Each new year, as I think on new beginnings here on the blog, I feel this strange need to reassert that I am nothing special. I am a far from perfect parent, teacher, researcher, and writer.
I am generally and generously flawed as a human being.
I don’t know why I feel the urge to make that disclaimer so frequently. Why this need to make it absolutely clear that I am, so obviously, human? The urge has been particularly strong this year, as our family is in the middle of an adventure….or in the middle of chaos, depending upon your perspective!
I think it’s because I work in this professional sphere of ideal theory and best practice, meshed with the Pinterest-perfection of the blogosphere. I want to be able to share all the best that’s out there, without creating any false illusion that I am actually doing it all perfectly myself.
Then there are days when I not only feel the need to make the disclaimer, but to ask the ever-ready “Who am I?” question.
“Who am I to teach people how to be good parents?”
“Who am I to write about classroom practice?”
“Who am I to get up in front of an auditorium full of people and tell them how to be champions for childhood?”
“Who am I to do any of it, when I’m just me — perfectly imperfect me?”
I know I’m not alone in this. I think the pandemic of perfectionism makes a valiant attempt to stop many of us in our tracks.
I hear it all around me:
My friend who worries as a blogger, about matching up with the strengths of her peers.
My friend who’s a health coach, who feels weighed down by guilt because she struggles as much as her clients do with food demons and negative self-talk.
My fellow moms who say we’re aware of the fact that we’re in charge of these little people, but quite honestly aren’t sure we know what the heck we’re doing from moment to moment.
We aren’t perfect. Not one of us.
And that’s OK.
What’s not OK, is when we let our imperfections get in the way of our greatness.
My blogger friends (especially you, Jean!) inspire an unimaginable number of people every single day that they choose to show up and share their talents.
My health-coach friend has literally transformed not only the physical form of her clients, but their entire lives and their futures.
My fellow moms teach me daily through their examples, and they are, without a doubt, their kids’ biggest heroes.
Flaws not withstanding.
We each have so much greatness to share, not only in spite of our imperfections, but because of them. Because we’ve made mistakes and come up short, we can help others from a position of empathy and compassion rather than elevated judgement. Our humanness makes us more humane.
And in our effort to help others, we often help ourselves. Learning and growing happen best in good company.
But there’s a little voice in each of us that tries to say, “Sit down. Stop shining your light. You just aren’t good enough.” It’s that same voice that makes us question, “Who am I?”
But when I find myself asking, “Who am I?”, I often think of the famous quote from Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I try to respond to the “Who am I?” doubts with the simple reminder: “Your playing small does not serve the world.”
I am full of flaws, and so are you. But using that as an excuse to play small does nothing to serve others around us.
I think too about the people throughout history who could have let imperfection dim their light and who could have chosen to play small. Many of my own heroes could easily have succumb to “Who am I?”, but they didn’t. They realized they were more than the sum of their imperfections. They gave what they had and did amazing things in their own individual spheres —- and then they literally changed the world.
You may be “just a mom”, “just a teacher”, “just a lawyer”, or “just a case-worker”. But there is room for everyday greatness in your sphere. Flaws notwithstanding. If you were required to be perfect before sharing your light, this world would be a very dark place.
So I’ll state the obvious again this year, and proclaim that I am not perfect. And I’m sorry to say that you aren’t either. But I want to challenge each of us not to let our imperfections get in the way of our greatness.
We each have a spark. We just have to be bold enough to show up and let it shine.
Very powerful! Thanks for sharing such important thoughts! This give me more courage to press on.
Thank you so much, Kaelin! I’m flattered! I saw that you’ve moved to another university! I hope you’re loving it!
One of my favorite posts so far!! Just what I needed to hear.
Aw, that means so much to me, Michelle! Thanks for always inspiring me! Glad I could finally return the favor!
Really need to read this today! Thank you.
There are some lovely young ladies I know who have been struggling with their “light” and I was talking with their moms about this just today. Thank you for your timely post. I was able to send this to them…and you have helped me restart my own flame.
Mrs P says
Thank you for always inspiring me and lighting the way. X
Katie H. says
This so important for us as parents! I have really felt that there is too much pressure on families to be perfect, and it adds so much unnecessary stress. I would like to pass on a book, Breaking the Good Mom Myth, by Alison Schafer. It allows us to embrace our imperfections, love our children and be true. Her later books are even better, Honey, I Wrecked the Kids and Ain’t Misbehavin. She teaches how to parent by guiding. Thank you for your blog. I really enjoy reading it, and sharing with our parents at the daycare.
Thanks so much for your book recs, Katie! They sound fantastic! (And thank you for the kind words. So lucky to have awesome readers like you!)
I LOVE this! Thank you so much for sharing. I especially love the quote that you shared from Marrianne Williamson. “If we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” I want to shout that from the rooftops! If everybody could understand that one concept, just think of the power that they could have to change their own lives, and then, by extension, the lives of others. And perfection is never required to do that. Thanks again.
So true, Lynnette! Thank you for your kind words!
I am a speech-language therapist, turned stay-at-home-mom for various reasons. Now that my youngest of 2 is nearly 3 years old, I so very much want to start living out my dream and passion. And exactly this post of yours is currently my biggest stumbling block!! I appreciate your honesty so much and believe it was a message straight out of heaven for me today.
My dream is to start a group, blog, where I can work with moms of ‘low risk’ babies to help them learn how to facilitate their kids’ speech and language development in the best way possible. Having had two of those babies myself, I so much want to share and make life easier for other moms. Here’s hoping I can shine brightly in 2015!
It sounds like a brilliant idea, Renate! Best of luck to you! I know it will make a big difference in the lives of many people out there waiting for it!
Roma Khetarpal says
I love the way you look at life–simple, yet profound! As a fellow author and mindful parenting advocate, the topic of “perfection” is one that is close to my heart. Thanks for sharing your light with us, Amanda! I look forward to connecting with you via email very soon!
I LOVE THIS POST and I love the fact you start each year with this intent and share it. How liberating for you and inspirational for us ! Such power to be able to shout from the rooftops with arms wide open and say hey I am not perfect, but there is so much perfection in imperfection. I am I enough. I stand in my truth and I give my best…. wow that is truly powerful. The marianne williamson quote is my all time favourite. So much truth in it. thanks for writing this blog. xx
Erica Layne says
But you talk about not being perfect SO PERFECTLY! Love this post, Amanda.