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Stop being so hard on yourself. Begin again. Always.

If all you can do is crawl...

Hey, Cravings Tribe! So, we are starting Day 4 of our adventure, and I’m guessing that if some of you are anything like me (and I’m secretly hoping you are), you’re feeling like this isn’t going as well as expected. You may be getting down on yourself for not doing as much as you had hoped. You may be getting down on the tribe for not providing the transformation you had expected. You may be getting down in general, because you have to take down all those Christmas decorations (ugh) or you have a big work project coming up that’s stressing you out (double ugh) or you have to try to bi-locate to drive two of your children to three different places in opposite directions but during overlapping times tonight (true-story ugh). And you may be ready to scream, “SERENITY NOW!!!”

It’s all okay. It’s all normal. No one said this was going to be easy or fast. Expect it to be a dance of two steps forward and one step back. In the end, you’ll still be making “progress,” not that we should be measuring progress, because that’s not what it’s about. Every day we have to be willing to be a beginner all over again. To start over, if necessary, and without judgment. (That’s the hard part, isn’t it? We are good at self-judgment.)

Here’s what I said about my own struggles with this beginner mentality in “Notes from the Journey” in my book Everyday Divine:

I’m not good at being a beginner. I want to be an expert from Day 1. No matter what I’m doing. Even when I’m doing something I’ve never done before. Not sure where that mentality comes from, but it’s a stumbling block. To expect perfection in everything is a surefire path to “failure,” or to not trying at all.

I need the willingness to be a beginner in prayer, to sit there and be open to whatever might unfold, to come back day after day even when it feels like I’m not progressing and just practice my “craft,” the craft of praying.

This week in the early morning hours before anyone else is awake, I’ve been saying Morning Prayer out on the deck or in my sun porch. And slowly, slowly I have found a rhythm there that feels right, one I hope I can keep up for good. As soon as that thought enters my mind, I realize I’m heading right back to the quest for perfection instead of living in this moment, praying in this moment, one day at a time.  (Everyday Divine, page 12)

When you feel yourself slipping into that perfectionist mentality or that mindset that tells you that you should be making progress faster, just stop, breathe, and begin again from wherever you are at that point. It’s all good.

I was listening to something yesterday and the speaker said that if you know you’re someone who has issues letting things go or being still, that’s a good thing, because it means you are aware and you are working toward awakening. So let that be a hopeful reminder to you today. You are here, which means you’ve already taken the biggest and most difficult step: recognizing that you want to awaken something within and shift the balance of your life. Begin again. Today. Every day. Always.

For further reading, here are a few things to keep you going, if you’d like (no pressure to read them!):

Click HERE for a story I did on mind-body-spirit connection from a Catholic perspective for OSV Newsweekly.

Click HERE for a story from Aleteia (also from a Catholic perspective) on “10 Spiritual Practices to Jumpstart Your New Year.”

And if you’d like something outside the Catholic arena but still really helpful, click HERE for a story from Kripalu on “Turning Winter Blues into Winter Warmth.”

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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Patti #

    I have always struggled with this perfectionist mentality…..just like you I want to be an expert on Day 1! I am really trying to be happy with my progress, my baby steps and stop thinking about the end goal and how long it’s going to take me to get there. I needed to hear this today!

    January 5, 2017
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      It’s nice to have company on this journey! Thanks for being here and for sharing.

      January 5, 2017
  2. Reading this, I kept thinking of our 11-year-old gymnast, Chiara. For the rest of the tribe: After switching to her new gym, the coaches insisted she wear bar grips on her hands, something she’s never used before. As we watched her struggle from behind the window in the waiting area, we both became increasingly anxious each time her hands failed to grab the bar and she tumbled to the mat. “She’s going to be discouraged.” “Why don’t the coaches make sure they are on right?” “Why does she have to use these grips? Some of the other girls don’t have grips.” “I feel so bad for her.” When practice ended, we said something gentle about how she’d struggled, and she just kind of shrugged her shoulders, told us the coach had told her to expect these problems until the grips were broken in, and said she just needed to keep wearing them until they softened up. We were duly chastened, and after a couple of weeks, she now feels more confident with the grips than without them. Once again, we can learn from our kids. This time, about perfectionism and the need to be an instant expert.

    January 5, 2017
  3. Kelly #

    I think I may be the only person who doesn’t care about perfectionism. I am very laid-back (my children may say otherwise). I know that I did not put my weight on overnight and it is not going to come off overnight. I forgive myself for getting to the point where I look in the mirror and hate what I see – or at least I am trying.

    I have had a life where I was constantly demeaned. I was never enough. Nothing was ever good enough. Now, at 53-years-old……. I have learned (slowly) that I am okay just the way I am. Life, in all of God’s grace and beauty, is a learning experience. So, I feel no pressure to be perfect, and that is okay.

    January 5, 2017
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Kelly,
      You need to spread some of that around this tribe!!! I could use some. I keep waiting (at age 54) for the wisdom and self-acceptance to surface. It’s in there somewhere, I just know it.
      🙂
      Mary

      January 5, 2017
    • Mary Moore #

      Thanks, Kelly, for sharing, putting words to what several of us were subjected to as children. Has really messed with my head and lack of self-acceptance. And Mary, thanks for”allowing” us to sit with our lack of perfection and know that that is good.

      January 6, 2017
  4. Ninette #

    I don’t necessarily strive for perfection but could never understand why when I make up my mind to do something or not do it when it comes to food and my body the rest of me doesn’t follow along. Always say to myself, that I am secure in my career, my marriage, my motherhood(my daughter might take issue) but as far as my body is concerned and my relationship with food I feel like a complete failure. From the time I was a little girl I ate for comfort. My life was good but being the oldest of 4 girls I had a lot of responsibility. Eating for comfort hasn’t ever left me. I can’t remember the last time I was hungry. If I close my eyes I can remember the feeling of hunger and taking a bite of my mother’s homemade ravioli as a child. My mind and feelings are jumbled……I wanted to be “fixed in four days”!!!
    And so I will begin again tomorrow.

    January 5, 2017
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thank you for sharing that, Ninette. I think a lot of us can probably identify!

      January 5, 2017
  5. Funny thing is, I teach beginners, giving them permission to be beginners. Letting them know that perfection is highly overrated, not possible and makes us miserable. I love teaching beginners. And yet, in places where I’m the beginner the negative thoughts start rolling through my brain. When my students say this stuff I stop this thinking in it’s tracks, trying to change their inner dialog.

    Yesterday was challenging in so many ways including some memories that cropped up that rattled me. I reached out to a couple of friends for some perspective. After a good nights sleep something shifted and I woke up ready to tackle the day.
    Thank you!

    January 5, 2017

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