Permission to Be Less Than Great

permission to be less than great

One of the all-time most significant, wonderful shifts in my life happened the moment I decided I was good enough. Less than great. Imperfect. A little broken even perhaps. But also beautiful, strong, courageous, compassionate and determined.

I decided that I like myself. All of me.

The act of giving myself permission to simply show up and be less than great broke the chains that had bound me for years. Heavy, twisted, tightly woven ropes of misery that held me back from laughing freely, from sleeping peacefully, from walking in deeply-rooted joy.

All at once it dawned on me that there are no life rules that dictate I must be any different from who I am – with all my strengths and weaknesses. All my particular hopes and desires, pet peeves and personality quirks. I simply am. You simply are. And it is good.

We have believed a lie. A lie that tells us we are unacceptable, unlovable, a failure, too slow, too big, too much or too little. There is no winning when you live under this condemnation.

But oh, the sweet freedom that washes me free of shame and comparison when I step out into good enough. When I replace the ugly lie with the truth that I am artwork, beautifully knit together craftsmanship.

I am a chunky charcoal wool scarf with a few loose ends and snags here and there but safe and comforting and inviting. You are a delicate floral watercolor with slightly ragged edges, all muted colors of femininity. You speak of spring and delight and possibility. My sister is fierce – strong and bold she calls women to fight and justice. She is an intricately carved wooden shield; solid and mysterious, slightly battle-scarred.

We are beautiful. None of us perfect, none of us complete perhaps, without the others. Each of us needed.

I wonder what would happen to us women if each day, many times a day if necessary, we decided to show up for life with permission to be less than great. If we simply showed up. Naked. Allowing ourselves to be seen. If we did not worry so much about making our mark or competing in the marketplace or trying to look sweet and pretty and competent.

But we stopped hiding and simply showed up.

I wonder how life might change. How delight and joy and unencumbered creativity might begin to flow. How we might support each other with less judgment and wariness. How we might, as women, be more inclined to lift each other up instead of tearing down.

How we might, by the simple bravery of showing up ourselves, call our daughters and sisters to freedom.

When we disentangle our minds and hearts and bodies from the false yet pervasive notion that we have to be the best at something we are able to just do the work that lights us up. To be who we are: athlete, teacher, biologist, healer, advocate, gardener, listener, friend.

We can sing joyfully without caring so much that we are not quite as skilled as the lady over there. We can tend to our business with a lighter step. We can write the book or return to medical school or remind ourselves that no matter how many others are bringing in income and building impressive livelihoods, our primary mission is tending to the hearth and little people and we can find peace and joy in this place all over again.

We can simply be and let go of all the “shoulds” and looking over our shoulders. And what might actually happen is that we end up living a life far more amazing and beautiful than we ever could have thought possible. We might create something – a work of art, a connected family, a business that knocks our stripey socks off. We might just end up crafting a life that far surpasses great because we simply showed up and began walking in freedom.

But here’s the thing – no one else can give you permission to be less than great. That is a gift that only you can offer to yourself. You alone are responsible for this. You must be the one to decide to step out from under the mantle of comparison or shame or perfectionism; to step out and offer who you are to the world. All the beautiful and the broken bits.

Can you give yourself permission today to be less than great?

Krista xo

You might also like to read The Gifts of Imperfection or On Becoming Fearless (affiliate links).

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16 comments on “Permission to Be Less Than Great

  1. Yet again you brought me a message that I needed right at this moment, Krista! Thanks so much. Work is getting really busy, and it’s easy to get caught up thinking “I’m not doing it right”. I’m going to try to focus on “Look at that! I’m showing up and doing what I can!” Such an important shift.

    PS: I’ve often thought that when we become adults, the “S word” is no longer the swear word we referenced as kids, but rather the word “should”. Whenever I hear myself using the s-word, I know I’m going off track…for some reason your post today reminded me of that.

  2. Here is the struggle that I always seem to have with articles such as this: It seems easy for someone who is amazing/accomplished/talented to say, “I’m good enough.” I look at people like you and think, “Well, duh! Of course you are good enough! Even your so-called weaknesses are sweet & endearing.” But I am not amazing, nor accomplished, nor talented. My weaknesses are embarrassing and shallow. I don’t feel like I can claim to be “good enough” until I have worked harder to earn that right. I don’t aim for perfection, but I sure would like to be better than I am right now.

    • First off, Brooke, I would want to offer a big hug to you if we were face to face and you would permit it. You call me amazing/accomplished/talented but I have wanted to die, walked through anxiety, depression, pain, low self worth, etc. Years and years of it. Even today I must daily push back against feelings of not good enough – feelings of comparison.

      My point in this article is not to suggest that we don’t want to continually grow and learn and heal (I absolutely do!) but that if we can offer kindness and compassion and even acceptance to who we are right now that things begin to shift. I believe that beautiful, sustainable growth stems from a place of self compassion and kindness. So I am not against growth. But I am ‘against’ women judging themselves so harshly and feeling unworthy and unlovable or too broken as they are. At what point does one decide then they are good enough? I am aware that while you might think I have it good others might look at me with disdain. But no one else gets to decide my worth. Or yours. You can decide that you are imperfect but wonderful and just show up to life each day.

      This is such a long-winded reply – but here is an example: I used to spill rage over my family sometimes. I lived with fear and chronic anxiety and it was horrible. I tried to control my environment to make me feel safer but would sometimes freak out over messes or disruptions that rocked my little ‘perfectly ordered’ world. I lived with great shame and remorse over this yelling and feared I would never change. But each day I tried to show up for my family and breathe and love to the best of my ability. I DID want to change in this area. But forgiving myself for who I was at that point, not justifying or accepting the destructive behavior itself, was the catalyst for the healing and change to come. I didn’t know if I would ever change just like I did not know if I would ever be free of obsessive cleaning or perfectionism or addictive eating or anxiety. But I knew that I needed to learn to love myself. Of course I also acknowledged how wrong this behavior was to my family but hating myself would have only pushed me deeper into despair. Does that make sense at all?

      I truly appreciate your response and willingness to step into this conversation. xo

  3. I absolutely loved this! I am a well worn pair of comfy slippers who has seen many, many footsteps in my 67 years, and wouldn’t trade it for a new, sleek model for all the money in the world. Your post is a breath of fresh air blowing away the fog of an outdated culture. Peace and blessing!Ba

  4. Hi, Krista. I just found you a couple of days ago. A friend shared your reflection, “What if All I Want is a Mediocre Life” on Facebook. The title really caught my eye because I’m literally exhausted from feeling pressure to be the best or the greatest. And, I’ve been lacking in self-confidence because of those feelings. So, I want to thank you for writing “Mediocre Life” because I can’t stop reading it. And, I just liked your page on Facebook and found this post, which I also just fell in love with. I really needed to find you right now in my life. Thank you for giving me the permission to just be me. I am anticipating your future reflections. With love, Katherine Ley

    • Welcome, Katherine. I remember that feeling of exhaustion well. I imagine that as you slowly learn to walk in quiet confidence, as you “just be you”, that your joy quotient will soar. We are all imperfect- not one of us can be amazing at all things at all times. We are all a mixture of strength and weakness- no shame in this. And we all also have gifts to offer the world- big or small. It is a beautiful thing when women realize they can offer their small gifts, and the truth of who they are, and let that be enough. xo

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