An outside observer would see me sitting on the couch watching Netflix.
But if they could look inside, they would see my mind doing cartwheels, reminding me of the growing to-do list I’m willfully ignoring. They would see my heart beating faster and faster, and they would hear my brain screaming at me to do something, anything. My body looks relaxed, but everything inside me looks like it’s tensed for a battle.
Why don’t I just get up and do what I need to do? You might ask. Good question. For years I thought my problem was that I was lazy. If I just had more willpower, I could get all of these tasks done! But at some point I realized the truth, the real issue that was keeping me from accomplishing what needed to be done:
I was afraid.
I know I’m not the only one who has sat numbly in front of an blank computer screen to draft an important email, or who has rehearsed a conversation in their head for so long that the person ends up leaving before I can say it out loud. I’m a strong, capable person-so why do I have to hold my phone in my hand for ten minutes just to work up the courage to make a phone call?
I am afraid.
What if I write a blog post and nobody likes it? What if I write an email to fundraise for Petros Zoe and the person decides not to donate? What if I try to set up a meeting with another organization and they decline?
I don’t want to fail. So something inside tells me to protect myself by not trying at all.
Of course, the perfectionist in me won’t let me just do nothing, which is where my constant procrastination comes from. I didn’t say this was a healthy coping mechanism.
But I am about to step into a world where the stakes are too high to entertain my fear. I’m about to have kids who will depend on us to find them a loving home, and parents who will depend on our training and support. We won’t have the luxury of time for me to work through my paralyzing terror. Time is up, and now we have to jump in.
What if I mess up? Well, I definitely will-and actually already have. And somehow, the world kept turning, and I’m still okay.
I’ve heard people say that anything worth doing is worth doing well. I think for me, a more helpful piece of advice would be like this: “Anything worth doing is worth failing at.” I am going to be rejected by people when I ask them to be foster parents. I am going to make mistakes when I take in my own foster kids. But this work is so important that I can’t afford to stop trying. And out of the ashes of my failure, God will make something good. He always does.
Don’t get me wrong-I’m not setting out to fail. But before I take another step forward, I have to let myself be okay with the possibility of failure. It’s the only thing holding me back.
To my fellow perfectionists: it’s time to stand up and step off that ledge. Are we going to fall? Absolutely. But remember that we will reach the ground again, and we will keep going.
Once we believe that, we will be unstoppable.