How I Stopped Wanting to be Perfect

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?

Advertisements

Why I Don’t Have Dreams for Myself

I was asked recently, “What’s your dream?” And for the first time in my life, I was dumbfounded. From the age of 12, I’ve always known how to answer that question. To be an anchorwoman! A journalist! An editor-in-chief! An ARTISTA! (This latter one was crushed early on.)

But also fairly recently, I was offered a shot of realizing my biggest dream and I—yes, also to my surprise—turned it down. The short of it, I realized that fulfilling this dream won’t give me the contentment I yearned for. And that’s when I realized something about dreams—they are not sources of true joy.

Chances are, you are NOT like me. You may not know what you want now, but you know what you want to be. You’ve identified THE DREAM! To be a CEO. A lawyer. An actor. A world-class athlete. If you’re hot on pursuit of your Big Dream, I’m not telling you not to go for it—by all means do—but also know that your life here does not end with just a dream, with what you imagine and desire for yourself. Take it from someone who had her dreams realized early on—dreams are not all they are chalked up to be. If you, like me, are hungry for that sense of genuine, I-feel-it-in-my-bones fulfillment, for joy that doesn’t cease even as your circumstances change, you can’t stop with chasing your dream—you’ve got to pursue your calling.

The difference? A dream asks, What do I want to be? Or, What do I want for myself? But a calling, by nature, is connected to something or someone who calls. It is not just about you. A calling asks, What does the world need me to be? Or, what has God called me to do? A dream satisfies one soul—yours—but a calling fulfills a whole—you and the others around you.

To the question, So how do I find my calling?, I don’t have a clear-cut answer. However (though 25 years of existence doesn’t count as much experience, so perhaps take the next statement with a grain of salt), I’ve also realized that while you may have one big, overarching calling, this calling takes form in different roles throughout many seasons of your life.

Simply put, what you are doing now may not be what you will do forever, but, if you constantly frame your life in pursuit of a calling—or, better yet, if you stay open to the idea that wherever you are now is already a part of what you are called to do—this will slowly, eventually help you get to where you are supposed to be and become who you were created to be, and appreciate the process of progressing and becoming while you’re at it.

What helps me? A lot of praying. A lot of Bible reading. A lot of crying and failing. And a lot of doing whatever I’m currently doing to the best of my ability, because pursuing your calling always requires the pursuit of excellence, too.

So don’t stop at chasing and catching dreams. The life you’ve been given has much more potential than that. Why feed one soul when you can go for the whole?

Who Can Love Me for Who I Am?

Whenever I find myself at the end of a romantic relationship, after grieving the loss of love and time invested over the years, I am always faced with fear that I allow to seep and settle in the corners of my mind and heart. For some reason, I am—or I used to be—very good at convincing myself that no one is ever going to love me like that one person did.

I am selfish, unaffectionate, too single-minded and upfront, I tell myself. I care about my goals and my own successes so much, and never as much as I do for others’ plans. I don’t like holding hands, absolutely loathe being called babe (I cringe as I write it)… I am quick to get angry, quick to spout venom through the things I say. I will tell you when you look ugly and will never mince my words. My goodness, who can love someone who’s wired that way?

When I got out of a relationship last January, this thought—that me and my callous heart will probably be destined for a life alone—plagued me. So I prayed and I prayed and I prayed, not just for God to unburden me with thoughts that I knew were not from Him, but also to work on me, to give me experiences that will teach me to be more loving and more patient. To be kinder and gentler.

To this day, this continues to be my prayer. And though I still have much to improve on, I find peace that at the very least, I’m on the path toward being the woman God wants me to be. A crystal clear example? I no longer roll my car window down to shout at truck drivers who don’t give me way on the road. Instead, I put worship music on full blast, and convince myself that every driver cutting me really needs to get to a toilet quick due to severe diarrhea. (I must say, IT WORKS.)

However, these days, although not as much as I used to, I still ask find myself asking the same question. Who can love me for who I am?

When I truly surrendered my life to God six months ago, I realized that no one is ever going to love me the way He does. He loved me first and with love so unexplainable that the only reasonable way to reciprocate is to live my life loving Him in a way I can never love anyone else.

So who can love me for who I am? Because who I am is a woman whose future boyfriend or husband will have to accept that he will always come in second. Before I greet him good morning, I would’ve talked to Jesus first. And after I bid him good night, my last words for the day would be whispered to God instead. And when I encounter troubles or reasons to celebrate, he will never be the first to know, because I would’ve prayed about it first. The first consultation for future plans will always be with God. That last word for what to do next will always be from God. Who can love someone who’s now wired this way?

Someday, I hope God gives me the answer to this question. I know He’s working on whoever He made for me, just as He is working on me today.

Until then, I will bask in and relish my time with Him. They say that your life a single person will be your shortest, so why rush? Truly, there is so much excitement and joy waiting to be encountered in having this Christ-filled life all to myself.

Trading Places

A few hours ago, I was lying on a patch of grass in Switzerland.

The sun was kind and bright, warming up my face, my hair and every bit else of my body that had just endured a long bike ride along Lake Geneva. My toes were digging up against the damp grass, I think the previous night’s showers left behind some raindrops to dry. The air smelled of earth and new chances.

I blinked my eyes open towards the sky and squinted a bit. The sun, I remembered, was good for sunbathing but not so much for staring. I looked to my right, where blades of grass scratched my nose, and inhaled as much as I could of that pure, untainted air.

I propped myself up, and there it was, a glistening Lake Geneva staring at me, mountains for a background and all.

You know how it is when you catch a glimpse of someone’s life– a movie star, an athlete, a model, a writer– and think, wow, if only I could switch places with her for a day. I thought about that today, and you know what the best part was? I was thinking of me.

There I was, a healthy, vibrant 19-year-old, sunbathing without care in front of one of the world’s most picturesque sights. But the moment wasn’t forever– I had to leave after a few hours, boarding a plane back home to Paris.

Never in my life have I willingly wanted to be me. But if you asked me now, who I would like trade places with for a day, there’s only one other person in my mind. I don’t ever want to forget this day– the day I finally realized just how much I love my life, and how blessed I feel to be the one living it.

Lake Geneva, Switzerland