When I was in my forties, I asked my mom, who was in her sixties, “Mom, at what age did you finally feel like a real grown up?”
“I’ll let you know,” she said. “It hasn’t happened yet.”
I thought being a grown-up would be a little less–I don’t know–messy. I thought it would be a little less haphazard–fewer stops and starts, a bit more consistency. I guess I thought I would have it a little (okay, a lot) more together, and be a bit closer to the perfect ideal I had in mind when I was younger.
After fifty-two years of research on the subject and with a firm grasp of the obvious, I am beginning to understand that I will not be able to achieve anything close to perfection in this lifetime. Perhaps perfection isn’t exactly the right word, but the more I think about the things that keep me stuck, the more I realize I have secretly harbored an unrealistic vision of what being a grown-up looks like. I expected a certain completeness, a sense of having arrived at the final version of me. I had hoped to achieve a clarity of calling; the right balance of work and play; healthy relationships with food, my body, my family, my friends, my money, my colleagues, the church, and God. Check, check, check. All done! Yay team!
The trouble begins when I interpret anything less than this ideal as failure.
It doesn’t help that everyone else seems to have figured out how to be a grown-up. Whether I’m at my kids’ school, at work, or on social media, examples of the perfect woman appear to abound. Everyone else seems to have found a way to do it all and make it look easy. From Pinterest-worthy birthday parties and elaborately designed gift baskets for the charity auction to well-behaved children changing the world, there are no shortage of reminders of the ways our performance doesn’t quite measure up. If only we could balance all the demands on our attention as seamlessly as our friends appear to on Facebook!
And don’t get me started on the pressure of pulling off the perfect Christmas! Will this year be the year we finally do the family Advent devotions? Does it still count if my children are now twenty and twenty-two?
When I make my goal a vision of perfection or being “complete,” the inevitable mistakes and detours of life become the enemy, and feelings of failure are the result. When I compare my real life to someone else’s online highlight reel, I always come up short. My perceived failures define me, and I am never, ever enough.
Here is what I am discovering: every single one of us is making it up as we go along. That friend who seems to have it all together is just as scared and unsure as I am. The person who seems to have all the answers has struggles and challenges I just don’t see. The older I get, the more comfortable I have become with the knowledge that I will never “arrive”–and neither will anyone else. We are all in process, all still learning, all still growing towards the people God has created us to be. When I believe other women have it all together in a way I don’t yet, I perpetuate the myth of perfection and feed the culture of competition and comparison that keeps us hiding from one another.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hiding.
So I am choosing a different way…
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