A dear friend recently told me about a book she finished called Present Over Perfect. It changed the way she thought about everything life throws at her. I just read it and admit that, in fact, the book had a profound effect on the way that I want to approach life from here on out too.
Without spoiling what this book has to offer, I want to share some parts that spoke to me. Believe me, there is no way I could possibly encapsulate everything the author, Shauna shared so this is simply a preview.
As the title so wisely and concisely states, it’s imperative to be aware of your present surroundings instead of striving for the impossible perfect. Ha! Yeah, okay. Easier said than done. The author talks about her struggle with wanting to make everyone happy and how her faith sets her on the right path toward a slower, more content way of living. She’s quickly approaching 40, has a busy travel and work schedule, two sons who are under the age of 8 and a supportive husband, but there is a huge hole in this wonderful life. Her health is not the best, she constantly feels like she’s letting the most important people in her life down and, in turn, pleasing those who could care less about her. This book puts everything into perspective as she realizes what’s truly important.
Because of this book, these are things I will work very hard not to worry about anymore:
NOT- what other people think. The author said it best, “Of all the things I am learning to leave behind, the heaviest is the opinion of others.” Let’s face it, we can’t please everyone no matter how hard we try. I struggled with and continue to struggle with this idea the most. Trying to control what other people think or say about you is impossible. In the end, it’s all about being the best person that you can be and when you make a mistake along the way just apologize and move on. Don’t dwell on feeling guilty or worrying that someone might be mad at you.
NOT- contorting your holidays and special occasions into a Martha Stewart episode. I’ve learned to dial it back little by little for birthdays and holidays. I blame Pinterest. It started with birthday parties for the girls like a circus theme or an art party, then it moved on with Christmas and attempting to make the world’s most difficult dessert. Damn you Snickers bars to the depths of hell! Caught up in the frenzy to outdo yourself each year you realize as the author stated here…”I could plunk myself down right in the middle of the mess and realize that the mess is actually my life, the only one I’ll ever get, the one I’m in danger of missing completely, waiting around for the fantastic.”
NOT- acquiring more material things. She writes, “I like living in a home when it’s less full of stuff. The simplicity feels spacious, and inspiring, like I can draw a clean breath.” This is so true. Cleaning out closets in my house is cathartic. It’s a wonderful feeling to donate clothes that don’t fit to others and standing back to see how organized they are again puts me in my happy place.
NOT- avoiding situations because something isn’t quite perfect. Yet another perfectly written sentiment, “The ache for perfection keeps us isolated and exhausted-we keep people at arm’s length, if that, and we keep hustling, trying to reach some sort of ideal that never comes.” Too many times people say no to things because they’re worried about the way they look, or their house looks or whatever the circumstance. If people are truly your friends, then it shouldn’t matter if the living room still isn’t painted and there’s a stack of school papers on the kitchen counter. Your friends will still love you. Don’t miss out on life because you haven’t achieved the impossible standards you set up for yourself.
NOT-keeping the truth to yourself. Shauna writes, “There were so many things I left to other people to feel strongly about, so much so that I often bent under the weight of so many other peoples’ strongly held opinions, tired from having to bridge all the gaps around me. Truth telling, though is both contagious and addictive, and once you start doing it, it’s hard to stop. All of a sudden, opinions fell out of my mouth left and right. I knew so well, so deeply that the areas in which my life went off course were the same areas in which I abdicated responsibility and voice.”
The book has so many ideas, so many pearls of wisdom that I strongly encourage you to read this if you ever feel as if your life is like running a marathon and you can’t catch your breath. Life isn’t easy and this book simplifies it to make it a little smoother as well as offers ways to be kinder to your family and those close to you but, most of all, to be kinder to yourself.
Thank you Melissa for this motivating read. I loved it!