Friday, September 21, 2012

Imperfect Progress

Isn't it funny how the greatest disappointment we usually find in our lives are within our selves and not caused by outside influences? We have lists of priorities, lists of things that we must do - and when we fail to cross these things off of our lists, we immediately beat ourselves up. We essentially set ourselves up for failure, causing a more stressful life for ourselves than what we were meant to have. The worse part of it all is that we often know this, and yet we continue the cycle - creating lists, goals and even dreams that we know are beyond our reach.

I am the queen of the country of disappointment - especially when it comes from myself. I set my priorities and goals high and while it's completely ridiculous for me to think so, I normally expect them to be reached without the slightest glitch.

When I think of who I should be, who the person is according to the list, I picture first this perfect mother and perfect wife. She cooks amazing home-cooked meals with fresh vegetables picked straight from her pristine garden, she has a wonderfully decorated and spotless home in which everything has a place (and is in it), her children (and pets) are well behaved, well groomed and her husband fulfilled and happy. Her temper never goes beyond a level of control and she is soft-spoken, gentle, and the most loving of individuals. She looks in the mirror and she is beautiful, her hair perfectly in place and her clothes stylish, modest and fit perfectly. She is the perfect Christian, she reads her Bible every day, does her devotions, stays in constant prayer and even finds time to volunteer and run a couple's group. She is perfect in every way and even if you look closely, you will not find fault from this view.

Then we find reality and the truth that is sometimes hard to face. The true me is faulted. I am faulted beyond a shadow of a doubt, faulted in ways that I hate to admit. I usually scramble at the last minute anymore to decide what to have for dinner (and all too often it comes from a box), my house is a hot mess on most days and while I can have it pretty presentable in about 15 minutes, I have a lovely habit of pushing things aside (and a one year old who loves to dig things out). My son is anything but behaved all the time and you can bet your bottom dollar that there are days that I lose my temper and say things that don't mean and regret later. My dogs get out on a weekly basis and I know my neighbors get sick of dragging them to the front door for me (we won't even mention their habit of barking). My body is plus-sized, my hair is straight, life-less and usually ends up in a ponytail, and my clothes are normally either too big or too small and almost always out of style. I can't tell you the last time that I found time to volunteer and although I have great hopes of starting a couple's group in my home one day, I haven't even begun to attempt to put one together. I usually fail to read my Bible and while I still pray, I can promise you that I don't pray near enough.

But am I really that bad? Am I as horrible as I make myself sound or are my expectations of myself just too high? Do we really expect ourselves to be all that and a bag of chips? Perhaps our expectations aren't really that far out of reach. Maybe it's not that they're unattainable, but that we expect too much of ourselves too quickly and all at once instead of slowly over time. That would make more sense, wouldn't it? I know I can have delicious home-cooked meals for my family every evening with a little planning and discipline. But I'm not sure I can cook, clean, decorate, parent, train dogs, do my hair, dress to the nines, volunteer, study, and pray while giving each my best all at the same time. Perhaps we would find ourselves less disappointed in who we are and what we can accomplish if we learned to make imperfect progress.

Imperfect progress? Yes! Imperfect progress! It all makes sense now. I have to quit beating myself up when I fail and even more so, I need to quit expecting so much of myself all of the time. If I can set a goal to cook for my family every night this week, that would be great. It would be attainable and once I do it one week, it will only be easier to do it the next. I would eventually just fall straight into that habit. But if I miss one night, if things get hectic or something comes up and we end up eating Hamburger Helper - should I beat myself into the ground? Do I call myself a failure, hang my head and give it up, staring up at the person that I think I should be. No! Heck no! I need to realize that every little step towards my goals, towards my 'perfect' self (whom I will never, ever be - let's face it, none of us are perfect) is progress. I should celebrate with myself that I am making progress, no matter how big or how small that progress may be. And really - would it be so bad if I didn't cook something grand once or twice a week? As long as my family is being nourished, shouldn't that be what is most important?

Do you find yourself disappointed in yourself often? One of the greatest gifts that women can give to one another is the gift of honesty and support. I'm here to help cheer you on, to help you make imperfect progress towards your goals no matter how big or small they are. If you have a circle of friends, challenge yourself to be honest with them and don't be afraid to ask them to be honest with you! That honesty, support and friendship can help lift you from even the greatest of disappointments.


  1. I would guess that this post is dead on for a lot of us out there. I constantly fail in some of my "duties" and I've came to the conclusion that that's all right. My home is still standing and my husband still loves me. I have some high expectations for how I want to mother and parent Connor. If they pan out, fabulous, if not, it doesn't mean I love him any less.
    Jenn, you are a wonderful person, inside and out. Jeremy and Henry are so lucky to have you in their lives and I am blessed to call you family.

    1. Parenting is a trip but I would bet that you're going to rock the parenting world with a fierce force that is unique and perfect for you, James and Connor.

      And you're pretty wonderful yourself - and I feel pretty lucky to have as a cousin.

  2. all you can do is your best. if you set the bar low, what happens then? no one rises to low expectations :)


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