all together but on the inside I never felt pretty enough, smart enough or even remotely worthy.
What I wish I had known back then is that perfection is an illusion. It’s worth pointing out that some of the pressure I felt was self-inflicted; some wasn’t. Sometimes we accept unrealistic and unhealthy expectations from others only to feel horrible about ourselves when we don’t measure up. And sadly, there will always plenty of people who are happy seeing others struggle. (It is almost always due to their own insecurities.) Regardless, none of that energy I spent worrying about what other people thought was productive. It robbed me of joy and from being present in moments that I can never get back.
Thankfully, with age has come a little bit of wisdom. I’ve learned that life is fluid. Jobs, things, and sometimes even people, come and go. While I believe in giving my very best to whatever it is that I do, I’ve also learned that my career, my social status, my appearance, my income…none of that can be the source of my joy because all of that is temporary.
With that new-found wisdom came a desire to change. To ‘let it go’.
So how did I change? How did I become a ‘semi-reformed perfectionist’?
First, I realized that I had to stop comparing myself to others.
Have you ever felt “less-than”? Boy, I have! It’s so easy to see someone we think has it all together and feel that we can never measure up but try to remember…people tend to only show what they want others to see.
Going through my own life challenges has taught me that we ALL have ‘stuff’. Every one of us. Chances are, if you could see the reality of what other folks’ ‘stuff’ looked like, you would wouldn’t want to trade yours for theirs.
Second, I focused on having a grateful heart.
Success…beauty…wealth…all that stuff is relative. Yes; some folks may have more than you, but I bet there are more people with much less.
Do we want to make the best use of what we have? Absolutely! That’s just being a good steward of what we have been given. Do we still try to look our best? Of course! But everything in balance.
Do you remember the old Hymn, “Count Your Blessings”? That song still has a powerful message. “Count your blessings…name them one by one…count your many blessings, see what God has done!” When we live life with a grateful heart for what we already have…health, family and friends we love, a job that helps pay the bills…a roof over our head…food to feed our families… it changes our perspective and our outlook.
Third, I began to enjoy and share what I had, rather than focusing on what I felt I lacked.
I have a dear friend that I’ve known for close to 20 years now. She is an Interior Designer and has a fantastic gift of Hospitality. She has a way of bringing people together that I’ve always admired, yet early in our friendship I was quite intimidated by her. (She will laugh when she reads this comment later because she is seriously one of the sweetest and most unpretentious people I know.) But seriously…I was intimidated because my home was very modest when compared to hers. I would walk through my house, and instead of having a grateful heart, I would make mental notes of all that was wrong or wasn’t nice enough. It’s one thing to have a running list of repairs or projects…but it’s another thing to have a critical spirit and I had the latter. I didn’t want to invite friends over because I was embarrassed. Isn’t that just sad??
Thankfully one day I had an epiphany! My friends were good people and they really didn’t care if my cabinets needed a new coat of paint. I learned that true hospitality isn’t about how big and fancy your home is, or how amazing you set your table: it’s simply sharing what you have. It doesn’t have to be perfect…it just has to be genuine.
So, that brings me back full circle to the question that sparked this blog post.
“Is it…(am I…are you…) in perfect condition?”
You already know the answer. None of us are perfect. But just like those beautiful reclaimed treasures that my friend with the keen eye finds on the regular, each of us have been hand-selected for a purpose.
We ALL have a previous life. We may have imperfections and flaws but that only adds to the richness and beauty of our character. Those situations that damaged us have help mold us into who we are today.
Choosing to live each day with a grateful and open heart…giving from whatever place God has blessed us, helps us to let go of the illusion and bondage of perfectionism and that is what truly frees us to ‘live our best life’.
I’m only semi-reformed and I continue to be a work in progress, but as I learn to seek excellence in what I do rather than perfection, I’m finding a greater sense of peace and joy along the journey. I can live with that.