I am a recovering perfectionist. When I was in kindergarten, I had the stunning realization that I was the only kid in the class who couldn’t tie my own shoes (no fault of my parents, who had tutored me with endless patience). I immediately went into self-imposed exile every day during recess, staying alone in the classroom to practice tying and retying the wooden boot that was provided for such a purpose.
Needless to say, this OCD-like behavior concerned my teacher, who contacted my folks. She admonished them for pressuring me, and they assured her they had not (and they had not). “That’s just Kara”, my Mom told her, and that was the truth. Even at 5, I was unusually driven to “do things right.” If practice actually did make perfect, I would’ve been the gold medal winner in the shoe tying Olympics.
But ultimately (it would take me another 20 years or so to accept this), it turns out I just don’t have very nimble fingers and activities that require fine motor skills are never going to be my strong suit. I am just not wired that way.
My best friend is another recovering perfectionist, and for many years I have teased her that she would be a lot happier if she could just learn to embrace her mediocrity, as I have. I am so mediocre at so many things, it is downright dazzling! You should see my half-assed bed making skills (yawn), my remarkably lame baking abilities, my powerfully lazy form in nearly all-things-sports.
I’m like the Private Benjamin of life, trudging around in circles wondering how other people motivate themselves to do so many tedious things when I just “want to go out to lunch”. I once had a part-time job in a candy store, where I literally wrapped hundreds and hundreds of boxes of chocolate, and guess what? I STILL suck at wrapping presents. Fine motor again.
I have many friends who are impossibly talented artists, or world-class musicians, or over-achieving academics…nope, nope and nope. None of that is me. I am telling you, there is a dazzling mediocrity here!
Now don’t think I am getting down on myself, because I promise you I am not. I am just one of those people who believes that the Divine is an all-inclusive resort; in other words, either everything is divine, or nothing is. I think there are plenty of things I am good at, without a doubt, and I enjoy my mastery of them to a fault almost. But I also revel in my incompetence very nearly as much.
Let that sink in.
I find joy in sucking at things and calling myself out on it. For example, as I mentioned, I am a ridiculously unskilled baker. Lopsided cakes? Check. Formless cut-out cookies? Check. Dry breads? Checkmate!
But you are not going to see some kind of “Chariots of Fire” slow-mo montage of me training to get better at this…you will instead see me waiting in line at the bakery. And having a good laugh about it, too. Because two of the things I excel at are prioritizing and having a sense of humor about most things, even my own shortcomings. So here’s something else I am bad at: banging my head against a wall. Don’t see the point.
In the same way that I have learned to trust personal rejection—some people just aren’t my people—I have come to trust my mediocrity. We don’t all need to be good at everything; that would just be silly! Plain old sucking at some things is not only generally amusing, it also gives me the opportunity to ask for help.
And knowing how much I enjoy being helpful to people I care about, I figure I am doing my friends and family a solid when I raise the white flag of surrender. Please help me can in truth be very empowering words, when used judiciously. I’m pretty sure that this is why there is more than one of us, actually.
I love it when a friend acknowledges a strength of mine by asking for my help. It qualifies as a top-ten life experience for me. Having a skill that is both recognized and utilized by a grateful receiver is a radically badass event, at least as far as I am concerned. And how could I return the favor if I wasn’t so damned mediocre at so many things?
Hey, I am not advocating an abdication of effort, don’t get me wrong. But I am pulling for all of us to accept ourselves AS IS. To embrace our weaknesses as well as our strengths can be a very powerful stance.
I saw an awesome sign in front of a church one day…it said “Faith is simply a refusal to panic”. How great is that? Having true faith in ourselves is not a pie in the sky whitewash job. It’s about a deep resonance with who we are and what we are capable of…and also about NOT PANICKING when we fall.
Instead of considering it a failure, it might even be possible to have a laugh in a “WOW!-Did-I-screw-that-up-or-what?” kind of way. Because we all suck at something. And that is totally okay.
Whenever I get excited about anything—a person, a book, a place—I take it as a sign that says “Walk this way”. So I do, with good results. On the other hand, when my disinterest is such that I cannot be bothered to really even focus long enough to gain competence? I see a “Don’t Walk” sign.
And for me, it’s all good! I have exuberance for both walking and not walking, if you get me. I am righteous in my incompetence and you can be too! Just be yourself, and enjoy every moment of it, okay?
Originally Published on Your New Best Friend
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