Okay, so I'm going to delve a little deeper here. I debated whether or not to share the following because it is very personal for me, but in the hopes of someday helping someone, or maybe just my future self needing a reminder, here goes.
I started seeing a counselor a few weeks ago and it's been challenging because I have to be honest with him and I can't pretend like everything in my life is great like I do with everyone else (besides here, of course) or else he's not going to be able to help me.
HH and I felt very guided in this decision, particularly in choosing the individual doing the counseling. So, I have a great deal of faith that he will be able to help me and that is pretty much the only reason I'm willing to sit there and discuss the icky dark parts of my life that I otherwise try to live in denial about.
He gives me a "homework assignment" each week so I'm working on things everyday. The first two were very straight forward and relatively simple. Today, was different. He told me to invite friends over and intentionally leave my house messy. And a few other things along those lines. So, I'm thinking a couple pillows on the floor (Baby B apparently has a very strong belief that that is where they belong so it's an all day battle every day), no big deal. But, then he reiterates what I am supposed to do (things that would normally make me cringe, at the very least) and says, "But, you're going to do it on purpose so it's okay."
Before all of this he told me he was going to wait and tell me the purpose of this assignment next week. But, as I imagined a few of these scenarios in my mind and how it was going to make me feel, I was suddenly fighting back tears with all I had, repeating to him that "I'm fine. I'm fine.", and hurrying to get out the door (it was time to go anyway).
On the drive home, I tried to pinpoint exactly why the mere thought of something like leaving my house messy when friends come over would make me cry. And I wanted to figure out exactly what the point of this exercise was, so that I wouldn't waste that effort. It was really bothering me for about an hour, until I felt prompted to write things down in order to sort out my thoughts.
I began with the various, interconnected purposes I thought this exercise might have: Help me recognize that I have set some silly standards for myself; to see that these things aren't as important to anyone else as they are to me, to see that most of the time no one else even cares or notices, etc.
Then I moved on to why I have these standards to begin with: I am super competitive and feel a strange need to "be the best" at certain silly things; I love getting praised and complimented on doing them well; I'm afraid of someone (even complete strangers) judging me for not being the best.
Then I came to the part that was really bothering me: How do I find balance?
Because none of what I'm doing is inherently wrong. It's not bad to have a clean house, to want to cook a masterpiece when we have someone over, to push myself in my exercise, to want to dress nice, etc. But, doing these things at the expense of my sanity is a problem. However, I have this huge fear that if I let things slip a little, they'll get away from me completely and I'll become a complete slob and disaster.
Interjection: I don't apply these standards to anyone else. I don't look at someone with a messy house and think they are a slob and disaster. I think, "How nice to not have to stress about that."
Next, I wrote down some questions to ask myself in order to evaluate if what I was doing was worth the time, effort, and concern I was giving it: Does it have an eternal impact?; Does it make me happy?; Does it make someone else happy?; Am I doing it just to feed my ego, or to avoid being judged?; etc.
At this point I was reminded of a talk given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Good, Better Best and felt prompted to read it. Getting ahead of myself just a tad, when I did go to read it, this talk came up first and I mistakenly read it instead. However, I think it's exactly what I was supposed to read, and I'll explain that more later.
I looked over what I had written down and pondered some more. And that is when inspiration truly struck. The point of this assignment is to come to truly believe and understand this: If I do not _________ perfectly, it doesn't diminish my value.
If I walk in the middle of a run because I'm tired or my plantar fascitis is bothering me, it doesn't take away from my worth.
Simple enough. But a huge leap in thinking for me.
Then I went to my computer to look up the talk and read the one on focus and priorities. And I gained even further insight. Elder Oaks says, "Our priorities determine what we seek in life." So, I asked myself, "Based on my actions, what are my priorities?"
Answer: Making sure that everyone knows I have value by working hard to be "the best" at a few odd things.
What do I want my priority to be? Building up the Kingdom of God. And the best way for me to do that right now is in the raising of my children. At which point I remembered when Sweet P was a baby writing down in her journal that the most important thing I had to teach her is that she is a daughter of God. She possesses His divinity within her and should let that knowledge influence every choice and action she ever makes.
How can I convince her of that when my daily purposes is not to accept the worth I have simply because I was created by a Divine Being, but to try and prove it over and over again. It's like trying to convince everyone around me that broccoli is green. A fact so commonly accepted that no one ever even thinks about it, let alone questions it.
But, even more fundamental, even if someone truly believed that broccoli is purple, that wouldn't change the fact that it is green.
So, I need to stop making my life goal to convince people (and myself) that I have value by proving that I can have the deepest twist in yoga or can make really great bread sticks even with four children because I have value no matter what I do. And no matter what I, or anyone else thinks.
So, today I developed a new mantra: I have value.
Every time I've felt the need to do something not necessarily in my best interest, I've repeated this to myself. And then focused on the peace and happiness that truly believing that statement brings. Hopefully, if I do this enough, I will finally believe it and I won't have to remind myself every 5 minutes.
But, for now, it's helping.
And today was a good day.