Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Drive to Perform

My drive to define myself by my performance seems insatiable. I know that this isn’t the way I was created to operate. I know that I am more than what I do. I know that it’s dangerous to place something as important as my self-worth in something as fragile and unpredictable as performance. I know that if I were perfect today, parented perfectly, counseled clients perfectly, related to friends perfectly, drove perfectly, and set a new personal best on my run, that I would feel great tonight, but would wake up tomorrow morning with the burden of perfection smothering me all over again. It never stops. It’s never enough. Maybe you can relate. My big question is this: if I know all of this, then why do I so compulsively perform at times? Why do failures cause me to doubt myself at such deep levels? My only chance to break the addictive pull of performing for worth is to deliberately, intentionally not perform, and then face the discomfort that it brings. To be completely clear: the only way for me or you to break out of our performance trap is to deliberately choose to not perform. To put it another way, I have to choose at times to fail, to leave things undone. I have to fail, and then fight to embrace the truth that I’m not a failure. I have to leave things undone, and know that I’m not lazy. The failing may come through choosing things to engage in that I don’t have much experience in or that I’m not particularly good at, but have always wanted to try. It may come from attempting the near impossible, whatever that might be.  Knowledge in my head does not lead to change, experiences lived out in the minutes of my days will. It’s not enough to know truth, it has to hit me in the face, and then somehow become my friend.  Any thoughts…….


  1. You shouldn't be butting into my personal business like that ;) Seriously, it's like you're in my head. The funny thing for me is that sometimes it's the things I might fail at that are the best for me!

    I've been playing around with painting over the last couple years. I'm only so-so at it, but I LOVE it. I'm still always afraid to start something new (which is why I have empty canvases and ideas, but not paintings) because it won't turn out like it is in my head. But still, the *process* is so good for me emotionally and creatively.

    We need to learn to allow ourselves to mess up. If we don't break out our comfortable areas, we don't improve, we don't learn, we never really relax. And, that stinks!

    Besides, we are created by a Holy God who knows us with all our imperfections and shortcomings. He loves us anyway. He takes his children as we are and encourages us to grow. Do we really think we know better than He does? Our drive for perfection sure makes it look that way!

  2. This issue is one of the ones I struggle with more than anything else. I like that you used "addictive"- we are straight up schooled to perform and then we get serious reinforcement. It feeds my flesh and stokes my pride.

    For me, I didn't have much else on which to base my identity other than what I could do. God has spent a considerable amount of time chipping away at that, and it's been a hard road at times. Frankly, it's my default reaction - try harder, press more, fight, fight, STRIVE. And then fall over utterly exhausted and defeated. Or worse - succeed in the moment and feed that pride all over again.

    Choosing to fail is scary, really scary. I'm not amazing at it (I fail at failing?). But, I know my theology has to work itself out experientially. I'm learning how to fail and still be okay. I'm learning to lean into God's grace and trust that I am enough, no matter what, simply because He says so.