i’m only 53 days late for my new years resolution. and the xmas cards, which for the last few years have become the new years card, this year, officially became the facebook post.
i have a perfectly legitimate excuse. i left the company i’ve worked at for seven years—a job and people i know inside and out—and took a new post at another agency. better title, bigger challenge, a world of new opportunity…and a heaping helping of additional stress… all while juggling parenting, two kids, household chores, and the myriad of annoying little tasks that make up daily life.
yet somehow, the voice inside my head refuses to cut me some slack. i have this nagging sense of guilt. my conscience wags its critical finger, chiding me for all the failures i’ve racked up during this time of transition. cousin xmas gifts—finally in the mail, just shy of march. photo canvases and family albums—a mere figment of my time-zapped imagination. best friend phone call five months overdue thanks to the barrage of homework and nightly bedtime rituals. closet purging—suspended in my room, halfway done in once-organized piles that get a little more messy with each morning’s mad dash to get dressed and out the door. spring cleaning—yeah right. talk to the tornado whose name starts with “L” and ends with “ogan.”
i feel like a wimp for even whining about it. like the “dog ate my homework" excuse, it seems like a cop-out. “sorry, all of you fabulous friends who managed to go see santa (another mandatory ritual i also missed this year), crank out ten batches of cookies AND send out cards on time (hell, at all!)… i just got too busy so i opted out this year. and to make matters more egregious, i refused to confess my failure on facebook to make a point, if only to myself.
a couple friends who are also fighting the good fight, spinning, twirling and treading to get through each day, actually apologized to everyone for not getting cards out in time. this really broke my heart. i completely understood the sentiment… but it just wasn’t right. i know i certainly wasn’t holding a grudge. and i’m sure none of their 500 other frenzied friends weren’t either.
i saw this photo on instagram many months ago and saved it because it just struck a chord. in this day and age, we’re all over-worked, over-stretched, sometimes just plain “over it.”
maybe, just maybe, it’s time we give ourselves a break. maybe it’s not all of your friends on facebook, posting perfect posts and curating catchy captions, that are judging you. maybe it’s actually YOU. trying to live up to an ideal of perfection that is just that: an ideal. a cosmo or stepford or cinderella myth—meant to make you feel bad for failing to live up to the unrealistic standard of perfection you hold yourself to.
i came to the realization recently on report card day. that one time nine years ago when i only had one kid and time to actually read parenting advice, i read an article in new york magazine about “the power (and peril) of praise.” it was both interesting and counterintuitive. my parents focused on grades. “all A’s…or else.” the outcomes were of supreme importance. but no, in this article, the preeminent authorities on the subject gave a very important directive: to set your kids up for success, you have to praise the effort, not the end result.” by focusing only on the outcomes, they fixate on failure, start buying into the narrative that they don’t measure up, find themselves lost, and lack the resilience to push through adversity.
my resolution for 2015: follow the advice i constantly tell my kids. “as long as you try your best, that’s what counts.” as long as you’re in the moment during the times that matter, that’s true success. not the final grade. or your goal weight. or whatever it is that motivates you—and drives you mad.
all of us overachievers are gunning for the A+: holding ourselves to too high standards, trying to execute flawlessly, berating ourselves for all the things that didn’t go exactly as planned. instead we should be celebrating the little wins, daily victories. a kind gesture. a gorgeous sunrise. a good laugh with an old friend. a perfect hair day. a pat on the back for a job well done. or even, on some days, simply getting up and out of bed when all you want to do is hide under the covers until it’s safe to come out.
and even when you do hit the mark, no matter how high, at the pinnacle of so-called “success,” you may feel like an imposter, a fraud. but guess what? we all do. the truth is: we’re all winging it. “nobody knows what the hell they are doing.”
two cases in point:
the late maya angelou, one of the greatest writers of our time, once said: “i have written 11 books, but each time, i think ‘uh-oh. they’re going to find out now. i’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.’”
similarly, david carr, a highly acclaimed reporter who covered the intersection of media and pop culture for the new york times, recently passed away. one of his most famous quotes echoes the sentiment. “i now inhabit a life i don’t deserve, but we all walk this earth feeling we are frauds. the trick is to be grateful and hope the caper doesn’t end soon.”
so just keep pressing on. stop comparing. start living. trust your instincts. be true to you. remember that everyone’s shiny facebook highlight reel isn’t the full picture of what’s real. and gratitude, rather than self-loathing, goes a long way.
most importantly, believe that your best is actually good enough. because it is.