I was standing at the sink washing dishes about a week ago. Let’s call it “angry washing” because I’d just finished an argument with my husband, and as per usual for couples who’ve been together longer than a day, we’d both said some things we didn’t mean…and maybe some things we did.
During this argument my husband had listed a few of my shortcomings. This list included “not being a good listener,” as well as “always thinking of yourself first.” (Don’t feel too bad for me here. I, too, liberally shared a list of his shortcomings.)
As I shuffled dinner plates from the sink to the dishwasher, the blood pumping in my veins eventually cooled, and with it the realization that he was right–not about everything, but certainly about the bad listening and self-centeredness. These were flaws I was well aware of; flaws I’m constantly attempting to overcome.
Feeling ashamed, I immediately started brainstorming ways that I could try harder to improve.
I recalled tactics I’d used in the past but had quit trying, and resolved to try again. I devised a 30-day challenge for myself in a matter of moments (for the record, some delusional part of me earnestly believes that all problems can be solved with a 30-day challenge). I imagined a future version of myself being better, and receiving praise from my husband and others in place of critique.
And that’s when I heard it. In the midst of my self-coaching, a quiet Voice spoke from my heart.
“You don’t have to fix yourself,” it whispered.
(**Insert dramatic pause**)
With those six words, my eyes filled with tears as a feeling of freedom rushed in, removing all the shame. Instantly I recognized how much energy I put into trying to fix myself, and how much pressure I place on myself to try harder and be better. I’m always striving to grow and improve.
Reader, I’m sharing this story because I’m not blind. I read your Instagram updates and see your pins. I talk to you over dinner and hear the words you’re saying about yourself. Here’s what I know:
You’re just like me–always trying to fix yourself.
Let me say–I love this about you. The “better version” of you that you’re striving for is a more loving, more generous, more kind, more patient, more present person. In other words, your heart is SO in the right place. I see that.
Also, growth is good. We were designed to grow–it’s literally in our DNA. When we’re not growing, we’re stuck, and stuck feels worse than striving.
But somewhere in the midst of growth, what was supposed to be natural became work. And work led to pressure, which opened the door to failure and shame. Do you feel the shame? Because I certainly do. Which is why that quiet Voice brought me to tears.
In that moment of clarity when the Voice spoke, I was filled with such an optimistic hope for myself. I simultaneously knew two things that contradicted each other:
One, I was accepted just as I was in that moment, and for every moment afterward. I knew that if I spent every day for the rest of my life being exactly this flawed (or even more flawed), that was okay.
Two, I was “fixable.” There’s a power greater than me working good things into my spirit. I don’t have to work for it; I just need to go with it.
I want these two realizations to sink into your heart, too. Because there’s freedom and hope on the other side of pressure and trying harder.
So, here are two things to try instead of fixing yourself
Grace is favor that you don’t earn and don’t deserve.
Let me repeat that: you don’t earn it.
Grace is a beautiful, wonderful gift that trumps self-improvement every day of the week. It heals. It restores. And because it’s a gift, you don’t work for it. You just accept it. But grace and fixing yourself are like oil and water–they don’t mix. You have to let go of the one in order to have the other.
Let go and trust.
Trust that healing is happening, and you don’t have to force it. Trust that you’re not alone–that there is a Helper always guiding you, speaking through your heart and revealing truth along the way. And then embrace the adventure of not being the one in control, and see what happens. I think it will surprise you. I hope so.