I bought Shauna Niequist’s new book Present Over Perfect a couple weeks ago. I meant to buy it last month, I meant to start reading it when I got it, but I had too many other things to do, I didn’t make the time. The irony is not lost on me. I began reading it this morning, I’m only on page 42 and yet I know she wrote this book for me. Thanks Shauna! I have to stop underlining because when every sentence is underlined the emphasis is lost.
Here’s one paragraph that jumped out at me so far:
A friend and I recently talked about how deeply invested we both are in people thinking that we’re low maintenance – we both want to be seen as flexible, tough, roll-with-anything kinds of women. And this ends up keeping us from asking for what we need, for fear of being labeled difficult or diva-ish. But what good is it doing me to have people think I’m laidback and flexible…when really that cherished reputation keeps me tangled up, needs unmet, voice silenced? (36).
Ugh. I hate it when I read things that ring true to my own life and also makes me face my shadow side. I pride myself in being low maintenance. I don’t need fancy clothes or lots of shoes. I don’t need purses that offer insurance policies. I can get ready in no time. I’m satisfied with simple things. Unfortunately, this pride sometimes leads me to judging others because they do want those things. This pride also keeps me from being true to myself sometimes.
Being laid back means I don’t always ask for what I need. It means I put up with things I shouldn’t. It means I keep my mouth shut because I don’t want people to think I’m pushy or demanding. It means I don’t honor myself as much as I should. It means saying yes, when I really wanted to say no.
Let me be clear – I’m okay being low maintenance and laid back. Honestly, most of the time I don’t have a strong preference about where we eat or what color to paint the desk. Yes, a new $35 shelf in the laundry room does excite me more than a new piece of jewelry ever will. I like that I don’t have to dress up in skirts and suits but can wear jeans most days. If there are two good ideas, I’m usually fine with either. I’m not overly opinionated or highly attached to things. I’ve always been that way and that’s okay. And, it’s okay if you have all the opinions in the world and like to have lots of things. Both are okay.
However, like most things in life, there is a shadow side. Because I’m laid back, I often let others walk over me. Because I’m low maintenance, I don’t ask for what I deserve. Do you know how nervous I was to ask for a sabbatical? Not because he might have said no, but because I didn’t think I deserved it. I figured I was being too dramatic about it, too needy. After talking to lots and lots of people, I’m learning that I endured many traumatic moments over the last 18-24 months. Some of those were out of my control; some could have been lessened if I valued myself more than my reputation.
Speaking up for myself is not being difficult. Asking for more support is not being diva-ish. These are necessary parts to being a whole person. Making myself appear smaller through my lack of words or tampered desires is not going to help anyone. In fact, it hurts me and those around me when I don’t let my whole self be present in this world. As I enter into the second half my sabbatical I want to lean into my value, my worthiness. Not because I work hard or achieve much, but because of who I am, sitting here on a rainy day with no goal in sight. I want to lean into my value, my worthiness, as a child of God, no more and more less. What others think about me or say about me, how others treat me, for good or for ill, doesn’t change my value.
So, I’m still fairly low maintenance and mostly laid back, that probably won’t change. However, I’m going to work on putting my value and worth above my desire to appear a certain way. Maybe then I’ll discover that people will still love me and care about me even when I honor my needs and say no.