Something about me loves feeling “capable” — that sure, I can take on that extra project, I can organize that party, I can tack that on to my to-do list. There’s a high from feeling efficient, responsible, for just getting it done. And plus, when you do it yourself, you know it’s done the way you want it.
How full of myself does that sound?! And the reality, honestly, is that the more I take on, the less efficiently or thoroughly I do any of it. It’s a rut I fall into every summer, it seems — I want to do it all, I overextend myself, and when things don’t go the way I want them to, I often turn into a martyr, pushing blame or bringing up excuses to explain away why it isn’t exactly my fault things didn’t go the way I wanted them to. Brene Brown would say it’s the shame I feel in falling short (that inner perfectionist, rearing its ugly head), and she’s probably right. As I watched the first session of Present Over Perfect, and read through Part 1 in the book, I related all too well to that need to put more on my plate — to use busyness (the buzz of everyday life) as a buffer for truly connecting with people, whether intentionally or not, and it’s been leaving me feeling burned out.
What Kind Of Pigpen Are You?
Shauna Niequist suggests we all have a Pigpen quality. Yup, as in the Peanuts gang character, who’s surrounded in a swirling cloud of dust and grime, even when standing perfectly still. It’s the thing we struggle with, the problem that follows us from one thing to another, that you can best identify when you look for the most common complaint you have with other people.
Like the woman who swears she can’t get along with other women, because they’re all so catty and distrustful — and then you see how she connects with other people through gossip (ditto for guys, of course). Or, as Niequist notes, the person who’s always too busy, but doesn’t realize that he/she is the one causing it.
Before You Say Yes, Ask Yourself Why.
After identifying that constant need to say yes to everything — to take on more, not just because it’d make other people happy, but because she genuinely wanted to do (or try to do) it all — she started to explore the why behind it, comparing it to running across thin ice:
“If I moved fast enough, I wouldn’t have to feel the fear, or the anxiety, or the regret of what I had allowed to happen to my life, to my closest relationships, to my relationship with God, to my own soul,” she explains. “We all have those things we grab on to, to keep us from facing the truth of our lives.”
At the heart of section 1, all we’re trying to get at is: What walls are you putting up? What’s keeping you from connecting with other people? What same mistakes or problems seem to be bubbling up in your life over and over again?
Here’s her video on the topic, breaking down the first session:
You can pick up a copy of Present Over Perfect on Amazon.
Photo: Thomas Verbruggen/Unsplash