Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

What if we’ve been getting it wrong all along?

I spent most of my professional career living in constant anxiety, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Performance reviews filled me with fear that “this time they were finally gonna realize, I don’t even belong here!” I lived in constant dread that the gig was about to be up. But it wasn’t. I never got fired. In fact, I consistently got promoted, awarded, and advanced. This is not a carefully crafted humblebrag. I am telling you this to illustrate something you, that – if you are reading this right now – you probably already know very well: There is a rigid dichotomy between the internal and external realities of someone who suffers from impostor syndrome. You’ve felt it. Otherwise, you would not be reading this blog, right? People with impostor syndrome are driven to perform, people pleasers, and perfectionists. And they live in a constant state of fear all. the. time!

Pop Psychology has given us a lot of input on overcoming impostor syndrome, and it goes something like this:

Overcoming through achieving:

According to one South African celeb, your ability to banish impostor syndrome is directly related to your ability to achieve success. According to her, what you need is to achieve and perform your way out of that crippling self-doubt.

Convince them. Or is it you?

She continues to advise that impostor syndrome can be overcome simply by proving other people wrong. Because apparently either “they” (I don’t know who they are but I think from this article it’s men?) are trying to snuff out your light, or you are “afraid of being great”. So in other words problem is either you, or them, or maybe both? But either way, prove them wrong.

Rehearse your past achievements to boost your confidence:

Another well-known author who has sadly become popular among believers despite her wonky self-help theology and anti-gospel teachings, you need to remind yourself what you have already accomplished and convince yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to. Write a letter to yourself, from yourself, to boost confidence. Not kidding. This is the actual advice.

Have faith in yourself:

She goes on to say that all the knowledge and the truth you need is already in you. Her advice highlights what, at the core, makes the self-help gospel bogus: That you can find the answers to what is wrong with you, in you. That you can be the problem and the solution, at the same time. Apparently, you don’t need any other kind of faith other than faith in yourself. But here is what is diabolical about this advice: Asking me to have faith in myself when a lack of faith in myself and my ability is exactly the reason I have impostor syndrome makes no sense. It sounds very Nike-ad-slogan-y, but it doesn’t actually change anything.

Most of what I’ve read about impostor syndrome has been about as fulfilling as eating donuts for breakfast. It offers an impressive rush of sugar that tastes (sounds) good, but does not deliver enough for a race run well.

  • If my succeeding is the only thing that will prove that I am not an impostor, then surely failing will prove that I am one? If the list of victories is supposed to bolster me, then what am I supposed to do with the list of failures and losses, which are unavoidable? How am I supposed to look at them (and myself) if all of my wellbeing balances on the precipice of my successes? Is it any wonder people with Impostor Syndrome never try new things, because we are so desperately dependent on successes to keep proving us wrong about ourselves that the thought of failing at something paralyzes us so we would rather not even try!
  • Overcoming impostor syndrome by proving ourselves to others puts the control of how we see ourselves squarely in their hands. Our boss, our colleagues, that group of moms that hang out in the carpark at school. When my whole aim is to prove myself to others, my work, my effort, my excellence all becomes fueled by what other people think. But the opinion of another is an uncontrollable, fickle, changeable thing that can never satisfy the soul-deep craving for acceptance we all carry.

What if it’s not our impostor syndrome that drives us to crave acceptance from others and from our achievements. What if our yearning for outside affirmation and acceptance is actually at the core of the issue and impostor syndrome is only it’s manifestation? What if we keep getting the wrong prescription because we keep making the wrong diagnoses about what is at the core of our condition?

  • The core issue is not that we feel like a fraud, it’s that we don’t feel accepted and we are looking for that acceptance in the wrong place. All of our work and effort becomes about cultivating an image and manipulating acceptance because the fact is that we are deeply and intimately dependant on it.
  • The core issue is not that we don’t have enough confidence, it’s that we are hoping to gain confidence from our competence. And don’t get me wrong, we should always strive for competence and excellence in whatever we do, but if we are doing that in order to just feel ok with ourselves our striving is born of wrong motivation. Not from faithfulness with our talents and gifts, but from a desire to construct for ourselves indestructible confidence. And because we are human, because we will make mistakes, because we don’t know everything, some days our competence will fall short and then our confidence will fail, again.
  • The core issue is not that we are not able, the core issue is that we would rather rely on our ability over God’s. Because self-reliance is easier than faith, and control is easier than surrender. Popular advice on impostor syndrome puts us in a position where we need to boast in our strengths to have an identity when Paul says he boasts in his weakness in order to create space for God’s power (2 Cor 12 v 19). Why do you think Paul said that he counted every single accomplishment he had as a loss (Phil 3 v 4-7)? Because he knew that rehearsing our list of accomplishments as Rachel Hollis encourages us to do, will keep us from understanding where true worth is found.
  • The core issue is not that we don’t belong, the core issue is that we have mistaken belonging for beloved-ness and given the determining power to decide on both to other people or worse yet, to our ourselves.

Imposter syndrome is a lie relating to our truest source of acceptance. Read that again.

As a Christian suffering with impostor syndrome, here is the question that I have had to face as I started understanding what was at the core of this struggle:

Am I truly convinced by Christ? Because at the heart of impostor syndrome lies my lukewarm conviction regarding the soul-deep acceptance I actually already have in Him.

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome by believing the gospel

The truth is that we parade out our trite lipservice-level grasp of the gospel right next the claims of the self-help gospel that we are enough (but at the same time we need to hustle harder) and that we should not worry about what others think (but on the other hand unless others don’t confirm that I am not a fraud I will continue to believe I am one). We live life with a bit of Jesus sauce over it – saying that Jesus is enough but spending our lives trying to prove that we are. These things cannot all be true at the same time. Is it any wonder we make no headway with our overcoming impostor syndrome?

Until we get real about what we really believe about what Jesus has done for us and what that means for every part of our lives, we will never overcome impostor syndrome. The self-help gospel has found in us the fertile soil of people who are always hoping that some person, thing, some system of success, some event or fixed future point will finally settle in us the age-old question of our acceptance and worth, will finally represent to us that point of arrival where striving seizes.

“But as long as you are waiting for the mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run? This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burnout. This is the way to spiritual death.Well, you and I don’t have to kill ourselves. We are the beloved. That is the truth of our lives. “

(Henri J. M Nouwen – Life of the Beloved)

Our beloved-ness is the message of the gospel. Christ’s declaration through His death and resurrection is that we are loved perfectly and it is out of that truth that we are called to live, work, act. Are you convinced of this? Are you convinced of it daily?

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope” (Timothy Keller)

There is a reservoir of love at the center of our lives, streaming out of the One who calls us out of the darkness of putting our hope in other people and our achievements, into the light of a life lived as one loved perfectly and accepted fully – not because we earned it but because He paid for it, and that was enough.

SATURATED, INTIMIDATED,UNDERESTIMATED

SATURATED, INTIMIDATED,UNDERESTIMATED

Why we don’t prioritize time with God and what we can do about it.

I detest blogs that sound like they want to inform me about something that would be to my benefit, but then all they do is make me feel guilty… like I fall short in some way…make me feel like there is yet another thing that I should be doing that I’m just not getting to. That’s why I often avoid parenting books (don’t we already have enough mommy guilt!) and why the one I wrote was written specifically NOT to make you feel that way, because the minute you become a parent, you become instantly and regularly familiar with all the ways you fall short, am I right? So let me assure you, this blog is not like that

Friends share the good news, the great recipes, the tidbit about that child friendly restaurant or that cheap travel deal, right? When you care about someone you want to be generous with the very best information. And that is why I wrote this blog. Not because I want to add something to your list that you already know you should be doing (you know, like finally cleaning out the garage) but just can’t get to,  but because spending time in God’s word is one of the most fascinating, nourishing and deeply impactful activities I’ve ever engaged in, and I want that for you!

Here are some of the reasons I think we don’t spend time with God:

We are Saturated

I have 2 teenage boys in my house. They are never not hungry! When you are a mom of boys you are only ever busy with 3 things: Making meals, planning meals or shopping for meals. Ask anyone! My boys approach the dinner table with enthusiasm, because they are, in their words, “starving”. One of the reasons we do not prioritize time in God’s word is because we are not starving. We are saturated. We have many teachers regurgitating for us pre digested morsels. A verse of the day here, a pretty Instagram quote there, a page a day devotional or a 15 minute podcast while driving. What we are choosing to consume takes very little effort from our side, but also little discernment. Kind of like eating processed foods instead of a from-scratch-made-with-love meal. You would not keep yourself or your family fed on processed fast foods indefinitely. But many of us keep going on that kind of spirit diet.  And when you are full of candy floss and cupcakes, do you know what you don’t feel like eating? Real food. And that works fine, until things get hectic. Until a trial, a race, a war erupts in our lives.

We have forgotten that we are in a race so we don’t eat like athletes. We have forgotten that we are in a war so we don’t fill up or dress up like soldiers.

And then, when it comes time for perseverance, when it comes time for testing of our faith, mostly through suffering and trial, but also through temptation, that the bible warns us is an inevitability, our tanks are empty, we’ve long ago used up the low GI fuel supplied to us by our light crudité style snacking.

Jesus wants to be our sustenance in the time of uncertainty, trial and difficulty.

He says that in John 6 v 35. He himself was in the wilderness and what sustained Him is the thing that will also sustain us. God’s word (Matt 4 v 4). God doesn’t want to give us certainty instead of our uncertainty, he wants to give us a certain grip on him. And He does that faithfully when we prioritise His word.

The Christian life thrives with the bible, just like the body thrives with good nourishment, exercise and hydration. Jesus said I am the bread of life, He said “come to me for living water”, so when we come to the word of God we are attending to the health of our soul and our spirit, we are feeding our greatest and truest hunger.

We are Intimidated

I often hear people say that they wish to hear from God. That they hope to know His will. Then I always ask them what they read that morning. Because to this day, the primary way God speaks is through His Word. And you don’t need a theology degree to hear Him. Jesus himself said that His revelation is more often hidden from the wise and revealed to the childlike and simple (Matt 11 v 15). We read a lot of things every day, without the need of translation, but for some reason when we come to God’s word our expectation of ourselves is usually too high and our expectation of God is usually too low. He promises us in His word when we draw near to Him He will draw near to us (James 4 v 8). James also tells us that when we ask for wisdom He will give it to us without reviling us (James 1 v 5 – 6) if we ask in faith. Faith is asking knowing that God wants to give us wisdom, not asking hoping that He will but fearing that maybe, just maybe, He doesn’t really want to or He won’t,  which is often the attitude with which we come to the word of God. Is it any wonder we treat God’s word as something we have to “fit in”? We treat it like a chore because we think we have to work on it, we do not come with the expectation that it will work on us, which is what the Word was made to do! God himself watches over it to ensure that it will accomplish what He pleases (Is 55 v 11). You don’t have to worry about that. But what you do have to worry about is what kind of expectation you have as you approach your time in God’s word.

Often our problem is that we have forgotten that reading God’s word is an act of love not an action on a to do list, that our time with God is a relationship to build not a box to tick, that it is the daily momentum we need to move towards meaning and maturity.

We have underestimated our true state

When I feel lukewarm towards spending time with God, I always remind myself of the story in Luke 7 of the sinful woman who came to kiss Jesus’ feet and anointed Him with oil. And Jesus said those who have been forgiven much love much. The reason we don’t prioritise time with God is because we forget that we have a deep need. That, our deep need, much more than an obligation or a “should”,  must be our “reason why”. Our love wanes and our devotion lapses because we lose sight of who we really are and what we really need.  We are so distracted and entertained that we forget about our own spiritual state. We are so over saturated with candy floss Christianity that we forget how much we need God’s grace, God’s involvement, God’s direction in our daily lives.  When we become disconnected and distracted from the essence of the gospel in our lives we quickly and easily start underestimating our need for God, because the gospel remains compelling only to someone aware of the truth of their spiritual state.

Many of us live lukewarm lives, no different from the world around us because we do not consistently connect ourselves with the transformative and victorious, which is only found in God’s Word. And just like time in God’s word will manifest as faith, joy, hope, growth, maturity, direction, focus and blessing in our lives, so lack of time in God’s word will also manifest in different ways:

  • Persistent struggles with fear, worry and anxiety, and having your inner peace and joy dependent on your circumstances;
  • Not being able to discern the truth and being ensnared by deceptive teaching and heresy which places you outside of the will of God and the blessings of righteousness;
  • Lack of direction, which not only has personal consequences, but it also means you are ill-equipped to equip your children for a hard and difficult world;
  • Lack of fruit and thriving;
  • Lack of victory over areas of stubborn sin;
  • Lack of meaning, leading us to idolatry as we try to create meaning for ourselves;
  • Defenseless against spiritual attacks without the Sword of the Word;
  • An inability to respond when people question your faith, which diminishes your witness and influence for the Kingdom.

These are just some of what we suffer when our lives are devoid of connection with God via His word and prayer.  If your faith feels powerless and empty, consider how you view the Bible, which is your primary exposure to the truth

GK Chesterton said “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” And it’s true. I think we live in a time where we have thought because we have Bibles and we say we love them we have truly seen what the Word can do in people, in us. But I don’t think we have.

The Bible only becomes a sword when we become it’s soldiers. The Bible only becomes a kiln when we become it’s clay, the Word only becomes our standard when we become it’s students.

If this is something you desire for yourself, for your family and for your life, why not sign up for my 5 day Biblestudy Course, called DWELL, aimed at equipping you with the basic steps and tools to truly engage with the Word of God. Sign up here – it’s free!

5 questions to help you choose your Word for the Year

5 questions to help you choose your Word for the Year

Now let me just confess this upfront. I’m a list maker by nature. I love the idea of ordering my thoughts and hopes and dreams into the most beautiful outline, most creative presentation, as though simply the act of putting pen to paper and making it look instapretty can provide the impetus required to push through on every lofty ideal for the new year. And when the 31st of December rolls around I am just about giddy with the”blank page, second chance, do-over” 1 January presents. But here is the problem with New Years Resolutions:

The truth is that we are all actually plagued by this one question: “How best should I live my life?” In recent years this has changed to “How do I live my best life?”… like it’s some kind of external construction that a vision board and a protein shake with kale will bring us. But deep down we know, our life flows from the inside out (Luke 6 v 45), not the other way around. Whatever we might want to change on the outside (exercise more/ spend less/ eat healthier/ be more patient) must first change on the inside (understand why I don’t exercise/ understand why I overspend/ understand why I comfort eat/ understand why I yell in the traffic), and there is only one way to change on the inside. Transformation doesn’t happen with goals or lists or plans. New Years Resolutions bring with them the allure of “This year I will “do” differently, when what we all really need is to “be” different before we can “do” differently. What we really need is an inner work. And so I have struggled and written many times about how best to approach a new year that doesn’t call us to fall into a more/more/more or a do/do/do trap that has no lasting impact.

The only thing I’ve ever seen cause true change in people’s lives is a deep and overwhelming understanding of the Gospel. And the only thing I have seen cause that change to be lasting and enduring is the work of the Holy Spirit through God’s word in the life of a believer. God’s word is penetrating (Heb 4 v 12) and more effective (2 Tim 3 v 16 – 17) than any insta slogan or vision board or hustle culture book with a relatable catchy title on the front and a lot of self-help covered in Christian-ese sauce on the inside.

And so at the start of every year, I ask God to give me a word for the year. I pray for it, and it starts to take shape during my devotional time, as I read and meditate, where a theme or word just keeps popping up or just deeply resonates and drives me in my reading. This word then serves to inspire me to live a life of faith, serves as a daily reminder of His truth and can become a prophetic marker in making decisions and moving ahead.

As you read and pray over the next few days, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you identify your word for 2021:

  1. What area in your spiritual development has your conscience, the Holy Spirit been directing you to pay attention to?
  2. What do you most need that only God can give that will help you take the next step in your calling?
  3. What familiar themes are you noticing in your reading of God’s Word that seems to come up repeatedly? Remember His word is the first place He speaks. Whatever else we “hear” in the world must first line up with what we see in the Word.
  4. If you could ask God to accomplish one thing in your heart this year, what would it be?
  5. If you came to the end of 2021 and you looked back, what would you be praising God for accomplishing in you?

Hustle culture and its proponents have, by and large, ignored the fact that the call on the life of a believer is primarily about 2 things: Others and God’s Kingdom. Not self. In fact, to follow in Jesus’s footsteps is not merely less of self but the death of self. Not our vision for our life but His. Not our benefit but the benefit of those around us and the advancement of His Kingdom. If we say we believe the Bible we cannot separate ourselves from these truths.

So, whether you choose a word of whether you are a new years resolution or goals type girl, the best way to stay aligned with God in the way we enter into a new season is to choose goals/ words/ verses or markers that will:

  • Glorify God and Grow us
  • Give God space to move and guide us
  • Grounds us in His love more and more so we can be truly, deeply, internally transformed more and more.
Friendship Breakups

Friendship Breakups

And how to walk away with grace and peace

Any good equestrian will tell you that the best way to measure how good someone is at riding horses is not by how many ribbons they’ve won, but by how many times they’ve fallen off and gotten back on the horse again. If one can be qualified on the topic of friendship by that same measurement then I am supremely qualified, ‘cause I have messed this up, like, a lot! I am not writing this blog because I think I am an expert, but because I think I have a bit of insight on how to navigate this with at least a measure of grace and peace. And because, well, we never talk about this, and maybe we should.

Whether it be a change of season, a change of location, a change of circumstance or a change of opinion, facing the end of a friendship is an inevitable part of life. Maybe there was a break in trust. Maybe the friendship has started affecting your calling, your spiritual potential or your relationship with God or others. Whatever the reason, friendship breakups are hard and they can be messy. So how can we deal with this difficult thing with grace and peace? Here are a few do’s and dont’s:

Don’t miss the opportunity for introspection

There are 2 sides to every story, that is for sure, and whether you are the one exiting the friendship or not, these painful yet significant life moments are important times for taking stock. Usually it’s someones junk, their issues, or your junk and your issues, that affect one’s ability to engage in meaningful healthy friendship. In female friendships – and I will just come straight out and say this now because it’s true and you are already thinking it – this often looks like envy, jealousy, comparison or fear that is dealt with in the wrong way and affecting the relationship to the point where it becomes toxic or there is a break in trust or both. There are 5 things that I believe help friendships stand the test of time and help them thrive. Read about that here. These elements represent a great litmus test for the health of any friendship, so as you pause to take stock,why not re-envisage what you value most in friendship and what you hope to commit yourself to and look for in your friendships in the future?

Don’t over-explain yourself:

Give the other party the curtesy of a clear explanation and apologise where you need to. But don’t over explain. Some of us are relentless over explainers and as much as we think we are making things better, we could be making them worse, cluttering the conversation and clouding the clarity that we knew existed when we resolved to end the friendship. Here is something I learned the hard way: Sometimes people are committed to misunderstanding you, and trying to explain yourself to people who have already made up their mind about you is both harmful and wasteful. Sometimes people need to make you the bad guy in the story, and you over-explaining yourself will not move them from that position. Be ok with that.

Binding and loosing (Matt 18 v 18) are both spiritual principles so we must deal with them carefully especially as it pertains to who we walk through life with, and so the end of a friendship is not just an emotional occurrence but also a spiritual one. Often the more you talk and rehash and confront, the more pain and hurt can be caused. Be as clear, kind, and concise as you can be without inviting further drama, we are all grown-ups after all. The other party is bound to come to some sort of insight as to your position eventually, and vice versa. With a little bit of common sense and self-awareness people usually get to a place of insight and understanding as they regard in hindsight where things went wrong. And that is often where the grace lies.

 Don’t desire closure over forgiveness:

We often say we desire closure when what we really want is:

  • to have our say. But if we are honest, we will know, that is just the ego talking.
  • to put a neat little full stop after an emotional event. But if we are honest we only desire that so we can better cope with what happened.

Even though we understand cerebrally that relationships can be messy because people are messy, we like this idea that we can have things wrapped up in a neat little bow. Be ok with that not always being possible.  Most of the time our deepest need is not for closure, but for forgiveness. To recieve God’s forgiveness for our contribution to the demise of a relationship. And to have His forgiveness clear the way for us to forgive the person who hurt us.  If God has extended grace to you, would you not extend it to yourself and to someone else? Forgiveness is accepting the apology you may never receive. Forgiveness is also the first step towards healing, which is so much more life-giving, with the spiritual and emotional power to re-allign you. Closure cannot and does not accomplish this, only forgiveness can.

Don’t rally for support:

I know you want to! It’s natural! Especially if you are feeling wronged. Especially if you may be the one walking away with the more than just this relationship being caught in the fray. I feel you! I’ve been there! But don’t be tempted to rally support. It’s not only ungraceous but it does not make for peace.

That means you cover over the transgressions of the person that might have been the very reasons you left. Do this especially if that person is in ministry/ a fellow believer – God specifically tells us not to speak against His anointed (Psalm 105 v 15). Hear me here: of course, I am not talking about covering over abuse of any kind, I am talking about the context of the friendship and whatever hurts, slights or sins caused toxicity and disruption leading to the end of the relationship. Very often (and I have first hand experience in this) we have to protect someone’s reputation by not telling our side of the story. That can be costly. It can cost you your reputation and other relationships that were a part of a specific friendship circle or season in your life. God knows that and He sees you doing the right thing even when it’s hard and seems unfair. Being in right standing before God is worth way more than appearing to be right before others. Go ahead and read that again.

Don’t force things:

Sometimes we hold on for longer than we should. It might be that we feel like we would be “losing” our history with this person, even-though our attempts to hold on to that past might be skewing our perspective of the present day state of the relationship. We hold on because we can’t bear this idea that people are sometimes supposed to exit our lives. We hold on because we have this concept that being a Christian means always sticking it out with people, although that is not the example we see in scripture. Sometimes walking in step with the spirit means walking away. We have this idea that loving people like Jesus did means hanging in there at all costs. The Word does not set this example for us. Samuel knew when it was time to leave a longstanding relationship for the sake of his calling (1 Sam 15 v 27) and Jesus himself set a boundary to ensure He could do what He was called to do (Matt 16 v 23). We all want our relationships to be more and more grounded in the character of Christ and what we saw reflected in the way He managed all of His relationships. I think if we were to look at the the entire Word as a directive we will be less plagued by guilt and shame when friendships end for the right reasons.

Do not stay where your entire authentic self is not welcome or where your calling, gifting or healthy boundaries are under constant threat. There is a season for everything, even friendships. Friendships are not guaranteed to be lifelong relationships. In fact most aren’t and that is ok. There can be reconsiliation, but there doesn’t have to be relationship. You don’t have to reconstruct friendship with those you have forgiven. Those are 2 seperate things.

Pray for them:

The end of a friendship can be nothing short of dramatic. Don’t give resentment and bitterness time to fester and grow. Prayer is one of the best ways we can combat this. Read this if you want to know how.

Grieve them and forgive them:

Even if the friendship simply ended because the person moved on/ away, if we are honest with ourselves we may have disappointments and unmet expectations to deal with surrounding the friendship. It hurt because it mattered! It’s healthy to acknowledge this. I think some of the self focussed narrative of cancel culture etc exists because we don’t want to acknowledge the hurt in a situation, we think we are tougher, more evolved, more mature when we just make a “clean break”, walk away and never look back. It might be harder to acknowledge that something truly hurt, but it’s also better. It gives the relationship the acknowledgment within a certain time and space, that it probably deserves. Maybe say a private good-bye, giving full vent to your hurts and owning your parts. Journalling is a great way to do this. Above all, get your conscience clear before the Lord, do the work of grieving and forgiving so even this difficult event can bring you closer to God and His purposes for you.

And then lastly trust God in this process. I have experienced in my own life that man’s rejection is often God’s redirection. Grow from what you know and understand. Make ammends where you can. Hold on to your peace. And trust that nothing escapes purpose in the life of a believer, and even our missteps and mistakes have redemptive potential if our hearts are soft towards God. Dealing well with these things mean we can walk on, not just walk away.

PS: Friendship breakups are just one part of the complexities surrounding human relationships. Especially moms of girls have a difficult time helping their kids navigate the often stormy climate of female relationships. My book can help with this so check that out if you like! And hopefully, we can share some friendship lessons with our kids, so they can better navigate the reality of this in their lives.

Why you should forget about work/life balance in 2020, and what to do instead

Why you should forget about work/life balance in 2020, and what to do instead

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I’ve have written about new years resolutions a couple of times. A new year is a great time to reassess and re- envision, and so we all enjoy making a list of things we think we should do, even of things we think we should stop doing.  As a working mom with a side hustle, I was recently asked to write about work-life balance. And you know what. I couldn’t. Because there is no such thing!  It’s all nonsense. Work-life balance is stupid. I think it was possibly invented by men. Not because I think they are stupid, but because, for example, a man invented the turducken, another thing that sounds much better than it actually is in real life. Work-life balance is pie in the sky, and it’s a concept that makes people (especially women) feel frazzled and unhappy and that they are invariable letting someone down (can I get a heck yeah?). And here’s why:

Balance is a static state, and I don’t know what your life is like but I can tell you right now my life is THE.OPPOSITE.OF.STATIC. Schedules, realities, priorities, energy levels and people are constantly in flux, they are not fixed. That is why it’s the very idea of “balance” as an expected or desired state that is making us feel stressed out and constantly guilty about all the things we are not doing.  Aiming to have it all in balance is aiming for something that is not achievable. I advise we all ad it to the list of things we need to let go of, like fitting into those white jeans we wore in our 20s. Please, I beg of you, do not make this one of your new year’s resolutions. Here’s what I think we should aim for instead:

Work from a place of peace, not towards it…

Unwittingly, we all divide up our life between work and non work – “getting through” the one to “get too” the other. All of our life is in compartments, work in the one, play in the other, toil in the one, comfort in the other. We think, and work, and believe and prioritize like our peace will be found in peaceful circumstances and surroundings. But God calls us to relate to peace as something we already have, not something we have to “get to” or “work towards” or “bring about” by controlling/ changing our circumstances. His Word tells us that Peace is a Person, Peace is a Promise, Peace is a precious Gift. So in every task we do, in everything we engage in, we are called to do so from a place of Peace, from that Source of peace, from a Position of peace, not towards it. When we see our life like this, all the strands of work and play and difficult and easy, successes and failures start forming one single tapestry. It changes our perspective and infuses all aspects of life with more meaning. Not just the bush-break/ beach-holiday parts. And peace as something we already own, as something inside us, empowers us to withstand the pressures and strain that is evident and unavoidable in every season of life. We think of peace as a place we need to arrive at where it really should be a departure point. That perspective can change everything.

Make flexibility a fitness worth mastering…

Now, let me be honest here, I love me a diary. I love a to-do list, a schedule, a planner, a nice crammed-to-the-brink-with-colorful-blocks google calendar. But nothing, and I mean nothing will give you a little productivity and planning reality check like a sick child. Or the school holidays. Or load shedding. Or a dead car battery. Sometimes things happen, things we don’t control, and when we have rigidly structured all of our time and focus because we believe that will give us balance, that will give us peace, those “life happens” moments really mess with our attitude, our perspective and our sense of accomplishment. In my dancing days, we learned that strength and flexibility are inextricably linked. For one muscle to flex, another must give and release. I used to believe white-knuckling it through my days, obliterating obstacles in the way of my sacred to-do list, was a show of strength, but sister, strength without wisdom is just brute force and it will flatten you because here’s the truth:  when the wind blows, the grass must bend.

Your level of peace when calamity/ uncertainty/the unplanned strikes  is directly related to where your faith lies and who (or WHO) you believe is in control. If that’s you, you will be anxious and overwhelmed. If its God you will have peace.

Murray Brown

When we embrace flexibility, when we learn to “roll with it “ (yes, I know, the Enneagram 1 in you is literally wanting to run away right now, I feel you honey!) we are in fact surrendering our agenda to God’s plan, opening ourselves up to embrace the realization that yes, even the bumps in the road are a part of our live before God, Coram Deo. We are submitting to the One that has already called us to do everything, even the unexpected, and NOT just the things we planned to do that was on today’s list, as though we are doing it for Him (Col 3 v 23).

Flexibility helps us live from a place of surrender, not striving.  If you can learn to be flexible when things don’t work out, then it’s just a “change of plan”, not a “disastrous disappointments”. And if we let them – those very disappointments can become divine appointments with God

Choose rhythm over routine…

This is the best way to practice your flexibility “fitness”. As moms, we are drilled about routine early on. It’s the holy grail of parenting when your kids are between 0 and 5. I think we are all in that mindset that if we could just be more rigid with our routine maybe we’d get more done. But it inevitably leads to disappointment when we’ve had 2 weeks of great workouts/ study times/ work or whatever and then suddenly our kids are writing exams or it’s the school holidays or Jesus help us Christmas time. Then we feel frazzled and upset because we had it all worked out and now we feel like we need to start from 0. Then even the call to respond to a person in need becomes something we have to “fit in” to our routine, which to be frank is just a terrible place from which to serve someone.

What if you chose rhythm over routine? The idea of rhythm is a flexible approach that is cognizant of the fact that you do not live in a bubble, but that your days and routines are influenced by the rhythms of your people and your context, the seasons of your journey and your city and ahem your kids. Sometimes there is intense, productive activity, sometimes there are periods where your focus must shift, and sometimes there is a need to respond to where you have an opportunity to serve others with Christ’s love.

Even Jesus’s life attested to this. When he was called on to turn water into wine, to serve and respond to a need, he wasn’t upset because he actually came to “party” and now he had to “work”. He didn’t say “hey ya’ll are interfering with my downtime here!” or “this was not on my schedule for today”. He was simply engaging with the very next thing, the very next good work that God had prepared in advance for Him to do. Rhythms help us to respond, routines keep us rigid. In a rigid routine, we sacrifice our peace and we deny that a sovereign God ordains meaning in all our moments, even the ones we didn’t plan (Psalm 139 – like all of it!)

Choose fruit over fear and meaning over more….

There is a guy who juggles at the corner of Republic and William Nicol Drive. Now, incase you didn’t know, here is the thing with juggling: every time you add a ball, you have to throw the balls you have HIGHER to give yourself more time to catch all of them. It’s almost diabolical. Doesn’t matter what type of mom you are, how many jobs you do in or outside of your home, or even how many kids you have and how many extramurals they do, we can all identify with how much the whole thing feels like juggling. Porcelain plates. Or hand grenades. And everytime we ad another goal, activity, to do or must do, another expectation, another yes, we have to throw the balls we already have higher and higher. Take more risks. Fit more in. Take more vitamins. Get up earlier and go to sleep later. But here’s the truth:

More does not equal meaning. Multitasking and doing/ adding more can never ever deliver on the meaning that you are hoping your life will have/ your kids’ lives will have. There is no fruit without focus and there is no focus if you have to do everything fast. But if you’re schedule is too full, fast is your only option. Focus is one singular thing, it cannot be divided into many things because then, ultimately, it’s not focus. Then it’s just dissipated, distracted, dividided attention that literally serves no one.

I know, I know, us moms wear many hats, we hustle that split shift of work/ wife-ing/ mothering/ all the other things like real hardcore mom bosses, but sometimes it just feels like we did a whole lot of stuff not very well. Something that helped me was to see my day as having various pivot points, each presenting an opportunity to be present. To sow focus so that those moments can bear fruit. Because if I am trying to serve my kids lunch but I keep checking the emails piling up, not only will my laptop be full of peanut butter (this is not good) but nor the emails nor my kids get my full attention. And in the end the precious time with my kids does not bear the fruit of connection it had the potential for and the work does not reflect the excellence I was aiming for and I am exhausted and I feel like a fruitless failure. This is a quote that challenged me this year and that I want to challenge you with:

“Never is a woman so fulfilled as when she chooses to underwhelm her schedule so she can let God overwhelm her soul”

Lysa TerKeurst

Often we add more and more to our life and our schedule out of fear. Fear that we (or our kids) are going to fall behind, fear of not enough, but fear cannot produce anything of value. Fear is not fruitful. But faith is. It’s the only thing I’ve seen that produces anything of value in our life.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]