Someone once told me—and by someone, I mean my mother, who always finds her way into these reflections of mine—anyway, she told me that it looked exhausting to live my life. “You are only happy when things are exactly the way you want them to be,” she said. I believe I answered by showing her the whites of my eyes.
I mean, of course I was happy when things happened the way I planned! What kind of insane person wouldn’t want that? But I was missing her whole point. I was ONLY happy when things were going to the letter of my way. Meaning, during the inevitable 90% of the time when life was NOT working out exactly like how I planned, I was always left frustrated and disappointed, fully aware of and suffocating in my lack.
Indeed, it was exhausting to live my life. Well, that life.
There was a time when I truly believed that my never-settle-for-less-than-the-best (!!!) attitude was the greatest part of myself. I lived life in such a way that my identity was founded on control, achievement, and perfection. Looking back, it was an extremely toxic way to live. In my relentless pursuit of the best, I would always find that someone or something else was better. In my need to control and be perfect, I would always be met with the reality that not much is within my control and that I am lightyears away from being without fault. I thought perfectionism was letting me build this beautiful life, when in truth, all it did was highlight everything that was ugly.
When I decided I would let go of this impossible path to perfection, it was not easy. You can’t undo years of compounded habits in a day, even when you have the strongest and most well-intentioned of mindsets. So, it is a choice I make every single day not to succumb to my need to be in control, and in my choosing so every day, it’s these little things have made huge differences for me:
1. Pursuing fullness, not perfection. For the longest time, I thought my life needed to be perfect for it to have meaning. But actually, I just needed to find meaning for my life to feel perfect.
Practically speaking, pursuing fullness for me meant asking this question: Who or what genuinely fulfills me? And then simply making more time in my life for the answer, even though it might not be the most attractive on paper. For me, pursuing fullness means pursuing God and arranging my life in such a way that I can love my family and my friends fully.
2. Living life as if every single day were a gift. I truly believe that this life was just given to me on loan by God. Whether or not you believe that, you’ll find that waking up with gratitude each day will open your eyes to so much more things to be thankful for, which gives so much more joy and purpose to what could have been “just another day.”
3. Continuing to go after what’s best, while leaving room for life to surprise me with something better. To be clear, letting go of perfection does not mean slacking. There is a fruitful middle I believe we can all thrive in, and it entails this: still planning to the best of your ability, while simultaneously being open to change, fully believing that a change in plans only means something is waiting that’s even better than what you thought was best.
As recent as two years ago, I would not have imagined writing down everything I just did. Which just goes to show that in this life, what remains unchanging is change. So if you are currently on the path of perfection, but have been seeking a different way, it’s not just the possibility of change that awaits you—actual change does. Now it’s just matter of asking—will you open yourself up to it?