Recently, I wrote a post on my personal blog about the lessons learned from my mom regarding academic performance and pushing myself to do my very best.
On the flip side, I’ve also learned–maybe not from my mom, but from my own life experiences and shared experiences of others–that sometimes, it’s okay to make a B. In various areas of my life, the maxim “take it easy” has taken shape.
I used to be the most driven, career-minded person I knew. I’m sure there were others like me, but since I was stuck inside my own egocentric head, I really believed that no one could possibly care more about doing their absolute best at work than I did. This motivation to succeed at work had its advantages; I learned quickly, earned higher salaries, and became extremely flexible and well-rounded in the world of work. I was adept at finding and filling holes in whatever organization I found myself in.
However, after getting divorced and spending considerable time contemplating the direction of my life, I realized my motivation to be the best at work was negatively fueled at times and masking deeper desires. I lacked a significant connection in a healthy romantic relationship, even while married, so digging my heels in deeper on the job fulfilled a need to contribute, to be needed, and to succeed. Looking around, I saw myself surrounded by people who’d done the same thing for decades, and the end result was plenty of career success but very little else. I didn’t want that to be my destination.
I used to say “yes” to everything. I loved being the go-to person for the various non-profit organizations I volunteered for, and I found great satisfaction in spending countless hours raising funds and planning events. At church, if anyone needed a teacher or leader, they knew who to call. I would not only get the job done, but I’d do it well and with gusto. If I was invited to a social event, I’d arrive early and bring the nachos. If someone needed a listening ear, I was more than ready to listen to saga after saga of dramatic, repetitive monologues from friends and family.
Sure, I helped plenty of people in the process and contributed to some very worthy causes. But I realized, after similar contemplation and plenty of alone time with God, that my motives were driven, at least in part, by a desire to be needed, loved, praised, and acknowledged.
I had worn myself out trying to make everyone else happy, and at the end of the day, I felt exhausted and empty, with the same bottomless pit in my stomach and ache in my chest. I figured out that my efforts were futile, and that I would never find fulfillment by fighting for it or by begging others to provide it.
God filled my heart holes when I stopped seeking solutions and simply became still. I found that He had an innate ability to know just what I needed when I needed it and to provide it in miraculous ways. I discovered that I felt needed, loved, acknowledged, and successful not as a result of my own efforts but as a product of the most beautiful relationship I’d ever known. I was able to let go of the unrealistic expectations I’d set for myself and take it easy, leaning on His strong, capable shoulders which carried the weight of the world yet still had plenty of room for the oversized loads I passed to Him.