Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Lenten Lesson: Letting Go of Perfection

I will be the first to admit that I'm somewhat of a perfectionist. And by "somewhat" I mean "lady, sing 'Let it Go' because perfection is unattainable."

Towards the middle-end of Lent, I asked the four people who know me best what they thought I needed to work on. Wanting to be the best version of myself, I knew there were things I would undoubtedly be in denial of. My bestie replied -- honestly but gently -- that I'm too hard on myself and that I'm quick to put myself down. It's true. It's a horrible habit that I developed in my pre-teens/teens. I can pinpoint with whom it started and why I took it hard. While I'm not angry nor do I hold ill will towards the person, it became clear that this needed to change. I was so much happier and healthier before this habit became stubborn and hard to shake off. Wanting to be more confident and comfortable with who I am, I decided to make this change.

Slowly, I noticed my perfectionist/negative side keeping me back on matters of the faith. Honesty time: I can border on being scrupulous at times. "No, we have to do things this way" or "Oh, my... if I do/don't do x, y, and z I won't be able to receive communion." Sound familiar to anyone? Two Sundays ago my mother called to ask if I could help her at work because she was feeling anxious and overwhelmed with the workload. I was so tempted to say "It's Sunday! It's supposed to be a day of rest" but then I thought about what Jesus might be happier with -- the fact that I observed the day of rest or that I decided to help my mother out when she needed help, regardless of whether it was a day of rest or not. I decided to choose to help her out. I was reminded of how the Pharisees were all about doing things by the book and how they got in a snit and (basically) said "um, hello, Jesus you can't perform miracles on a Sabbath!" I don't want to be a Pharisee. I'd rather do what I think God would be most pleased with. I got in the car, drove to Mom's work, and helped her fold what needed to be folded. (side note for new readers: my mother works in the laundry at a convalescent hospital.) I got great joy out of helping her, not only because I was able to do a little thing to make her stress levels lower but also because I genuinely love folding laundry.

When it came to prayer life and I saw that I couldn't concentrate at times I would beat myself up over it. This is something I've done for years. I still do it at times. In fact, I have so many things going on this morning that I couldn't concentrate on my morning prayers. I wanted to -- I even repeated some things a couple of times -- but my mind just wouldn't cooperate with me. When I couldn't concentrate on something in the past, I would groan and be hard on myself. "I want to do this!" "I can do this... why can't I do this? What's wrong with me?" I wanted to do things "right" the first time. Over the years I've had numerous priests tell me that I'm too hard on myself over the years but it never sunk in until my bestie pointed it out to me. I'm so glad I asked her because it's started this great journey that's enriched my prayer life and my relationship with God.

I'm also learning to let go in other parts of my life and trying to remind myself that so-called perfection is truly unattainable. Nope, you can't convince me otherwise. I've turned a new leaf. Instead of worrying about perfection, I try to see the beauty in things. As I was driving to church this past Sunday I noticed that a driver had failed to use his signal to make a left turn. This is a pet peeve of mine because a lot of accidents could be avoided if people would just use their signals properly. Instead of ranting about it and how it affected me, I noticed the mountain range in front of me and thought "wow, what a beautiful sunrise we're getting." That helps; being mindful of other things instead of what you can't control (which, really, is most things) makes letting go a bit easier.

One of the benefits of letting go has been that my anxiety levels have greatly diminished. I still have moments in which I momentarily relapse into my old ways of thinking but, thankfully, I've been able to pause and snap back into how I need to let things go. It's not easy nor will it be for a long time. This is a bad habit I've had for nearly two decades so it's not going to go away overnight. Still, I'm going to try and I'm optimistic. I'm going to work hard at it until it's automatic for me. It can be done. My CBT therapist even told me that it's possible so there's hope. ;) Rome wasn't built in a day... God didn't create everything in a single day... I won't change overnight. ♪ Let it go, let it go... ♪ lol, sorry.

Anyway, those who know me well enough to be happy over this development, I give y'all permission to keep me accountable. If you see me slipping back into this pattern of negativity, snap me out of it! Don't let me be a Pharisee! It takes a village... or any army... or something. :-P

Alright, it's still early in the day (before noon, yes!) and I want to get a couple of things done/started before I have to go pick up Mom from work so that's it for today. I hope to have the last Lenten lesson posted tomorrow. Stay tuned. ;)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D


AnneMarie said...

It's so beautiful how God has been working in your life! Really interesting, too, because I never thought that I'm hard on myself, but it was during Lent that I realized just how hard I can be on myself. I'll usually be very understanding and forgiving of other people in a heartbeat, but when it comes to myself, I have this weird ability to hold onto past mistakes and continually beat myself up over them! Early on in Lent, I was careless and that resulted in a big hassle and expense for us-and I was miserable, continually kicking myself for what I did, even though my husband was incredibly understanding and forgiving. Finally, I realized that it is so important to let ourselves receive the grace and forgiveness that God desires to give us and which we so often give to other people.

Emmy Cecilia said...

AnneMarie - I hope you've made big strides in your own situation and i'm glad you have a fella who is forgiving and understanding. I'm very similar. I'm way too hard on myself but I am very forgiving when it comes to others. I'm also more positive on the outcome of things when it comes to others than my own things. I'm still learning how to be more positive with my situations and less hard on myself.

AnneMarie said...

Yup, I can so relate! Thankfully, I am making strides over the past couple weeks, but it's still a process that I'm struggling a bit on. With God's grace, though, I know I'll be able to move past this and learn to forgive myself better :)

Emmy Cecilia said...

We're in the same boat, sister. God will help us. :)