January Read: “Present Over Perfect”

Last month, I reviewed Erin Loechner’s book, Chasing Slow . I received some insights on what “slow living” meant regarding your situation. One of the things that stood out was being more present.

Present? I heard this before…

Being present is easier said than done, especially if you suffer from anxiety. It is difficult to be present when I overthink the scenarios I’m in. I always think about what could happen and how I need to act accordingly. I make an extra effort to be more presentable and approachable before the opportunity arises whether it’s meeting new people or going out with your significant other. What my anxiety is reaching for is a dose of perfection.

This leads to the book I am currently reading this month. 

I have been reading Shauna Niequist’s book,Present Over Perfect Present Over PerfectPresent Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living. Niequist’s book is about her journey of the ups and downs in her personal, professional, and spiritual life. Each chapter talks about a different experience and the key message she received from it. All in which we can learn along the way.

There were a few things I could relate to in Niequist’s book. First, perfection. Both of us are known to chase one achievement after another. We both craved for more instead of taking a moment and enjoying an achievement. We both were known to say, “yes,” to everything. We both became frantic and exhausted. Perfection has always been my goal in my head. It’s what I thought was keeping my anxiety at bay. However, perfection was feeding my anxiety. 

Niequist talks about her breaking point a few years ago while she was on a business trip. Once she realized how she was living and the effects it was taking on her life, family, and God, she knew it was time to make a change. As I was reading her journey, I was becoming aware of the things I was doing. I was only thriving on anxiety and busyness. This began to bother me not because it was happening, but because I realized it was happening and I was allowing it.

As I continued reading, I realized we had one thing in common, spiritual health was neglected. We weren’t taking the time to talk to God and reflect on the lessons from the biblical stories. I think we as society are so caught up on pleasing others and being so perfect that we forget to be graceful when we fail, be kind to ourselves when things don’t go our way, and take time to rest from the noise. 

In the book, Niequist wrote a chapter called, “Vinegar and Oil.” She compares our prayers to salad dressing. The vinegar is on top and the oil is on the bottom. She then talked about how we tend to only pray about the good things happening to us instead of pouring our troubles to God. When you’re praying you got to pour out our troubles and worries to him first (vinegar), then you pray about the good things happening (oil). This was not only my favorite chapter, but it stuck with me.

When you become aware of your choices and wellbeing, it is up to you to make the choice on how you want to live your life. There’s two choices: continue living the way you always have based on others’ approval or make the change for the better. Niequist’s awareness motivated her to make some changes along the way. She began to say, “no ” on golden career opportunities. She began to put her family and herself first.

Either way you look at it, both choices are hard. I have made the choice to become more present. I’m thinking about how each choice affects me short term and long term. I quit my teaching job because of the mental and emotional tolls on my health. I take it one day at a time instead of looking at where I need to be in 5-10 years. I found that I’m at peace as I continue this journey. Is this an easy journey? Of course not. However, the life I was living beforehand wasn’t easy either. 

The idea of perfection is always going to be there. It is vital for you to realize that you cannot reach perfection. Life throws too many curveballs at us which prevents us from being perfect. I think a lot of times, we get so caught up on the negativity which shields us from the silver linings. Sometimes we get upset when things don’t go our way, and forget that it wasn’t in God’s plan because he has something bigger for us. 

This month’s read has really stuck with me. There were a lot of life lessons to think about and reflect on how it relates to me. I found ways to become more present while focusing on my spiritual health. Currently I have been looking at the world a little differently. In this fast paced world that strives for perfection, I know I am going to be okay being imperfect.

Stay adventurous,

Natalie

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