Everyday Life

The {UN}Word of 2014: Progress Not Perfection Part 2

Unperfect is not a word. But it’s the 2014 un-word that I claim. And not because it seems like it should be a really easy un-word to live up to. That’s not why I choose it. Here’s why….

progress

If you read my post on how I’m feeling about New Year’s resolutions, you know my motto for this year is “Progress, Not Perfection.” Twenty days into 2014, that’s still the goal in my mind.

But…

There’s another goal that fights with the progress side of things, one I must have been born with. It’s called “The desire to appear perfect.” And its motto is “Only noticeable progress, thankyouverymuch.” Yes, I have a performance issue. I don’t like to display my struggles, and it gets me uptight when I realize that I don’t have a choice on whether to show them or not. Because let’s be honest, the fact that I struggle to stay on top of dishes, to organize anything, to be a good friend, or to maintain some semblance of a blog is clearly on display. And the display bothers me. And then to admit that I’m working on some area of life, without having any noticeable progress to show for it? Well, that really bites.

But I’m not supposed to care about that in 2014, right? I’m supposed to only care about making progress, not achieving perfection, or even appearing to achieve perfection. Still, I’m simply not convincing the performance driven person inside of me of any of this. “Progress, schmogress,” she says. “No one would even know you spent any time cleaning this house right now. No one would know you mopped when you can’t see through the dust swirling every time your kids jump on the couch. No one cares that you actually washed, folded, and put away three loads of laundry when you can’t see the carpet through the wooden train tracks and puzzle pieces. No one would know you made three square meals…okay, judging by the dishes still filling the counter space, yes, one would know. No one knows you read 5 books this week because you haven’t blogged about it on your book blog and why would you even tell people that, you lazy woman? And people won’t even notice the progress you’ve made with your two-year-old’s attitude towards his peers when they see your daughter’s glare when she doesn’t like what you say.” I pay attention to that voice, for some reason.

Listen, I know I’ll never arrive. But can’t I just look like I have? That’s what’s going through my head these days. I want progress, and I want it to be noticeable. I listen to that voice when I should slap it in the mouth.

I’m always fighting this inner battle. I’ve spent a lot of my life giving in to the performance driven me, and –news flash to me –it’s never gotten me anything but a fleeting self-pat on the back and a large load of long-lasting guilt.  You and I, individuals who are doing our best to accomplish truly worthwhile things, need to daily refuse to listen to that voice that tells us nothing we do actually measures up to progress. We need to keep celebrating positive motion and encourage ourselves when we fail instead of beating ourselves up. Because our goals are important, and they’re more important than what our efforts look like. Goals to parent, to train, to nurture, to befriend, to love, to study, to create, to serve…these goals are a vital part of living a meaningful life, and my “progress, not perfection” mantra is not a bless-your-little-heart excuse for shrugging off failures. Because really, when it comes to these kinds of goals, failure is not an option. No, progress over perfection is supposed to be a way to realistically take steps towards goals I know are so big, I’ll never fully achieve them. I know that, and I have to admit that to everyone else. I’m never going to have it all together. But I’m going to have to set aside my desire to make myself appear to be Really Ridiculously Competent In Everything if I’m going to make real progress in my motives for success.

If you’re 20 days into your new year and feeling the pressure inside your head to perform, already, to stop being wishy-washy and get it all together, well, I’m right there with you. I’m claiming Unperfect as my un-word because I know that means way more than just flawed. What it means to me is embracing unperfect as beautiful. Unperfect is reality, unperfect is in every beautiful thing I’ve ever seen because nothing in this world is perfect. I’m always going to be a work in progress, and my work is always going to be in progress, so it’s always going to be unperfect and that has to be okay. Is it killing me not to write “imperfect?” Yes, but that’s just the point. This un-word, unperfect, it slaps me in the face and tells me to put away that red pen, quit criticizing and praising and drawing lines, and go make some progress on things that matter.

So what are you letting go of now that 2014 has begun? What’s your un-word? It’s a pretty clarifying way to think of how you can really change something in your attitude. I hope you claim an un-word for yourself. Read all about other bloggers un-words here and share your own!

10 thoughts on “The {UN}Word of 2014: Progress Not Perfection Part 2”

  1. Ilse van Rooyen says:

    I am reading your post 27 days into 2016 and it gives me hope for this year. I am 1 and a half years into a 2 year Master’s degree and I constantly feel like I have almost nothing to show for it! I am also teaching full time and have an 8 year old son I raise alone. Your post gives words to feelings I’ve had for the longest time! Thank you!

    1. MiaTheReader says:

      I am so honored to be able to hand you some hope today, Ilse. You are doing hard things, and sometimes just the fact that you’re still plugging away is all there is to show for it, right? This woman across the Internet is praying for you tonight, that you’ll get glimpses of the great things to come as you work so hard in this busy season and you’ll have strength to keep on. Thanks for your encouraging words to me, as well!

      1. Ilse van Rooyen says:

        Thank you for your response and your inspiration! May you have a blessed year.

  2. caitlin says:

    Oh, what a humble post! I love your un-word. Best of luck xoxo

  3. Deborah says:

    oh, how we women can beat ourselves up over things! I love a quote by Edith Schaeffer that goes something like “if you expect perfection or nothing, you’ll get nothing every time.”
    Wishing you the best in 2014.

  4. Nada (Memories From Books) says:

    You are definitely not alone in the perfection vs. progress battle. I am reading an interesting book about the topic – The Gifts of Imperfection. Looking forward to seeing what insights it has to offer.

    One thing I do know – We are all perfectly imperfect! We just need to learn to love that about ourselves.

    1. MiaTheReader says:

      I look forward to your review of The Gifts of Imperfection! sounds fascinating. Honestly, I will probably never love my imperfections, but I find a lot of hope in knowing they’re not eternal.

  5. Sandy says:

    Well I’m sitting here trying to think of the “perfect ”
    thing to write (justtyped right and had to orrect it ha-ha) I want to correct that too. Anyhoo none of us is perfect yet were are all individually created with special
    gifts, talents, and flaws. May you enjoy your year in our unperfect world.

    1. MiaTheReader says:

      Yes, you are so right! It’s hard to remember that even our flaws are intended especially for us.

  6. Stephanie Lovett says:

    I love your honesty. I have the same sort of conversation in my head and at age 44 am slowly learning to tell myself if I make a mistake, “hey, I’ll do better next time. Forgive, learn, and move on.” As I get older, I’m learning more and more with God’s reminding, to appreciate every day that I get to be alive, and not to sweat things. He loves me and shows me continually, that He’s not waiting to pull the rug out if I am not the best Christian at times, He loves me and is with me. Being a Christian is a challenge, a joy, and a blessing. I would say ladies, let yourself be forgiven and enjoy your life…Jesus wants you to

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