My heart racing, I needed OUT of the car. Immediately. If I could have crawled out of my own skin, I would have. Tears welled in eyes. Breath short. Trying to calm myself, I focused on my friend next to me and blurted the most normal question I could think of:
“So, what did you think of preschool this morning?”
You see, we’re both in a mommy-and-me preschool with our toddlers and the scene above happened in the car on the way home. Why the heck was I such a mess after preschool? Good question.
Turns out it’s because I don’t have a clue how to be a normal mom. If you’ve read posts here for any length of time, you know it’s partly due to the special needs of my older girls. Until today, though, I didn’t realize how much that’s changed me.
It’s left me a foreigner in the land of normal.
Raising kids with mood and behavioral special needs really messes with you. It’s tiring in every way imaginable. It’s not pretty to watch in public. And it is a confidence-killer. Especially if you’ve done everything professionals recommend and invested your life in therapeutic parenting, only to throw up the white flag and end up admitting your child to a residential treatment facility 7 years later.
Like I said: confidence killer. But the circumstances weren’t the only culprit. I helped over the years by falling in to the trap of perfectionism. In my grief and stress, I bargained, “If I just did everything perfectly, my daughter will get well.”
My perfectionism did more to kill confidence than the circumstances themselves.
Perfect vs. Confident
Perfect is the dark side of confidence. Confidence is knowing what you’re here for, what you’re good at, and what God wants you to do with it all. It’s recognizing and taking care of that realm in your life (2 Cor 10:14-17).
When we relentlessly focus inward instead of on God’s design, the clarity with which we see ourselves becomes a murky view of all we don’t have and can’t do.
But if we make it our life’s work not to be perfect but rather confident in what God made us to do and who He made us to be, it’s life-giving.
That is, I believe, what Jesus meant about a taking on the “light burden” and “easy yoke” He offers us all (Matthew 11:30).
Replacing Perfectionism With Confidence
- Ask questions. Ask God, yourself, and others what you’re good at, what you do that helps others most, and what gives you the most joy?
- Notice your history. What activities are you attracted to, and which give you the most energy? What does your role end up being at whatever job or group you’re involved in?
- Find mentors. Seek and build relationships with people who share your strengths and passions. Look for people who challenge you to grow your strengths, and who encourage you in your giftings.
- Pray… with your eyes open. Every tiny fraction of a degree change in our life trajectory with each choice we make can lead to huge differences in outcome, so navigate them with your eyes emotionally, mentally and spiritually “wide open.”
- Affirm what God’s affirming in you. Confidence is agreeing with what is true. Perfectionism is agreeing with and pursuing everything and everyone’s expectations. Focus on your area of gifting and strength, and affirm it daily.
For me, as I bounce back from years of waning confidence and ballooning perfectionism, this is a constant choice. But I don’t want to feel like a stranger to normal as a parent. I don’t want to constantly feel like a failure or like my own mind is a tyrant. So I choose daily to pursue true, honest, life-giving confidence.
Will you join me in that choice?