Pushing Performance; or, Dance, Monkey, Dance

We celebrated my father’s birthday last weekend by having him over to our house for dinner. I love my father and it’s deeply important to me that he feels appreciated, so, like pretty much everything else in my life, I wanted the evening to be perfect. This habitual need to overachieve, even in regards to something as chill as a dinner at the house, is not new, and because I know that it causes more stress than joy, I had two voices in my head, fighting it out:

Good Voice: Mom said he wanted this book, so I know he’ll like his gift.

Bad Voice: We only got him one gift?! This isn’t good. Better head to Target and buy everything he might enjoy. 

GV: Nope. Not going to the store for anything that is not absolutely necessary.


GV: He loves spaghetti, so I’ll make that for dinner.

BV: Spaghetti is way too ordinary for a celebratory dinner. Better watch some Pioneer Woman and get some ideas. 

GV: Cooking is fun, so maybe that’s not a bad idea. Still, we should keep it simple.


GV: The present’s wrapped, the house is clean, the candles are ready to be lit. We’re all set for this thing.

BV: Shouldn’t we have decorated more? Even the kid thinks we should have balloons. Better send husband out to get some immediately.

GV: Nope. Not going to the store for anything that is not absolutely necessary.


My dad enjoyed himself so much that I got not one, but two bear hugs. The food was tasty, the present was appreciated, and there was zero mention of a lack of balloons.

I am learning that much of my anxiety stems from my need to achieve and to be seen achieving, no matter if it is at work or at home, if it is an everyday matter like a clean house or an annual celebration of someone I love. But this need for perfect performance in all arenas/situations leaves me on edge–it robs me of the joy that should accompany my extraordinarily blessed everyday life and special occasions.

I will probably always have the bad voice prompting me to DO MORE, but I am grateful that the good voice, the one that reminds me that sometimes doing more is neither necessary or right, is winning more battles, and the prize will be both peace and joy.


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