Such a loaded word for only two syllables worth of vocal real estate.
We all want it. We all strive for it. We all wish we were better at it.
And we all beat ourselves up over the fact that, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t attain it.There’s always something that gets left undone, forgotten, or given less than our best efforts.
In For the Love, Jen Hatmaker speaks to the theory that our society is hinged on comparison culture:
“we have up-close access to women who excel in each individual sphere. With social media and its carefully selected messaging, we see career women killing it, craft moms slaying it, chef moms nailing it, Christian leaders working it […] Then we combine the best of everything we see, every woman we admire in every genre, and conclude: I should be all of that.”
That is so absurd. Yet, we’re ALL guilty of it.
We waste SO much energy trying to be good at everything, when we aren’t necessarily called to be.We live in a constant state of judging ourselves against the polished lives of those around us.We fill our plates with far more activities, responsibilities, and “shoulds” than we can realistically balance.
Jen H. likens this phenomenon to a balance beam. Of the impulse to weigh our lives down with as many hobbies, jobs, activities, projects, etc as we possibly can, she says:
“meanwhile we have beautiful lives begging to be really lived, really enjoyed, really applauded—and it is simpler than we dare hope: we gotta unload that beam […] Decide which parts are draining you dry. What do you dread? What are you including for all the wrong reasons? Which parts are for approval? […] Throw out every should or should not and make ruthless cuts. Go ahead. Your beam is much too crowded.”
And while Jen (we’re [practically] BFF’s and she’s also part of #the4500, so I can call her that) speaks to the mostly physical aspects of a loaded beam, I wager that it can apply to our mental well-being just as much.
Because our minds get just as mired in the debate of who we are vs. who we “should” be. I know I spend
a lot of time listening to the thoughts that constantly play in my mind. (Maybe it’s an introvert thing, but I’m always talking down the “gremlins” that Brenè Brown refers to in Daring Greatly.) In Brown’s research she uses the term “gremlin” as a synonym for “shame tapes.” She found that:
“shame derives its power from being unspeakable […] it loves perfectionists [hello, introvert!]—it’s so easy to keep us quiet […] Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither. Just the way exposure to light was deadly for [Spielberg’s] gremlins, language and story bring light to shame and destroy it.”
I have struggled with this for decades. I don’t remember having a mind clear of the shame tapes rolling. All the fears, anxiety, approval-seeking thoughts that have occupied my brain for so long are exhausting. And YOU cannot balance them. There is no balance when it comes to these thoughts. They become too powerful, drowning out the positive attributes we have, the messages of hope, and courage and “you are enough” that we all need to hear ourselves say to our actual selves.
And over the last two years, they roared in my ears, every minute of every day.
“You’ve made a huge mistake.”
“You weren’t brave enough.”
“You’re invisible; no one sees you.”
“You don’t have what it takes to make a difference.”
“Wasted—that’s all that opportunity was.”
“You missed your chance. You blew it.”
Those words in your head every day for two years will drive you insane. You can hide it well behind the mask of “I’ve got it together,” you can numb it, you can push it down deep and build a wall around it—but it will not go away.
I’d settled into this way of living. Ignoring all the feelings, the emotions, the reality of my pain and became a shell of myself. Presenting my happy self to the world around me, but inside I was miserable.
I could not see my way out.
I’m so thrilled to say it’s not like that today.
Over the past month, a series of events, connections, and words have been set into motion that have broken through that wall that held all those thoughts captive. My heart is free again. The Light has come and destroyed those thoughts, leaving them shriveled and whimpering.
As I was pondering the change in my mind and heart over this time, I realized that I had forgotten a key point.
In early September, I attended a gathering of my church and our sister church in Indiana. On the last evening of services, the pastors called for prayer for healing.
I’ll be honest—I was in a funk that night. I was 900 miles from home, I’d spent nearly three straight days in a car with an extrovert; I wanted quiet, I wanted to be by myself. And the “gremlins” were roaring in my head. But I stood up; I tried to pray, but all I could say was, “Jesus.”
After a few minutes, someone approached and prayed over me—for balance: “Jesus, bring balance to the mind, body, and spirit. Bring them into alignment with you.”
The person who prayed those words was a stranger. Someone who had no idea of the struggle I was facing. But God knew and He has made sure I know that He knows in a hundred ways over the past three weeks. And He has brought balance. I FEEL ALIVE again. Fear and anxiety aren’t ruling me anymore. There’s so much joy in my heart, I feel like I could jump out of my skin.
By the grace of God, I have regained my balance after years of teetering on the edge.
Those “gremlins” we carry around? OFF THE BEAM
Those things we fill our lives with to keep up with all the “perfect people”? OFF THE BEAM
It has to stop.
It has to stop because it isn’t the way God created us to live.
We aren’t called to live under that kind of pressure.
But if we’re so caught up in trying to attain goals that aren’t meant for us to attain or listening to the gremlins that drown out our thoughts, we waste the beautiful, extraordinarily ordinary lives we were given.