Breaking up with Ideal Jess

This is a break-up story.

One of my biggest personal struggles is against perfectionism, or perhaps more accurately, comparison to my Ideal self. Ideal Jess is wonderful on paper, so I do understand why I have held onto her for so long. She is gorgeous, very funny, never says the wrong thing, is highly intelligent and articulate but is also still very relatable. Ideal Jess makes everyone else feel at ease as she is at ease within herself. She can also sing, paint and write effortlessly, in fact she is naturally talented at everything. You name it and Ideal Jess can do it, be it, face it and overcome it.

I desperately want to be her at times. Other times I know I wouldn’t like her at all, she would intimidate the hell out of me.

I have this perfect version of who I should my head and I often punish myself for not being her.

I was holding myself hostage to the impossible. I was trying to be someone I was not—but even worse, someone I could never be.
– J. S. Park

I was recently given the opportunity to review a book before its release and the timing couldn’t have been better. Have you ever had those? It was the right book, with the right words, at the right time. In his book The Voices We Carry, author J.S. Park unpacks eight types of voices that we hear in our heads and one of them was self-condemnation. By giving examples from his own life, I recognised myself in his words and I’ve gotta say, I really was seriously impacted and changed. I realised I was still (after all this time) in a toxic relationship with my Ideal Self, continually comparing myself to her. I was in love with the idea of her far too much.

All those demands and expectations and absurd parameters needed to be laid down. I needed to mourn my “best self.”
– J. S. Park

Yes, improvement and growth are important to me, but I was measuring my own progress against Ideal Jess, not against who I really am. I was Eve in the book of Genesis holding the forbidden fruit, desperately reaching for equality with God and trying to be perfect like He is. The main problem was that my reality was far away from Ideal Jess and realising that constantly left me feeling like an ashamed failure.

… If I could lay down my idealized self and embrace my limitations, I could learn to like the person I really was and figure out where I needed help. Maybe then I could fail without it crushing me. Maybe then I’d feel like less of an impostor, because I wasn’t trying to be everybody’s idea of what I should be. Maybe then I could quit running myself ragged up the side of a cliff called perfection. I could even enjoy my own success once in a while.
– J. S. Park

I love how growth comes when you least expect it. Reading J. S. Park’s book was a catalyst for me to experience a deeper level of understanding and breakthrough in perfectionism. I love how God in his kindness and gentleness, uncovers things when I’m ready. I felt free when I worked through this stuff with Him, not condemned (which I would have in the past). I was ready to breakup with Ideal Jess.

And so, we broke up.

Perhaps sometimes I will be tempted to reach out and compare myself to her, but now I’m aware that it’s a toxic relationship that I definitely don’t want to let back in.

Since ‘the break-up’ I have experienced subtle but beautiful changes in my thoughts and actions. I have allowed my mind to be at ease when I ponder things like purpose and legacy. Instead of feeling disappointed, I feel inspired. Instead of feeling like a failure, I feel secure in where I am on my journey. I am settled in my skin.

I share all this with you dear reader because it can be encouraging and enlightening to see someone else’s journey. The decision and willingness to challenge long-held ideas can be uncomfortable, but absolutely worth it. Feel free to be inspired by my imperfections. 🙂

Plus let’s be honest, everyone loves a dramatic break-up story, as long as it’s someone else’s. 😉

Love Jess xxoo

PS – I originally stumbled across J.S Park through the WordPress Reader and man, I thank God that I did.

Finding Purpose: From Grand to Gentle

How are we meant to find purpose in a season like this? Many of our ‘Grand Plans’ are just not achievable. It’s not that we don’t want to do them, we are literally not allowed or perhaps we can’t afford to anymore. Heck, even baking at home now requires me to do a budget check. Everything is on hold, but it feels kind of different to other seasons of being ‘on hold’ doesn’t it? There’s not much negotiation here – everything is paused. The danger is that we punish ourselves for it and end up feeling helpless and hopeless. Remember, you may still may need to let go and hold on multiple times a week. I absolutely adore the quote below which showed up on Instagram. I’ve been slightly disturbed at the heavy criticism we are aiming at ourselves and others, because now is not the time for judgement, it’s the time for grace and gentleness.

Like many of you, I’m without work and am at home all day with the kids. Finances are stretched and people’s emotions ebb and flow, crashing into each other as we share the same space. Some days I’m full of energy, vision and hope, while other days, I don’t want to see one more positive quote or see someone else’s gratitude post. I find myself wondering how to endure something like this when we don’t know how long it will last. Apart from leaning into God for reminders of my self-worth and identity, I still long to add value to the world and contribute something more than daily domestic chores.

I would suggest that if a lack of vision or purpose is getting us down, we could move from ‘grand plans’ to ‘gentle plans’. Grand plans often require long-term vision, access to services and funds, prolonged motivation and clear goals. Gentle plans are short-term, simple and achievable right now, but idealy still bring you joy or a sense of accomplishment. Gentle plans can change daily because what was working yesterday, may not work today. Gentle plans are less likely to be time dependant, but they can still be something you can work towards. They may not be Grand or life-changing for others, but in this season they may just be the life-line we need.

Here are some examples of gentle plans (not all mine):

  • Clean out the hallway cupboard
  • Cook something new or an old favourite
  • Intentionally connect with someone (gotta love technology)
  • Write a list of things to study when you can and find out where you can do it
  • Find a place to volunteer your time/skills
  • Fix that fly screen that’s been bothering at you for a while
  • Start looking at your resume
  • Exercise for 30 minutes
  • Do something creative
  • Watch that movie classic you’ve never watched
  • Plan your next local holiday for when ISO is lifted.

Do you have any gentle plans? If you are feeling lost, it might be worthwhile writing some down. Whatever plans you think of, some days they will feel achievable and easy while on other days, they will drain the life out of you, so remember to hold them gently. If today you just can’t, that’s totally fine and honestly it’s to be expected at a time like this. You’ll be pleased to know I spent almost an entire day in bed binge watching a show on Netflix and I didn’t feel guilty at all. I recognised that that’s what was going to happen that day, that’s all I had; I needed to switch off and do nothing for myself.

I write these words as a reminder just as much to myself as to you dear readers. Right now, some of us won’t have Grand plans, some of us will simply have daily, getting us through, finding our way plans. We’ll probably get back to the Grand plans one day, but for now, Stay Healthy.

Love Jess xxoo

PS – Somethings are too beautiful not to share and this new song release Otago by Brett Anthony Shaw is absolutely breathtaking. I feel like all manner of dances, art works, writings and reflective creations should be produced and enjoyed while listening to it. It feels like a healing balm on a blistered soul. I hope you enjoy it as much as I am; I have it on repeat on Spotify.

 

A victory on a hard day

Disclaimer: This little blog is for me – I am celebrating a seemingly small victory 🙂

I had one of those days where my little people were either, fighting, crying or touching me. It was difficult and long. I lost my cool more than once and when Tim finally got home I went and had a looooooooong shower.

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Usually on these days, while I am struggling to keep my sanity, an unhealthy critical voice joins the downward spiral. The negative thoughts about who I am as a mother, a wife and a person overwhelm me and I feel bad about feeling bad. Everything I’m not doing or not doing well is amplified and I feel like a failure.

But today, today I had a little victory – I had self-compassion. Even as I shut myself in my bedroom saying a desperate prayer for help, I didn’t feel bad. Why? Because jeepers being a parent is hard. I saw today for what it was… a parenting nightmare and I took it easy on myself for once. I didn’t think about how other people would handle it, I didn’t get depressed when I saw all dirt on the floor or the washing that needed to be put away. I didn’t feel like a failure because my kids were driving me up the wall. I didn’t think about all the mothers in Syria or any of the other painful comparisons that I’m usually unable to block out. YAY! This is a big thing for me, so join me by lighting a New Years sparkler and pulling on a party-popper as I celebrate this little triumph.

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Next time I may or may not be able to do the same, but that’s ok. I will celebrate today! Hi, my name is Jess and I survived this day by using self-compassion…

… and a whole lot of Justin Bieber tunes.
(Yes, Justin Bieber, I love that kid)

Love Jess xxoo