Learning through Life

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Hampshire, United Kingdom
I love how our day-to-day life can teach us lessons to help us understand our past, challenge our today, and inspire our future. We can learn through experiences, situations, conversations, songs, books, nature ... the list is endless! Live with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear and a heart ready to be touched.

Monday, 17 September 2012

The one with the problem

I have a problem, and 18 years ago today, in a speech my Father gave at my wedding, he told all the guests about it.

I still struggle with it today, despite knowing it limits and restricts a life lived to the full!

You would think that after all this time I would be free of it, but no, it still lingers and rears its ugly head without invitation. 

I need to shake it off and get over it, but it's deep-set and firmly lodged in my very being - in my thoughts, words and action.  It sucks - and it's time to come clean in an attempt to loosen its hold on my life.

This blog welcomes the start of the healing process ...

You see, I'm a competitive perfectionist.  There, it's out.  Written in black and placed on white.  A truth that has often been dressed up and disguised as something good.  But it's not.  It's really not.

The words my Father spoke all those years ago came as a surprise - I hadn't realised he knew me that well to be honest.  We were not the closest of families!  And yet, he recognised it.  He had seen it play out in many areas of my life, and seen the effect it had on my ability to enjoy the opportunities given to me.

'Joanne (that received an audible drawing in of breath from the guests as I had never been known by my given name, and had changed it to 'Jo' by deed poll before getting married!) - is a talented and gifted girl (well - I was only 23) who is capable of achieving great things, and I hope she does and that her need to be the best at everything she does won't get in the way of this.'


That was me!

So many times I had given up on something when I realised I wasn't the best.  I wasn't the fastest.  The toughest.  The most clever.  The funniest.

I loved life and learning new things and often found myself at a pretty good standard at most things I did.  But pretty good wasn't good enough.  Silver or Bronze looked dull compared to Gold!  I felt a failure.  I couldn't handle it - and when it became clear that I was unlikely to push through and achieve what I wanted I found an excuse to give up.

And today, nothing much has changed.  Even when it comes to blogging.

When I first dipped my toes into the sea of blogging nearly two years ago, I never expected to find myself feeling totally submerged and tossed around by its waves.  

In my first blog I explained ...

'Writing somehow allows me to express myself in a way that makes sense - to me at least!  As someone who finds expression difficult in word - I seem to be able to put my true thoughts and feelings down through pen and paper (keyboard and screen!).  Which - I guess - is ultimately the whole point of attempting this blog.  I hope writing this will allow me to explore and express!  That is for me.  For you?  I hope that through my ramblings you will somehow be encouraged and empowered - to explore your life - and all that God has planned for it :)'

The truth is, whilst I obviously hoped that one or two of my friends would read my ramblings, I honestly never expected my posts to reach the eyes of anyone else.  I guess I had a rather naive understanding of the blogosphere!

And now ... 60 posts on - with almost 50 followers and 25,000 hits on my blog - I have began to feel the pressure.  People actually choose to read my writings?!

But there are so many good bloggers out there.  They are funny, interesting, profound, creative, well-written, frequent, encouraging, insightful ... and I just can't compete with them.

And so, as always, I back off.  I go quiet.  I focus elsewhere and create excuses not to write.  Here we go again ...

But no!

I love writing.  I love sharing my thoughts.  I love that people are kind enough to read and sometimes comment or share.  I love that you have come back to read this after I have been in hiding for so long.

So, I'm not the best writer.  I am slow.  It takes me a long time to put my thoughts into sentences and paragraphs that I am happy with.  My grammatical understanding isn't great.  I just can't get my head around 'affect' and 'effect' - or when a colon or semi-colon should be used.  I make mistakes.

So, I'm not the most creative of thinkers. I can't always think outside of the box and offer new thoughts and ideas.  I don't often write in a way that captures the reader and carries them to new places.

And I could go on ...

I am never going to be the best blogger out there.  I'm never going to win an award.  I'm never going to soar the heights with stats and followers ...

But that's ok.  It isn't why I started blogging in the first place, and I need to remind myself of this.

It isn't about being the best is it?  We can't all be the best.  Imagine the blogosphere (or any other area) if all bloggers fought to be the best.  It would no longer be a colourful meadow of experiences, thoughts and ideas - but a battleground. Cold.  Ugly.  Messy.

I can't be the best at everything - and neither can you.

However, although I can't be the best, I can do my best. And this makes a big difference doesn't it?

I believe that God wants us to do our best in all that we do.  He has given us each unique giftings and talents and wants us to use them well. Half-hearted efforts do not reflect well on our relationship with a God who went all out and sent his Son to die for us.  We should do our best with what God has given us.

When we are doing our best, we consider our own experience, skill, resources and time - and not those of others.

When we are doing our best, we can let go of competition and enjoy the experience.

And that is where I am right now.  I accept I'm not the best blogger out there, and that I never will be and that is good. It releases the valve on the performance pressure that has built up almost to a level of writing paralysis.
I can stop the fight and enjoy the ride!

Maybe you understand?  Maybe you have battled with something similar.  Perhaps not in blogging, but elsewhere.  Can I encourage you to take some of the pressure off.  Accept you are not going to be the best at everything, every time.  It's just not possible.  Drop it.

But you can do your best with what you have, and when you do you will not only being to enjoy the experience but you will be able to live life to the full!

So, I'm blogging again. I will do my best.  I believe that God wants us to do this.  I love sharing my thoughts and experiences with you and hope that what I write will entertain, encourage and maybe even inspire you.  Yes, mistakes will be made, and others will write with greater creativity, but I am going to enjoy the experience again- and I hope you will too.


  1. Hi Jo, thank you for your honesty. I too have struggled with perfectionism, in my case I used to be a compulsive perfectionist. I was never bothered about where I came in relatio to others, but only in relation to what I knew was I was capable of.

    I used to be so bad, that it was in some ways crippling (I would rewrite a page of A4 when I made one mistake with only a few lines left on the second page)! God dealt with that when I became a Christian, but I still have very high standards and always will, although now it is manageable not out of control!

    Last week I did not manage to blog as it was just one of those weeks, but most of my posts are written then edited once only, this helps to stop me over-editing them. It is true if I am doing other work it normally is a longer process, but I too find blogging is helpful in keeping the perfectionism in check. Some posts do take longer, especially if part of it just isn't right, or doesn't get over what I want to say. Then I will do something else (one reason why I have a few different series of posts running concurrently) and come back to the other one later.

    In my blogging I am trying to be faithful to God and to myself, and generally aim to post 6 days a week even if I can't always manage it. Let's enjoy sharing who we are, and not trying to be who we are not! Then I know I enjoy it more, and my readers can choose to take me or leave me as I am, and for what I am rather than for what I'm not!

    Keep at it Jo, I love the honesty of your posts, and how you are walking your journey with Jesus and are letting us share it with you!

    Be blessed, as you bless others, Theresa

    1. Hi Theresa, thanks for your thoughts :)

      I also know what it is like to have to do my absolute best - which is a big part of the reason why I am not doing an MA now - as I know I wont be happy with scraping a pass in the assignments - but really don't think I have time to achieve much more!

      I am aiming to get quicker with my blogging - although I know this will reduce the quality of my writing - but still - with practice I am sure it will eventually get somewhere!!

      Being faithful to God and to ourselves is huge in blogging isn't it?! I think ultimately, it is also what other people want to read too.

      Yup - let's do this!! :) Jo

  2. Hey Jo,

    I know the perfectionist battle too! It is freeing to let go!

    Glad you are winning - because your blogging and everything else you do blesses people more than you can imagine. Beautiful writing may wow us, but it is probably not what everyone appreciates most. People are not looking for 'the best' - they are looking for the encouragement and inspiration that comes from your willingness to share honestly and openly.

    1. Thank you for your kinds words and encouragement!! Jo

  3. I'm glad you're back, Jo!

    I understand your frustration. It colors many areas of my own life. Just yesterday evening I was sitting in class, listening to my students talk about other professors and feeling that spirit of competitive perfectionism rear its unproductive head. So your words come as a welcome reminder and an inspiration this morning. God uses our imperfect vessels... and with that, I suppose I'd better start working on Thursday's lesson plan. ;-)


    1. Hi Laura, Oooh I can imagine what that must have been like. On one hand I would have wanted to listen in - but on the other hand - it probably wouldn't have done me any good so I would have wanted to walk away. Hope the lesson plan went well?! :)


  4. Hi Jo,
    I totally battle with this and can relate to it in terms of blogging as well as many other things.

    I really want to thank you for your blog and your bravery that you keep writing. Your words are probably more profound and liberating than you realise, and more heard than you will see.

    There's something beautiful about the community blogging brings and we need more vulnerability like this and less comparison; which is stifling to both community and writing at it's full potential. Thanks for your vulnerability.

    Blessings, Becca x

    1. Hi Becca,

      Thanks for reading and your encouraging response :)

      I totally agree - comparison isn't always healthy - especially when it is about 'winning'! I love to compare different styles etc - but that is healthy, and, I think, helps in developing my own writing style. I have to keep watching to ensure it is the right type of comparison taking place - but I'll get there in time!


  5. Hi Jo,

    I am not looking for perfection because I am very long distance away from perfection myself but I'm looking for sincerity, encouragement and inspiration and I get them from your blog each time, so please keep blogging :)

    1. Thank you! Good job you're not looking for perfection because you would not be finding it here! Sincerity, encouragement and inspiration I can aim at though :)

  6. Hi Jo
    Shaking off perfectionism is sooo hard because it is hardwired in us from an early age. Often it takes one to know one so I think your Dad was being quite astute at the time. My Dad still doesn't know he is a perfectionist(now in his late 70's) but I have been getting there for some years with much grace. Hopefully things were recognised early enough for the same cycle to not get repeated with my own children.
    I love the comment above 'Beautiful writing may wow us, but it is probably not what everyone appreciates most. People are..looking for the encouragement and inspiration that comes from your willingness to share honestly and openly.' Also intuitive was a quote I read from @WritingJoy on twitter 'Comparisons are a poison that distracts us from things that really matter. They keep us caught up in cheap competitions and pity parties, instead of doing the hard work of making the world a better place.'
    Look forward to the next blog (no pressure!)
    Jo (aka @Piano_Jo)


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