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Perfectionists

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I'm Gonna Bunt

Photo with kids.  Bunt.
Photo with kids. Bunt.

I tried fruitlessly for a while to keep my almost-two-year-old daughter off of her four-year-old brother's soccer field, but the tantrums were getting embarrassing and nobody seems to mind her out there anyway.

So now I let her run.

Not to brag, but I think she's a strong candidate for MVP, even though she's the only one without a jersey.  She's rather spirited.

Recently, Husband and I sat in the grass by the sidelines, wondering if sporting events will comprise a large part of our family's future.

"It's in their genes," I said, referring to athleticism.

Husband, who went to college on a pitching scholarship and who literally talks in his sleep about being "unstoppable" on the basketball court, said, "yeah, but I'll be just as happy going to piano concerts or theater performances if they're not into sports.  If they aren't interested in baseball or basketball, I don't want to force it."

"I was talking about MY genes, too," I said, hyper-suspicious that he doesn't appreciate the raw athleticism that I have bequeethed our children through my half of their gene soup.  "I was an athlete too, you know."

"You ARE an athlete," he said.

The statement both puffed my chest and put me on the hunt for any traces of sarcasm or condescension.   I found neither.

"You have the strength, the passion, the speed, the hand-eye coordination," he said.  "You would have been a GREAT athlete if you didn't try to swing for the fences all the time.  Your head got in your way."

I couldn't take insult from this because I knew it to be true.  Plus, I was still puffy-chested knowing he sees me as an athlete, so I was willing to let the caveat slide.

The caveat about my head getting in the way?  This is not news to me.  I've been hearing it ever since I was a pre-teen in sliding shorts, swinging the biggest bat on the softball field.  I'd get a home run or I'd strike out.

As a softball player, usually I'd strike out.  But I've never had any intention of altering my approach.  

My dad, our bless-his-heart third base coach, would tell me, "Just get on base."  But I didn't want to "just" get on base.  I wanted to "tear the cover off that ball," which was his other signature coaching advice, and the one that I "knew" would make him proudest of me.

I knew I had the potential for the home run, so I wanted a grand slam or I wanted nothing at all.  I wanted to knock it out of the park, and if not, I wanted to be able to go to sleep that night knowing that I tried to be ALL that I could be.

In volleyball:  my serves were aces or they were in the net.  In soccer:  I was captain and leading scorer or I was hanging up my cleats for yearbook.  In school:  I was getting A's or…well, I guess my attitude in school was "'A' or DIE," which thankfully turned out okay-ish, if you don't count all the mental breakdowns.

But to be a *great* athlete, you need to get on base.  You need to be able to stay in the game, or you are not a *great* athlete at all.

People think it takes guts to stand in front of a crowd and strike out.  They think it takes courage to stand in the middle of a full high school gymnasium and serve a ball into the net.

They are right.  That does require a certain amount of cajones.  And for the majority of people--people who like to play things "safe" by hiding in mediocrity--"swinging for the fences" is an awesome stretch goal, because it puts them in a position where they COULD fail miserably.  That's a great growth goal that I would both encourage and cheer.  For some people.

But not for me.

For me, the land of extremes IS my comfort zone.  When the cards fall, I am either the most talented person in the world (and therefore "worthy" of love) or I appear to be the most courageous in the world (and again am "worthy.")  

It is safe here.

For me, it's the base hits that scare me.  It's the volleyball serves that land in play which freak me out.

I am afraid of being unremarkable.

And after 32.45 years of living this way, I am only realizing it as I type this sentence.

The word "perfectionist" makes my skin crawl (because it seems to imply that we think we are "perfect" or "better than" other people, which couldn't be further from the truth), but I would bet that most quote-on-quote "perfectionists" could identify with the fear of a base hit.

Any psychologist worth his copay will tell you that perfectionism is a hiding place, as much as any addiction--like drugs or alcohol or gambling.  Perfectionism is a way of coping with the world and of the fear that our essence--our CORE--the purest form of who we are--is not enough to warrant love.

The problem is that how we do everything is how we do anything, and this sporting philosophy, if you can believe it, still isn't serving me today.  It affects me as a mom, as a wife, as a friend, as a business person.

Do you know the famous quote about insanity?  I've been thinking about it a lot over the past couple of days, mostly because I overheard someone f*ck it up royally and condescendingly, which was too ironic to leave my head.  ("You know the definition of stupidity?" he said jerk-ticiously.  "It's doing the same thing over and over and getting different results.")

ACTUALLY, the definition of INSANITY is doing the same thing over and over and EXPECTING different results, but I'm sure that man's condescension comes from the fact that he, too, is insecure, so I send him love.

I don't want to be insane.  Swinging for the fences is hurting me more than it is serving me, and it has been my whole life.  So I think it's time to switch up my game plan.

As a blogger, I am afraid to lose readers by writing mediocre posts.  I am afraid people will unsubscribe if I post too often, or too boringly, or if I write about my photography, in case my photography is not what originally drew you to my blog.  If I don't think a post has the potential to go viral, I don't want to post at all.

Frankly, this is serving no one.  Sometimes I over-tweak posts to the point where I read them three months later and I think, "huh?"  I have no fewer than 100 half-written posts that probably could have helped people over the last year, but they never made it to the blog because they weren't "just right."

And frankly, I don't even have time for all the tweaking.

If I'm going to stay in the game, I need to learn to bunt.

So I think my personal work this week, this month, and most likely this lifetime, is to bunt.  If I bunt on the blog and people unsubscribe, this is a good thing.  It is the universe's way of helping me filter down to "my people" and of helping those unsubscribers find someone whose writing does speak to them more.

I will trust that if I feel inspired to write something, this is the universe's way of telling me that somebody needs to hear it.

Maybe, like today, that somebody is me.

And that somebody named Me is more than enough.

***

My new mantra:  "Bunt."

Is there an area of your life where you are afraid to bunt right now?  Or maybe the opposite?  Maybe your work is in trying to swing for the fences?  

Tell me about it!  

Shine on, loves.  xoxoxo

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I Want to Knock You Over (Practices in Avoiding Vulnerability)

www.bethanylee.com-1-54.jpg
www.bethanylee.com-1-54.jpg

My boy and I?  Here's how we hug:

As soon as I sit on the floor, a glimmer hits his eye, eager anticipation lifting his eyebrows.  He collides into me and we tumble backwards, his heart landing on mine like a defibrillator charging my soul.  His delighted shrieks land warm on my neck and I laugh from a combination of feigned surprise and actual, verified soul bliss.

It's delicious.

On the rare occasion that I do NOT tumble to the floor when he hugs me [WHY, Self?], he steps back, looks into my eyes determinedly and says, "I want to knock you over."

Ahhhhhh yes, my little apple who has not fallen far from its tree.  I can SO relate.

Lately, I've been hesitant to make time for writing.  I've pointed an accusatory finger at my busy schedule, but let's face it:  blaming "busyness" always smells like avoidance and self-congratulations, does it not?

Whenever I hear someone say they can't do something that is good for them because they're "too busy," I wonder if they realize that they are somehow avoiding vulnerability.

Silly, silly humans.

But--oh, wait:  there I go calling the kettle black again.  Guess I should swan-dive into self analysis to figure out the real reason I haven't been writing.

It probably starts here:  knowing that your time is precious and that I want you to find time for my little blog, I asked myself, "Self.  What characterizes the things that I make time to read?  I read things that are inspirational.  Or funny.  Or authentic.  Or educational."

"I know the solution!" said I.  "I shall make every post informative and funny and authentic and inspirational!  And each post shall include a soulful professional-quality photo taken by moi!  That is all!"

There are three major troubles with that line of reasoning:

1)  It is insane

2)  Sometimes it is not possible to be funny and authentic at the same time, and

3)  The very suggestion that I would need to be anything more than authentic to "deserve" readership flies directly in the face of my "Let It Shine" mantra and message.

When we allow ourselves to shine, we find security in knowing that our ESSENCE is divine.  We are beautiful--not "in spite" of our "humanness"--but BECAUSE of it.  Our "imperfections," our mistakes, the parts of us that we feel inclined to hide from the world--those things CONTRIBUTE to our beauty.  

As I sit down this morning, pondering the real reason I haven't been writing so that I can find the lesson in it, the thing that keeps popping into my head is that my son wants to knock me over.

What he doesn't realize is that he knocks me over whether or not he tries to do so.

He knocks me over with love and pride and joy and tenderness when he colors quietly by himself in the corner.  He knocks me over with love and pride and joy and tenderness  when he dances like an elephant in music class.  He knocks me over with love and pride and joy and tenderness when he gets upset because his sister ruined the zoo he was building with blocks.

When he physically knocks me over, it's because I've allowed it.  It's ME who's different when we don't tumble backwards:  not him.

All he has to do to knock me over is be himself.  

And it's not his responsibility to knock me over anyway.

AH HA!  So there's the lesson.  I set out to be authentic here and immediately shielded my vulnerability by requiring that I also be funny and informative so as to merit readership, which sets the bar high and makes me reticent to write.  As if I'm afraid that my authentic self is not enough.

That insight, this morning?  It knocks me over.

***

Two updates for you, friends!

1)  I have a new writing commitment.  My only requirement for my posts is that they be authentic (which hopefully is intrinsically inspirational.)  I hope that funniness and informativeness slip in here frequently, as they are welcome guests at any party I throw, but the only way I can encourage people to allow themselves to shine is by modeling it, so I'll throw parties here even when Funny and Informative don't RSVP.

2)  I am indubitably grateful to have recently been featured in the en*theos daily Optimizer.  Check it out if you're feelin' it!  :)

***

Please say hello in the comments!  How are you doing?

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Embracing my Optimalist:  First Video Blog Comin' Atchya

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Embracing my Optimalist: First Video Blog Comin' Atchya

First-Video-Blog.jpg

So...this happened.

My first video blog.  It is an intentional practice in vulnerability today that I publish this even though there are exactly 972 things I'd do differently if I filmed it again.  Making it more concise would be thing numero uno.

Let's take a second to wax philosophical about perfectionists vs optimalists, kay?  (It's a lesson I'm deliberately trying to absorb.)

The PERFECTIONIST in me really wants me to NOT publish a video blog until I get it JUST RIGHT.   That mentality holds me back.  If I stick with those standards, I'll never publish anything at all.  Like, EVAH evah.  

Tal Ben-Shahar encourages us to strive towards being OPTIMALISTS.  Optimalists, like perfectionists, strive towards greatness.  However, the key difference between the two is that Optimalists work within the constraints of reality.

The REALITY here is that if I had taken the time to make this more succinct, more value-packed, more fun and more funny, I would have had to sacrifice something else I've committed to doing this week.

And I want to honor all of my commitments.

So I'm working within the constraints of reality, publishing it, and doing three cheers for Opportunities for Growth!!  :)

[PS: When I say, in the video "my forgiveness," I of course mean "my apologies."]

Back to the mind/body/soul cleanse! :)

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