Recently, I prepared an essay for a website I was really longing to be part of. After drafting, tightening, cutting, revising, and formatting, I sent it off and crossed my fingers. I was hopeful to be included, but unsure if I’d make the cut.
They emailed back quickly. I’d been accepted! They loved my piece! They’d definitely publish it!
At which point, I asked myself, “Should I have submitted it someplace better?”
Does this happen to you? You spend a lot of time acquiring a new skill, only to call it “easy” once you’re proficient? You pursue a relationship, then when it’s reciprocated, you wonder if you’re selling yourself short? You want to be accepted into an exciting group of people, and then start denigrating them internally when they turn out to be human?
For me, this nasty habit comes from something I’d rather not admit to: a desire for power over others. A desire to compare, and come out first.
I want to be better-than. I want to be at the top of the pyramid, the front of the line. I want to be excellent, yes, but more importantly, better than that person next to me.
I’ve always known this attitude wasn’t good. Clearly. But recently, I’ve been noticing another not-good part of it.
If I fail to be the “best”, fail to prove my place in the pecking order, I feel myself a failure. Either I’m worthy, or worthless. There is no good-enough. I’m a once-in-a-lifetime genius, or a loser.
Is anyone out there surprised that I am afraid to try things? That I oscillate between comical arrogance and low self-esteem? That I am not content to be where I am, which is someplace in the middle of a journey?
Lately, I’ve been trying to stop worrying about good-enough. When I submit writing someplace, I ask, “What am I learning from this?” If I plan a new goal, I wonder, “Can I accomplish this? Is it worth my time? Am I passionate about it?” When I look at an accomplishment, I ask, “Does it speak to my passions, my love for others, and grow me closer to God?”
These days, I’m trying a new measure: what’s important to me. What’s valuable to me. What God has placed on my heart.
Those other yardsticks–the ones I use as cudgels for myself or others? I’m tossing them aside in favor of something more graceful and ultimately worthwhile.