What’s your story?
I’m not someone who for ‘good enough’ was ever actually enough. It didn’t matter if it was homework projects, bleep tests, even Kahoot quizzes- I figured that if something wasn’t absolutely perfect, it was obviously my fault for not trying hard enough. I would slave away, trying to fix my ‘errors’ and ‘mistakes’, not resting until it had been completely perfected, driving myself and my teachers mad in the process!
But you see, the problem with this attitude it that it seeps into every aspect of our lives. Once we strive for perfection in one area, areas in the rest of our lives start to seem inadequate too. The lie that ‘good enough is not enough’ starts to break into our personal lives, something we start to carry round with us like a weight around our necks.
It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with anorexia that I realised I had a problem with perfectionism. It was Year 11, and I was struggling so hard for top marks in my GCSEs. The stress I felt at the completely unrealistic expectations I had put on myself was overwhelming, and flooded into life at home. Suddenly, the running I had been doing as relaxation during revision was not enough. I had to be faster, to go further, to be fitter- which turned into the perverse need to be thinner, to be smaller, and eventually to disappear. The self-destructive cycle that ensued for the next year led to me becoming more depressed, more anxious, more obsessed with achieving perfection in everything under my control. In short, it led to a pretty miserable existence.
I was so blessed to receive amazing treatment from the local mental health services, but it wasn’t at all easy. Recovery is not something you can be ‘perfect’ at! I had intensive therapy programmes, medication prescriptions, nutrition help (the most surreal moment being an entire hour on my fear of bananas, thankfully cured!)- but most importantly, I was made to examine what had led me to the state I was in, and what I could do to prevent this happening again.
It was a long journey, and one I continue to walk on. There’s no easy treatment for eating disorders, no quick fix that solves everything. It’s a steady tread that takes time, patience, and the support of people around covering you in love. But it forced me to see that good enough IS enough. It’s set me free from being a slave to work, from endlessly pursuing an impossible standard- and led me into the freedom that comes from being content with good enough. .
In all this, I’ve clung on to the amazing truths found in the Bible. Because those lies that we’re not good enough, that we’ve not done enough, that we’re not extraordinary enough, can so easily stop us from accepting God’s love. We think that He only loves people who are perfect; that once we’ve tamed our anger, once our mental health is sorted, once the addiction is gone, THEN we can be loved by Him. But that’s not what the Bible says. That’s not what God says. He says, show me your imperfection- and I’ll show you my son. Jesus, the only truly perfect human, who carried all our imperfections on the cross, and died. He died, and now God can look at us in all our imperfections, our weakness, and love us completely. That doesn’t mean loving what’s hurting us, what’s oppressing us- it means seeing who we truly are beneath all of that, and simply loving us.
What has all this taught me? Firstly, to EMBRACE weakness. God says ‘My grace is enough for you- my power is made perfect in your weakness’. Whenever I’m feeling weak, or like I’m not enough, I remind myself of God’s awesome grace. Grace is ‘unmerited favour’- getting what we don’t deserve. God’s gift of grace is that He loves us- and no matter what we do, regardless of how hard we try, He can never love us any more or less.
Secondly, I’m embracing limitations! Part of what I think it means to be human is accepting that we can’t do everything, even though it may seem hard at times- especially in a place like Oxford. God created our bodies to need food, to need exercise, to need REST- and to spend a large part of the day sleeping! I think this is so important to remember whenever we’re feeling guilty about taking time out from that essay or problem sheet, that actually we were made to do so much more than simply work.
But finally, I’m committed to relying on God’s strength, and not my own. My mantra for this year is that ‘the joy of the Lord is my strength’. When I’m feeling weak, imperfect, like there’s no joy in life- then God’s joy and strength becomes my own. And that is the most perfect thing I could ever have.