Impossible Standards

Throughout my life, I’ve been referred to as the “golden child.” While my siblings struggled, I was the “good kid”. In High School, I graduated with a 4.2 GPA, was in the top 10% of my class, and rarely got into any trouble. I minimally dated, and kept myself busy with theater, school, and sports. And while I was proud of my accomplishments, my mother would sometimes use my achievements as a measuring stick for my siblings. Which is not only ridiculously unfair to them, but can also cast a dark cloud of resentment and unworthiness. And while I understand how easy it is for parents to use those simple words, “Why can’t you be more like…” to prove a point, in reality (to the receiving party) those words can be devastating.

But here’s the truth of it.

Real accomplishments are not without hard work. Yes, I had a 4.2 GPA, but I also woke up at 6am to attend zero period AP Spanish. Yes, I was the lead in local musical productions, because I spent hundreds of hours in singing lessons and dance lessons for most of my life. I excelled at swimming because I attended practice twice a day and would push myself to be better. I put my goals above popularity, and was resented for it.

Sixteen years later, and I find myself on the other side of the coin. Hopelessly discouraged by the successes of other women. Disheartened and insecure by fiery, Godly women who are changing the world. I look at them and feel small.

But tonight I realized I was giving myself that same impossible standard I saw my mother give my sisters.

These women are successful because they put in the work.

Author Rachel Hollis recently said, “You can’t judge you’re beginning with my middle.” And it’s SO TRUE. It’s so easy to look at the successes and ignore the work it took to get there. The sometimes YEARS of struggles, frustration, and challenges that had to be overcome before the goal was finally realized. We set these impossible standards for ourselves, and quit before we even get started, because we ignore the work. Or we become overwhelmed by it.

When my counselor first encouraged me to write this blog, I thought there’s no way I could do that. “I could never write a blog. What would I even say? Who would listen to me? I’m no Lysa Terkeurst.” But I put in the work. Bit by bit, I’d write and tell my truth. With no expectations or preconceived notions of who I should be, or the person I should present.

I’m me.

Faults, and all.

But the truth is, it’s not really about how I see me. Or what I think I’m capable of. It’s about how God sees me. And with each day, I’m seeing how my “comparing nature” can destroy my ability to develop into the person God wants me to be. I know I’m not perfect. I know I still struggle. But in the words of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “I’m still cookie dough. I’m not done baking yet.” I’m not done becoming whoever it is God wants me to be.

But the key is… I’m working on it. 

And you HAVE to do the work.

A year after the split, my entire outlook on life has changed. I’m happier, stronger, and healthier than I’ve ever been. But I didn’t snap my fingers, and the pain went away. I didn’t wake up one morning with a renewed sense of self and everything was better.

I did the work.

I pursued growth like a guided missile and refused to let the devastating actions of my ex-husband destroy me. I went to a therapist, a church counselor, and a mentor. I routinely attended church, my small group, and Divorce Care. I pursued new relationships with Single Moms and worked on my relationships. I watched sermons online, listened to Christian music, read books, and studied my bible. I didn’t actively date or look for someone to fill the hole left by my ex husband. I pursued growth through faith.

I looked into the mirror, stared at my brokenness, and didn’t look away until I began to see me how God sees me.

And that’s the only way to truly grow. To face all the ugly, sinful, evil parts of yourself and say, “you will not defeat me.”

And the absolute most important part…

Is to give yourself GRACE.

No one is perfect. As Pastor Matt Brown would say, “There’s a bloody, gross cross with a dead Jesus on it that says ‘nobody’s perfect’.”

So, the goal isn’t perfection.

The goal is intentional growth.

But growth does not happen when you’re comfortable. It only happens when you push past the ugly and uncomfortable. When you acknowledge who you truly are and say “this is me” without reservations or judgement. I can’t tell you how empowering it is to say, “these are my struggles, but I’m working on them”. To admit I’m not perfect, shine a light on my weaknesses, and be okay with imperfection.

And while my “comparing nature” may knock me down at times, I must remember growth is not accidental. Success is not immediate. And with God, all things are possible.