We've all struggled with the personal disappointment of not living up to our full potential. For me, this issue resurfaced again last year, yet I was finally able to specifically identify the root of the problem. I recognized it for what it was, the lie that, "I'm not good enough unless I am perfect in everything I do." What's the lie you label yourself with? It usually starts with, "I'm not___________fill in the blank..... good enough, smart enough, liked enough, attractive enough, strong enough, worthy enough....on and on. But what if we could change the story we tell ourselves?
A few months ago my wife and I hosted a 2 day intensive conference at our home led by Jamie and Donna Winship. The conference dealt with our personal identities and how to break free from the lies and fears that grip us. I know what you are probably thinking, stop right there........fears, not me, no way, I don't have any because I am a man. I have one response to that, BS. We all have them buried deep inside and when you truly get honest with yourself you can confront them, push them aside and move on.
The Winships walked us through a journey where we were taken to the root of a major negative issue that is holding us back. This is a challenging process because it forces you to be painfully honest with and about yourself and not resort to self-protection or self-promotion as defense mechanisms. To summarize Jamie walked us through the following exercise:
Step 1 - Speak the truth about ourselves and be honest with issues that hold you back, falsely define who you are or limit your true potential. John 8:32 says "and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free"
Step 2 - Identify the first time in your live when you recall experiencing a significant negative emotion that now serves as a triggering mechanism for the issue/s identified above. Jamie informed us that we will know we are there when you can almost feel the situation,
Step 3 - Cause change by stepping into the truth about your life now and recognize that your identity doesn't come from what you produce, instead, it comes from who you are.
In our group of over 30 people, including; civic leaders, seasoned law enforcement officials, business owners, entertainers, and church leaders, the root causes of our negative emotions and false identities were different but the end result was the same for everyone, fear of not living up to our true potential. We all had issues that caused us to have a fear of some negative outcome in our lives because of who we saw ourselves to be. How did this exercise walk itself out in my life? Well, in my 2nd blog I told you I would always be real so here is real and what I experienced.
Step 1 - Speaking the TRUTH about myself- for me this issue was easy to identify. I have to be perfect at everything I do and if I am not perfect at everything "I am inadequate and fall short." This is not an easy burden to carry around with you for your whole life.
Step 2 - When was the 1st time I experienced this issue that I can remember? Surprisingly, the answer was immediate for me. I started playing ice hockey at the age of 5 and was always an advanced player for my age group. When I was around 9 years old my dad attended one of my games, which was not common, because he always had too much work he needed to get done around the house. During this game I scored all 6 goals for our team where we won by 6-0. Leaving the arena with my dad the only comment he made wasn't that I had a great game, or good job son, no, it was about "the 1 goal that I missed." That was it, that was where the need to "Be Perfect" stemmed from. It was like a light switch was turned on in my head and for the 1st time I understood what caused this impossible need for perfection. For a 9 year old how can 6 goals not be enough and 1 mistake be the focus of his comments? How do you live up to such unrealistic standards? I can now tell you how, I didn't. Instead I learned to apply one set of unrealistic standards to myself and another for everyone else. I learned to internalize that no matter what I achieved I had fallen short and to focus on the 1 thing I did wrong in a sea of success, telling myself "you are never good enough". Successes were not something to celebrate but things to merely look past to the next task I needed to accomplish. I could go on and on but you get the picture, not healthy nor achievable.
After years of applying these standards to myself fast forward and consider the impact of this mindset on a young man with his relationship with Christ. How was I suppose to live up to the standards of a perfect God who is without error or flaw when I only see the shortcomings and flaws in myself. For decades I could only imagine what He saw in me and how disappointed He probably was as He watched me cycle up and down in my christian walk. This was the lie that I bought into and used to define who I was.
Step 3 - Change - I recognize now that I was doing the best I could do at the time and that nobody is perfect. For a long time I have recognized that my expectations of myself were unrealistic and unattainable, but I applied higher standards to myself and now see how unrealistic those expectations were and that they were impossible to achieve.
My intention here is not to over simplify what are very real issues in most of our lives nor minimize the struggle the enemy wants us to encounter in order to break free from the false identity/ies we are held captive to. Instead, my intention is to share this in order to challenge each of us to be painfully honest with ourselves regarding the negative talk we burden ourselves with. What lie do you hold over yourself that holds you captive? Where are you not good enough or inadequate? There is freedom in Christ from these issues.
Having recently turned 59 I wish I had not struggled with this unrealistic burden of having to do everything perfect, all the time, and everywhere for nearly 50 years. But the phrase "better late than never" certainly holds true in this situation. Going forward, I am learning to apply grace to myself and give myself room for imperfections while not lowering my standards to pursue excellence in all I do knowing that sometimes I will hit the target and other times I will just get close and that's okay. Lastly, I am learning to celebrate my successes and take life a day at a time.
Phil. 3:14 "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
My encouragement to you is to not waste another day living out a lie the enemy has burdened you with or holds over your head as a defining moment. I now recognize these are not defining moments, they are opportunities the enemy uses to apply labels to our lives expecting to strip away all the joy of living. He wants us to take these burdens to our grave as if to be the inscriptions on our headstones. In my case he wanted it to read............."Here Lies Brent a Perfectionist that Always Fell Short." Not any more!
2 Corinthians 5:17~ “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”