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.