It was hard to get on that diving board and jump off in front of all those people I didn’t even know at the community pool.
Because what woman wants to stand up in a swimsuit with her jiggly-and-very-albino legs, and jump, like a graceless walrus, into the ice-cold water?
But I had made a promise—a silly little list of things I wanted to do before my next birthday and one of them was jumping off that diving board.
So when summer sped by, I knew my family wasn’t going to let me get out of it. I climbed onto that diving board, feeling a bit foolish alongside all those kids waiting for their turn, but I couldn’t help but listen to the crazy little voice inside my head.
You know the voice. The one that tells you:
You’re going to look foolish. You can’t even dive. Everyone can see how out of shape you are standing up here.
I could have climbed off that diving board, shamefaced while I slid invisibly back into the pool.
But there was no turning back this time. The only way in was to jump. I had to ignore the voice in my head, the one making up all the naysayers and people who tell you they’d never do that.
Because sometimes the things that steal our joy are linked to the ways we feel inadequate.
My mother once said, “You never try anything that you’re not good at.” It may have taken me a few decades to see it, but she is right.
When we measure ourselves according to standards of perfection, it’s hard to find joy.
I want to be good at things. Maybe even perfect at them. I want to be the perfect wife, and the perfect mother, and perfect writer, and most of all, the perfect Christian.
But I am not perfect, not even close, and yet I still expect that I can do things really close to perfect.
If there’s one joy stealer that I have consistently in my life, it’s when I fail to live up to my own standard of perfection.
I know I’m not the only one. The glossy magazine covers are like magnifying mirrors held up to our flaws, preying on the ways we want to be really close to perfect.
- Wanting a model-perfect body with no fat or untoned areas
- Wanting our skin, hair, and clothes to be perfect and without flaws (no bad hair days)
- Never doing things that make us look “foolish”
- Holding our families up to the same standard
- Making our homes look perfect for guests and not having people over until it does
- Upholding an image of yourself as having it all together, all the time, even when it’s been a bad day.
The problem with holding ourselves up to a standard of “really close to perfect” is that it’s unattainable. When we try to achieve this standard, we wonder why we struggle with disappointment and discouragement.
But the key for all of us is to find our joy not in a standard of perfection, but in the Lord.
Because even though I might be disappointed with my failings, God still made me to be a unique and marvelous creation:
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something. (Psalm 139:13-15 The Message)
When I focus on God’s view of me (“marvelously made” and “sculpted from nothing into something”), then my view of myself begins to shift.
I care less for whether I am “really close to perfect” and more for the things that God desires in my life: to love Him and others more.
And that crazy pool jump? I may have felt like a fool, but when I hit that cold water, the exhilaration was overwhelming.
That jump into the pool was not even close to perfect. But the smiles on my family’s faces and the rush of joy I felt after I had done it?
I wouldn’t trade it for the world.