It was 2 a.m. and I couldn’t sleep.
Granted, my team and I had just won a national championship a few hours ago, but I knew that that wasn’t the reason for my restlessness. I was upset at myself for losing my individual match and feeling like I didn’t contribute to our victory enough.
Obviously, I was ecstatic that our team had just won the title we had been working toward for three years. But there was a feeling inside me that wasn’t satisfied because I felt like I didn’t do my part. I should’ve done better.
Is it Enough to Be a National Champion?
I didn’t want to feel that way, but I did. I kept reminding myself to enjoy the journey and cherish every moment. But the fierce competitor in me wouldn’t stop telling me that it wasn’t enough. My effort wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough.
This is just one example in my life where the competitor in me hurt me and spoke contrary to what Jesus wanted to tell me.
Maybe you can relate.
As a top Division 1 athlete aspiring to play professionally after college, I am extremely hard on myself. Sometimes to my detriment. My biggest challenge is to avoid overthinking things and overworking.
Maybe you aren’t a D1 athlete. If you can’t relate with athletics, maybe there is another aspect of your life that you are constantly pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion. I know a lot of people are like that with school. Some people are like that with work. Or relationships. Whatever it is, you find yourself constantly evaluating your performance. And it’s never good enough because you want to do better.
The Space Between Striving and Contentment
Many of us struggle to be happy with our performance or thankful for what we have. Call it overachieving, perfectionism, or the pursuit of greatness, but I believe that we feel like that when we judge our performances by the world’s standards.
The world tells us that we need to do everything perfectly for people to think highly of us and feel satisfied with ourselves. As athletes, we are constantly taught to never be satisfied, but to keep reaching and striving for our dreams. When we get there, we need to set new goals. And that’s healthy. That’s how we improve and get better.
But we can’t let our results define us as a person or we will feel like we are only worth the merits of our performance. I think all the athletes, overachievers, and people who are hard on themselves should remember this simple message: No matter what we do, we will never be enough for the world. But we are enough for Jesus, right now as we are. He, in His unending mercy, loves us whether we succeed or not. That should comfort us and make us realize that it really doesn’t matter how we do at all.
Ultimately Playing for An Audience of One
While that message is nothing new to me (and it probably isn’t to you, either), my human nature still reverts back to harmful ways of judging my performances by worldly standards. The competitive nature in me wants to compare myself to others and to always do better than the person next to me.
A year before our win, I vowed I would never worry about what other people thought about me or my performances. I told myself I wouldn’t compare myself to others, because it really didn’t matter. And I was doing so well with it.
But there I was, after becoming a national champion, upset that I didn’t do a better job. What more could I want?!
One of my favorite quotes is from St. Gianna Molla:
The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day.
A Little Perspective
Everything we are given is a gift from God. Our human nature will tell us to want more in every situation. But when that temptation arises, it is our duty as Christians to stop and be thankful for where we are right now. We are so so blessed, but we forget to look around and see our blessings. We are too focused on trying to get, to be, more.
Jesus loves you and me right here and now. That alone is more than anything else we could desire.
I could lose everything in my life that I love, but I would have nothing to fear because I have Christ. My happiness and joy are in that.
So from one stubborn overachiever to the next, take time to be thankful today and remember that you are enough.
You are enough for Him, so be enough for yourself.
Do you struggle with perfectionism? Do you find it difficult to accept the unconditionally love of Christ in your life?
Josie Kuhlman is a recent college graduate from the University of Florida where she competed on the women’s tennis team for four years. She currently traveling the world and pursuing my dream of playing professional tennis. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family in Florida, reading, taking pictures and writing for her blog. Her hope is that her story can inspire others to passionately pursue the true joy found in Christ in their own lives. You can find out more about her here.