Confession: I’m an Underachiever

Hello, dear readers. I am so loving getting to know you better through this #ResocializeYourMedia writing and blog challenge. I’m only a few prompts in, but feeling the shift in moving from people pleasing to genuine authenticity in my social media posts. For this prompt, we’re going to dig a little deeper, and share a confession. It can be something you’re working on changing, something you want to get off your chest from the past, or simply exposure of vulnerability. There is enough false – shiny – fake on social channels. Don’t be that person. Dare to share something that is hard for you to write. That’s where the magic happens. 

So, here’s my confession: I’m an underachiever. I’m a ninety percenter at life, and I want to change.

Confession of an Underachiever

As this spring semester drew to a close, I reflected upon the fact that 2017 marks my 14th year of taking community college classes. I have three associates degrees, and no bachelors. Many of my high school peers have completed law school, medical school, and been working in the field for many years now, and I find myself still fumbling around, changing my major, and wondering as the years pass by whether I will actually see this project through to completion.

I often don’t, you see. Finish things to completion, that is.

Like this sentence.

It was actually a fragment, but hey, who cares?!

It’s not just the big things, like higher education. It’s the little things, too. Case in point: I came home from a two week long trip on Monday (a week ago). It’s now the following Monday. My suitcase is laying open on my bed, halfway unpacked. Some of the clothes made it into the laundry; one load is in the dryer, one load is in the washer, and there are still clothes in the basket. I’ll do the dishes, and wash everything except for the silverware, which I leave in the sink. I diligently make to do lists, complete 85% of the items on the list, and let the remaining 15% follow me around for weeks, becoming a ball and chain over which I can periodically stress out, before adding them to the top of yet another to do list.

Being a Straight A Student at Life

Until age 14 I was a straight A student, dissatisfied unless the scores on my schoolwork were 95% or higher. I was rarely dissatisfied, as my grades were consistently superior. When my life fell apart (the first time) on my 14th birthday, thanks to parental divorce, something shifted in me and I went from straight A’s to straight C’s, D’s and F’s. Though it was unfortunate, this experience lead to a startling revelation: Life continued, even if I became totally imperfect.

Even if I completely messed up, and stopped going to school, and failed my classes, the world kept turning. Other people continued on their merry way, kept living their lives, and were essentially undisturbed by my failure. I found this to be very liberating, and frolicked in it with wild abandon for at least a year before I realized the flip side of the same coin: no one cares if you mess up. No one is going to stop you from ruining your own life. Sure, some may try, especially your parents and siblings and best friends who love you, but at the end of the day if you are bound and determined be a hot mess, you will find a way.

So, if I wanted to be saved from my own slippery slope to mediocrity, there’s only one person who could be my savior: myself.

Grudgingly, around age 17, I started pulling my weight in life again. I cranked myself up to about 90% operating capacity, and had a go at things. I graduated high school early through independent study, and was able to go back and enjoy my senior year with the other students, all the while working full-time and caring for my father who was terminally ill. I doted on my then-boyfriend, and did my best playing step mommy to his daughter, who was only 11 years my junior. I found that if I just gave a solid A- effort, I could get by in life and people would still be relatively impressed and charmed by me.

When Good Enough Isn’t Good Enough

Here we are, 15 years later, and I’m still operating at about 90% capacity. Yes, I have bursts where I make it up to  98%, but not as often as I would like. I know how to do exactly the amount of work to get me an A minus, and that level of effort suits my mood most of the time. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I were one of those people who wanted to give 100% at everything – heck, even one thing. I think the only thing that I give 100% to is holding space for women when I’m leading retreats or trainings – and maybe my marriage and motherhood, but you’d have to ask my husband about that. Aside from that, pretty much everything – bills, school, deadlines, punctuality, fashion, diet, exercise, environmental stewardship, activism, family relationships… if I’m completely honest, I think I’m giving somewhere between 85 and 93% effort on most days.

So here’s my question: Should I feel bad about that? Should I label myself a classic underachiever, and relegate myself to being an A- person in life? What do I take this realization, and somehow use it to transform myself into someone who gives 100%? Are we even capable of giving 100% all the time? Are you one of the people who does that? If you are, how does it feel? Are you proud? Tired? Satisfied? Humbled?

As I examine this acceptance within myself of the attitude, “Good enough is good enough,” I find that it’s not what I would advocate for my child, my students, or my best friends. It’s not how I would coach someone to live their life. Because operating at 90% capacity is still operating from a place of fear: it’s passively agreeing that maybe we can’t ever access our 100%, so we just shouldn’t try. And that, my friends, is bullshit.

What would it look like if I gave 100% effort? More importantly, how would it feel? 

I want to die knowing that I LIVED as fully as I could. I want to have no regrets about the amount of effort I gave, and no questions in my mind about what MIGHT have been, if only I’d pushed harder.

If this sounds like you, if you’re one of the people who has always been told, “You have SO much potential,” then read on, my friends. We can get ourselves revved up to 100. We just need a game plan.

Operation Dedication: Game Plan for 100% Effort

So, I know that I want to start giving a hundred percent, or at least closer to it, as often as I am able. How can I make this actionable? How can I commit to real, specific, measurable results in life? I’m launching Operation Dedication: my own personal effort to put in more effort. Take that, lazy inner self.

  1. Less screen time and scrolling. You guys, we waste a lot of time scrolling. I do, anyway. Scheduling my screen time into fifteen minute blocks during which I can check Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest is the first part of my game plan. That way, when I’m somewhere, I’m ALL THERE. 100% baby.
  2. Commit to self-care. A lot of times, I’m operating at 90% because I haven’t given myself the fuel to operate at 100%. Hydration, clean eating, exercise, and mental health breaks are VITAL to bringing my A game in life. This means drinking water (guzzling 20 oz as we speak), eating more whole foods and plant based meals, getting my heart rate up for at least half an hour every day, and carving out alone time for quiet (yoga, prayer, meditation).
  3. Be accountable to people who love me. Sharing this here, discussing it with my husband, and talking with my coach are tools for me to stay on track.
  4. Do it now. So many things get done to 90% capacity because I get distracted and don’t finish them. Here’s a fun rule: if it can be done in less than one minute, do it now. Try this for one day and see how much your productivity changes.
  5. Embrace the “No.” I want to do everything, see everything, experience everything. I have huge dreams and plans, which is great, but not if I only finish 80% of them. I commit to saying No to things that are not a complete YES in life.

You guys!!! I finished this post!!! And I think (just maybe) I gave it 100% effort and honesty. That is the first step, right?

I’m itching to know: What is your confession? If you take a good, hard look at yourself, what do you see that maybe needs some change? Let’s start a conversation. Talk to me here by leaving a comment below, or let’s connect on Facebook or Instagram.

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