Don’t you just HATE dropping the ball? It literally makes. me. cringe. (I’ve told you I’m a recovering perfectionist, haven’t I?!) For me, dropping the ball is one of the most vulnerable things I can do. How do you drop the ball gracefully? (Is that even a thing?)
Dropping the ball sucks. It feels like failure. It feels exposing – like someone seeing your underwear or having the top of your bathing suit fly off at a water park (not that I would know. ah hem).
Once, in college, I was riding my bike home from class and a cute boy was walking on the sidewalk near where I needed to park the bike. I don’t even quite know what happened, but I ended up careening over the handlebars and falling off the bike in the most ungraceful way possible. Of course, even though my first thought should have been about my safety and whether or not I’d been seriously injured. All I could think of was – “Oh no! That cute boy just saw me humiliate myself!”
Let’s get real here – when we drop the ball, why is it that our first thought is – ‘what will others think?’. Why is it that the most difficult part of dropping the ball isn’t the actual issue or problem but rather the humiliation that our imperfection was exposed to others. When I forget something important or have to admit that I will not make a deadline (either to myself or others), I feel humiliated. Someone has seen my mess – the woman behind the curtain – caught me in the act … of trying to do it all.
So when I dropped a ball this week (well – if I’m honest – I dropped lots of balls over the past couple of weeks) – I decided to just stay curious about my emotion around dropping the ball – and here is what I discovered. See if this resonates with you:
I was focused on being a “human doing” instead of a “human being”. Here’s what I mean:
A “human doing” is focused on what she does. Her goal is to do everything well. She defines herself by how well she does her job, how effectively she does parenting, how active she is in clubs and organizations, and how successfully she performs in various games. Her thoughts are constantly about methods, techniques, and skills. To be worthwhile, her life must be a series of accomplishments and achievements. ~Dave Ellis, Human Being
As a “human doing”, I was focused on my accomplishments, tasks, and to-do list, rather than on acknowledging what is important to me – doing things to my standard (which is high and I like that – excellence is a value of mine!), taking time to prioritize my family and friends who needed me this week, and bringing my unique value to each situation rather than running through my tasks (quality over quantity). Making this shift helped me to get back in touch with my “human being”-ness and value myself for who I am – not what I do.
Accomplishments and achievements and improving yourself is important – don’t get me wrong. But hear this – when we begin to associate our worth with our accomplishments, that’s a slippery slope.
Clearly – society judges us by our accomplishments. Our jobs judge us by our accomplishments. Sometimes people who we call our “friends” even judge us by our accomplishments or lack thereof (PS – if that’s you – stay tuned to read about Marble Jar people below)
So – when this is the world we live in – how do we remember that our accomplishments do not make us worthwhile?
Knowing (& Liking) Yourself:
In order to focus on ourselves as “human beings” over “human doings”, we have to know who we are! We need to be in touch with what is important to us at our core. What are things that are important to you? What do you secretly wish to prioritize above all else? These answers will clue you in to discovering more about who you are.
The next step is to value who you are. Sometimes focusing on “doing” over “being” lurks because we don’t want to acknowledge who we are. We don’t like who we are. If that’s you, my friend, I encourage you to read Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection and to begin journaling daily about qualities within yourself that you are grateful for.
Anchoring Yourself in Your Purpose:
Anchoring yourself in your purpose can help you shift from being focused on your to do list to being focused on the “why” behind your to do list. I encourage you to think about each of the things on your list today and reflect on why you need to do that thing – what is the purpose you are fulfilling behind your daily activities?
This act of reflection alone, can help you feel the difference in weight of the various items on your to-do list. Dropping the ball on things that lack a strong sense of purpose for you should actually be a good thing because you are choosing to focus your energy on the things that really bring you joy and fulfillment.
Leaning on Your Marble Jar People:
As teachers, we all know the concept of a marble jar – when the class behaves well, they earn marbles, and when they behave poorly they lose marbles. Well, Brene Brown actually used that analogy when trying to describe trust to her 10 year old. Relationships are sort of like marble jars, and we should trust those that have lots and lots of marbles in their jars. (Not that friendship is based purely on actions – I believe (and so does Brene) that grace needs to be given by the ton) BUT that we don’t just go around sharing our deepest, darkest emotions with just anyone.
So I want you to think right now, who are those Marble Jar people in your life? These are people who will remind you of your greatness even when you feel so small. These are people who you can trust with your heart and be vulnerable with. Helpful tip – you will probably only have a handful of these folks – and that’s okay!
When we drop the ball in life and just generally are starting to go under – we need to lean on these folks. We need to ask for help, and accept it. We all need the help from time to time, and these difficult times call for “phoning a friend”!
Focus on Progress Over Perfection:
I love this one. The first time I heard the phrase was in the book Make it Happen by Lara Casey. It’s far too easy for some of us to focus too much on perfection, and far too little on our positive progress. We are all a work in progress and are all on a journey!! Even if you go two steps forward and one step back – celebrate your progress and the learning along the way!
We all need a little grace. When we drop the ball – even when our first reaction is humiliation – the only wholehearted way to end the mental conversation is grace and self-compassion.
What’s your stumbling block?