The Courage to Be Average

Not me.

I used to be a hero. That sounds conceited, but I mean it in the sense that I put everybody before myself. I sacrificed for the good of others, and refused to accept help. Many women are brought up this way.

In my mid-forties, I began to treat myself as well as I had
everybody else.

But I still I worry about certain people whom I love, and usually I discuss my concerns with my husband, who has been a good mentor to me. (Vice versa, he says. Nice.)

Recently I was venting my pain and confusion about a troubled friend of mine, and Bill said something so smart that I had to write it down. And then I decided to share it with my friends at Any Shiny Thing. Bill said of my friend, “She has a strange life but it’s not your responsibility.”

How liberating to hear it put that way. I’m not responsible for saving her, fixing her, or changing her. (She is not in any mental or physical danger, and has not asked for my opinion or my help.) How she lives her life is not only not my responsibility, it’s none of my business.

It’s her life. Hers to choose, hers to decide. Who am I to “help” her?

I used to try to change people, but I’ve learned that my advice isn’t always useful or applicable. I also have come to understand that most people change when they’re good and ready, not when you want them to. Hell, that lesson was the whole purpose for meeting my last ex-husband. So I have to let things go.

This is a humbling thing to accept, because it means I’m no longer the hero.

It’s hard to sit back and let people live their own lives. You want to help. You want them to like you or think well of you. You want to think well of yourself. Leaving them alone means you have nothing to feed off of, and it takes a pretty strong ego to let it go. But my message is, it’s freeing.

So what if nobody thinks you’re awesome?

Years ago, I told my boss I was a perfectionist. Like many people who say this, I said it with a bit of pride. He smiled at me and said, “Perfectionists fear criticism.”

Crushed! I was humiliated, but he was right, of course. It takes more guts to be imperfect than perfect, and it takes more guts to be average than non-heroic. Now that I realize this, I’m trying to hang up my cape.

What a relief to let it go.

 

Comments

  1. Mary says

    Letting people deal with challenges is how they evolve and when one overcomes these challenges and/or obstacles they can have a sense of pride and accomplishment, especially if they go it alone. I really wish you luck with getting your book published and I look forward to reading it.
    <3 always,
    Mary

  2. says

    You never cease to amaze and delight me Lynne. I just love your “Any shiny thing” blog and take time to read it even when I’m as busy as a one-armed paperhanger. I can certainly identify with this post – my Mom used to say – “Just be as kind to yourself as you are to other people.” I think she had a darn good point.

    • says

      BLC, I am honored that you would make time for my blog! And I love that expression. A coworker used to say busier than a one-legged man in an @$$-kicking contest.

      I just bought your book, Cracks in the Sidewalk, and can’t wait to read it on my Kindle.

      For all my AST buddies, here are the first 2 sentences of her book, and it whets my appetite to know more:

      “I’m an old woman now. Some might say too old to dream, too old to believe in miracles…”

      WOW. Don’t you just want to know what comes after the “…but”? Here is Bette Lee’s website.

  3. says

    Vonnie and Linda, I think this is one of those things we can list under “benefits of aging.” I just read Isabella Rossellini’s comment when asked what she does about aging (they were talking about her looks). She said this: “I do nothing. I don’t think aging is a problem.” Can you imagine thinking that way? Here’s the rest:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/10/30-celebs-aging-with-grac_n_1082444.html#s462639&title=Isabella_Rossellini

  4. Vonnie Kennedy says

    Lynne,
    I still have flare-ups of the ‘disease to please’ from time to time, but at least I know to stop myself instead automatically putting others before me. I only wish I’d recognized the problem years ago, but oh well, better late than never.

    When I read your posts, I know I’m not the only one.
    Thanks. :)

  5. says

    Bingo,Lynne! You nailed this one on all counts.First ,you captured the expectation that our generation was brought up on-to thrive on the notion that we could”bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan”blah,blah,blah- to be everything to everybody because “I am woman, hear me roar” until we finally woke up from our frenzy to realize that the world could & would go on without us and that there is tremendous freedom in truly letting go..Hurray!!

    You have some great discussion here. In relation to Libbye’s comment: I remember being coached to say I was a perfectionist when asked what my weaknesses were in a job interview. It was felt to be a positive negative.

    Thanks Lynne, You are our cheerleader. Let’s all go out and” live and let live” :-)

  6. says

    Good for you, Lynne! My late dad taught me a long time ago to “live and let live.” As a woman, I think we tend to want to fix things, whether it be our best friend’s marriage, our children’s first heartbreak, or our aging parents’ social life. How much better to listen quietly, provide a shoulder to cry on or advice when asked — how freeing to realize these are their problems, and they’ll have to be the ones to resolve them!

    • says

      Exactly, Debbie! If we have the strength to NOT try to fix them, our loved ones might have a chance of developing those important skills on their own. But hard to stand by with your hands in your pockets, huh?

  7. says

    Lynne,
    I think you’re awesome and appreciate your editing skills.
    My husband was an anal perfectionist and I almost hated the characteristic until he died. Then one day in a restuarant as i straightened the salt and pepper shakers and alligned the silverware, I realized OMG! I have become my husband!…or has he possesed me? He trained me to be a perfect ( he was the best or worst..however you look at it) perfectionist and I was not born with the trait, at my core I am still a slob. So when I absolutely cannot be the perfectionist I strive to be( that’s right I strive to reach that goal) I call my imperfections “Spirit Holes.”
    Whatt is a “Spirit Hole”? When the Indians created their crafts never made them perfect, leaving a flaw in their creation. They believed if they made something perfect they would anger the Gods thus they leave “Spirit Holes.”
    So just remember “Spirit Holes” please the Gods.

  8. Libbye A. Morris says

    Great blog post, Lynne! I once lost out on a freelance writing opportunity because the subject asked what my greatest weakness was, and I replied–like you, somewhat proudly–that I tended to be a perfectionist. I was thinking that it was really a positive attribute that I would present as a negative. “Oh, I can’t work with a perfectionist,” he bellowed. “That’s not going to work at all.” I learned then that perfectionism isn’t a positive attribute at all!

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