We're wrapping up simplify your life month here at To Love, Honor and Vacuum. We've talked about finding your purpose, and organizing, and paring down, and all kinds of things that will help your life become more peaceful.
Today I want to talk about another fundamental one, and it's this: give yourself a break.
Many years ago, when I was in my early twenties, I made some career goals for myself. One in particular I was supposed to have attained when I hit 40.
Guess what? It's not going to happen. For years I was trying to twist myself into a pretzel to try to shortcut my way to that goal, so that when my 41st birthday hit I would have done it. But no matter what I do at this point I won't have time to meet that goal. It's fallen by the wayside.
I've realized that the issue isn't whether or not I meet the goal; the issue is whether or not I am at peace about not meeting that goal.
We women just don't tend to like ourselves. We can see all our shortcomings, and we feel as if we should be pushing ourselves, beating ourselves, forcing ourselves to change and be different. We shouldn't be this heavy; we should exercise more, lose weight, eat less. We shouldn't be this lazy; we should be able to earn some money at home, create a small business, generate some income. We shouldn't be this shy; we should have more friends, more social engagements, more people over to dinner.
Do all those "shoulds" help you actually accomplish anything? Or do they just paralyze you?
I find so often that when we set up goals for ourselves, we just end up paralyzed, unable to move forward, because we feel overwhelmed and guilty. I know goal setting can be important, and some goals are worthy. But not all goals are.
Let's go back to my professional goal that I had for myself at 40. Do you know why I won't meet it? It's because since I made that goal, my life has changed. I decided to homeschool my children. I decided to work with the youth of our church. I decided to do more at home to support my husband's career, because our life was becoming too busy. I made decisions that were smart for my family, but those decisions made that goal pretty much impossible to attain. Usually the reason that we haven't met a goal in our lives is not because we're lazy and undisciplined; often it's because we have used our time to do something else. We have decided that something else is momentarily more important than that goal.
For instance, I've gained fifteen pounds over the last ten years. For a while I felt really badly about this, and desperately wanted to lose the weight. But over the last year or two I've come to the conclusion that as long as I maintain what I am now, that's okay. I don't need to have the body of a mid-twentysomething woman when I'm forty. It's okay to learn to be comfortable in your skin.
And it's much more emotionally healthy to accept yourself for what you are than to hate yourself because you haven't beaten your body into submission.
In order to have that body again I would have to radically change how I eat (because I already eat quite well), and I would have to add a lot more exercise to my schedule. My girls and I already start the day with a jog, at least four times a week. It's not overly long; we're usually only gone for twenty minutes, but it's something. But I've realized I don't really have time to do much more than that if I want to attain the other goals I've made for myself. It's not that I'm lazy; it's just that everything has an opportunity cost. In order to have that body of the twenty-something, I would have to work out for an hour a day. I would rather spend that hour going over Katie's math with her, or writing, or organizing something with our youth group, or making dinner. I am consciously choosing that there are other things in my life that are more important right now.
Here's the truth: we cannot do everything. We cannot maintain the perfect body, and maintain a perfect home, and spend tons of time with the kids, and have romantic getaways with our husbands, and create small businesses to make income for our families. We just can't. Why not instead talk to God about what is good enough in each of those areas of your life? And then accept the good enough; don't keep feeling badly that you're not doing more.
Of course, many of us aren't getting important things done because we waste time. We spend too much time in front of the TV, or the computer, or on the phone. If that's the case, then maybe you need to re-evaluate. You certainly don't want television to keep you from attaining an important goal in your family. But many of us don't have that many hours, even if we wanted to find them. They're already being used. And we still, after all, do need downtime.
I think we are completely unrealistic about what is possible for us to accomplish in this life. Everything comes with a price, and if you're not willing to pay the price, then that's okay. But don't just say, "I don't have time to do this," and then continue to feel guilty. Say, "I don't have time to reach this goal," and then accept it. Accept who you are right now, even with your limitations, because you are doing the best you can. And your best is always good enough.
Isn't that what we tell our children? We don't care what they get on the test, as long as they tried their best. If they get a 95% but they didn't try, we'd be unhappy. But if they got a 65% and that genuinely was their best, then that's okay. We'd get them some more help, but we wouldn't be angry.
So why be angry at ourselves? If we're doing our best, and we're talking to God about how to prioritize our lives, and we're talking to our husbands about our lives, then let's give ourselves a break. We're doing what we can do, and in this season of our life, this is the best we can offer. Don't compare yourself to someone with more time, more money, or more energy, because that is not how God made you. Just be the best of who you were made to be, and whatever that is, that is okay.
Wouldn't that feel so much better?
What do you struggle with accepting about yourself? Do you often feel negatively towards yourself because you aren't meeting some goal? Let's talk!
About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.