Easy Does It

Aim for Excellence, Not Perfection

By Shelly Brown

You are at one of the most wonderful ages in life. You are still free to be a child, but you also are on the verge of some experiences that will start to shape the young adult you are becoming. Things you never used to think about are suddenly starting to matter more and more. While life can be a lot of fun, these things are probably confusing and exciting at the same time, and learning how to juggle these feelings and responsibilities takes a lot of practice.

Kids these days are under a lot of pressure to be the best at everything they do. As girls approach their teenage years, it becomes especially challenging to listen to the little voice inside you that has been your guide growing up. It’s not that you’re not as good as you once were, but there are more voices competing with that one for your attention, trying to tell you what is important and who you should be. Everything from your friends and classmates, to your teachers and parents, to the television shows you watch and magazines you read tell you how you can be better and what you need to change about yourself to be the best and fit in. The truth is, trying to improve yourself is a good thing and necessary to grow, but changing who you are to fit somebody else’s definition of ‘perfect’ is never right.

If you’re anything like I was, chances are, you probably have a crush on someone you know. If you’re a lot like I was, that person you wish would notice you might have eyes for someone else. There might be days when you wish you were funnier.  Prettier. Popular. More athletic. Had straighter hair.  Straighter teeth.  No glasses. But, if the first thing you think of when you get down on yourself is ‘what’s wrong with me?’ you need to think again. There’s nothing wrong with you.

All of the things listed above have to do with what a person is. They are superficial.  I’m not trying to tell you they don’t matter, because if they affect your life, they certainly do.  The tough part comes with learning how much to let them matter, and when to know when those little things have started to matter too much. This is why we learn to prioritize things in life – to rate things from most important, like school, to least important, like having braces. The braces will come off eventually, but your grades cannot be erased.

This is not always an easy task. Sometimes, other people can make you feel like you need to change who you are to be popular and fit in. The question you need to be asking yourself is not ‘what am I and what do I want to be’ but ‘who am I and who do I want to be?’ Here’s something you will never be: perfect at everything. You can be good at a lot of things. Maybe you’re even the best at some of those things. But, you will never be happy if you think you need to be the best at everything. Think of how boring life would be if you were always good at everything you tried! There would be nothing left to learn, no need for imagination, and nothing to look forward to.

There are so many pieces of life to think about everyday. The funny thing is, you could probably talk for hours about all the little things you think about, and that list wouldn’t even include school, homework, practice, and other responsibilities you have. You have wonderful potential. But, discovering the best way for you to shine comes from being the best person you can be, not the best somebody else can be. Think about how much the world would be missing without your smile! How boring life would be if everyone looked and acted the same.

So, how can you learn to be your best self? A good place to start is by writing down the things you have to do like school, sports, family time, and anything else you need to do well at. Next, write down the things you like to do. Third, write down the things you like and the things you’d like to try. Then make sure you have time to take care of the important things to the best of your ability, and let the things you enjoy fill your spare time. Maybe you studied really hard for a math test and did not get a perfect score. Maybe you practiced really hard for a piano recital and made a mistake. Maybe you got a bad haircut and someone teased you about it. Life is not always fun, but when you try hard at the things you are good at and work on improving the things that aren’t as easy, you will learn to rely on yourself when things get hard, and more importantly, know that you will come out stronger.

What every girl should know and most of you don’t is that you are already made exactly right. You have been given a special set of gifts that no one else in the world has exactly like yours. Once you learn to see your differences as special and not things that need to be fixed, you will see that you can do anything you set your mind to.

So go ahead!  Be proud.  Be brave.  And, most importantly, be you!