Recently I wrote a guest blog post, Thriving Requires Letting Go of the Lies, for Sue’s Over Fifty and Thriving series. The idea for that post was inspired by the widely popular book, Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis (my review here). Since I continue to mull over this topic, I decided to make it the subject of a new blog series: The Lies I’ve Believed.
In the original guest post, I introduced Delilah, my harsh inner critic who constantly reminds me I am not good enough, brave enough or smart enough. Her loud, commanding voice tells me I am better off alone than out in the world pursuing my dreams. She is quite convincing.
But I’m tired of living this way. I’m merely existing rather than embracing an abundant life. It is time to replace Delilah’s lies with the truth.
This week’s lie: Practice Makes Perfect.
My first life lesson was Keep your eye on the ball.
At the time I was a kindergartner trying to learn kickball. Coordinating my kick with the ball crossing the plate, while at the same time preparing to beat the throw to first base seemed daunting. I looked where I wanted the ball to go before actually connecting with it.
Dad taught me that important lesson in kindergarten and several years later when I wanted to play baseball with the neighborhood kids. Squinting at the noonday sun took my eyes off the ball – which helped the other team score the run.
I was convinced I couldn’t play. However, Dad never let me quit.
Practice was always the answer. Not pleased with your performance? Practice. Not happy with your GPA? Practice. Not moving up the corporate ladder fast enough? Practice.
I began to think it did matter if I won or lost (winning is always best). Joy was not found on the journey. The journey was something to endure in order to achieve the goal. If practice makes perfect, the goal must be perfection, right?
I attended parochial school from kindergarten through fifth grade. Fortunately, I enjoyed school, and rote memory was my learning style. Because of this predisposition, making straight As came easily.
To reward academic excellence, the school scheduled a dedicated chapel service where all students who achieved straight As for the entire year were given special recognition.
My most vivid memory was at the end of fifth-grade. As a way to reinforce math skills, the teacher asked us to average our own final grades. Only two of us were in the running for the full-year Dean’s List. The pressure was high. We didn’t want to let our class down.
The teacher read allowed our scores in each subject. We had to add them and divide by the total number of assessments. My straight A average was safe … until geography. I scored a 65 on one test. As the teacher read aloud my grades, the entire class gasped: Molly got an F!
At that time, 92 and above earned an A; 83-91 earned a B. I carefully added the numbers and divided by six. My average was a 91.5.
I did represent our class in the all-school assembly because the grade rounded to an A (the other student received a B+ in spelling and her parents canceled her birthday party).
Because that event was so traumatic, I vowed I would never again strive for straight As. It just wasn’t worth the pressure.
But somehow I can’t stop striving for near perfection. I set the expectation high and the pressure is always great. There is no joy in the journey because I’m too fearful of possible failure.
And Delilah is always quick to point out my shortcomings.
While I know I’ve lost many decades to the impossible pursuit of perfection, I refuse to believe this lie anymore. Perfection is not the goal. Excellence may be the goal. Learning and becoming a better version of myself may be the goal. Having fun along the way is most definitely a worthy goal. But not perfection.
The truth: Practice Makes Progress.