It’s come to my attention that I often give folks the impression that I’m good at everything, that I excel at any undertaking I embark upon. Let me assure you here and now that this is truly not the case. Not only that, but I’m feeling a bit confessional at the moment, so I would like to share with you (and the world) some things I’m not good at and consistently find difficult no matter how hard I try.
Maybe this is one of the root causes of the misconception that I’m such an obnoxiously successful person. Whether I intend to or not, I have a tendency to minimize my struggles and shortcomings and emphasize what I do well. I don’t feel like this is necessarily an unusual way of moving in the world, but from talking with friends whom I trust (more on that later) I’ve learned I can be difficult to connect with because I often don’t allow others to witness my failures, whether they be large or small. Here’s hoping that this blog post might be a small step toward being more open and vulnerable.
Fostering deep, meaningful friendships
Though I tend to be very personable, amiable, and generally fun to be around, I’ve never been very good at making friends. I’m great at making acquaintances and connections, but nurturing meaningful, mutual friendships is not my forte. While in my younger years I found I could get by just fine with only having a couple “close” friends, the older I get (and the farther into a profession that can sometimes be very isolating) the more I realize the unmet longing I have for such intimate friendships. It’s quite difficult to learn how to build such friendships when you’re almost 30 years into your life.
Spending money on myself
So this one may seem a little more light-hearted than the previous two, but I still count it as a real difficulty in my life. Not that I feel like I should be lavishing myself with lots of expensive things. There are just very few things I feel good about spending money on, particularly for myself. Let me give an example. For weeks now my laptop has been on the fritz – locking up two or three times a day, often resulting in lost work and much frustration. Yet the thought of spending money on buying a replacement laptop is really difficult for me. Another example is the fact that I hesitate going to the doctor to attend to minor, non-critical health concerns because I don’t want to spend the money or time on myself (even though I have insurance.) I’m much more comfortable spending money on the wants and needs of others, like my wife or even by spending more on certain purchases that are more socially and environmentally just. I’m naturally frugal and thrifty (miserly?) but with self-spending I take these tendencies to the extreme.
Taking care of myself (and not feeling guilty about it!)
It’s quite likely this shortcoming is connected with the one I’ve just named. Putting the needs of others first is truly a Christ-like thing, but not being able to recognize and tend to one’s own needs is definitely problematic. Too often I find myself slipping into the latter of these. Many times it is because I haven’t taken the time to even think about what my needs or wants are, and so I bounce through life without much concern for myself. Then, when I do take time (or energy, or money, etc.) for myself I inevitably feel guilty for it. Not because of anything anyone else says or does, but simply because of some psychological short-circuit I must have. I find that I’m better at meeting my needs subconsciously and unintentionally (procrastination to take time away from work, vegging in front of the TV for down-time, etc.) than I am at naming and caring for those needs in a mindful, intentional way.
As many of my friends (or my wife!) can probably tell you, I have an infamously poor memory. If I don’t stick to regular habits of putting things back where they belong I can never seem to find them. If I don’t write to-do lists I forget to do important things. If I don’t have some strong emotional or intellectual connection to some past event in my life I usually have a hard time recalling it. I joke about my wife being the “official rememberer” in our family, but it’s so true its scary (thankfully it is one of her many gifts!) While often this results in minor annoyance while I’m trying to remember where I’ve left my wallet, sunglasses, or keys, at other times it’s really depressing, like when I can’t remember much of my childhood or even things that happened in the earlier years of our relationship (or what I wore to work last week!)
Of all these personal difficulties, avoiding distraction is one that I know I’ve struggled with the longest, all the way back to my grade school years. I’m a horrendous procrastinator and will follow any rabbit-hole I come across to avoid doing what needs to be done. I’ve tried every self-help solution in the book and none seem to do much good. Externally-imposed hard and potentially embarrassing deadlines (such as worship taking place every Sunday morning whether I’m ready or not) seem to be the only thing that work for me. Time-management in general is the struggle here, and whether the distraction is working on a non-essential work-related sidetrack or surfing Facebook and eBay, the results are the same – I’m really bad at keeping on task and getting things done when I want them to be done (not just when they need to be.)
Well … I hope this has helped clear the air a little bit about just how “real” and “flawed” I really am. I hope it comes across as being authentic and not as obnoxious or self-loathing. I’m not perfect and really don’t want you to think that I am. Nobody’s perfect, and that’s OK! (Though I’m better at admitting that about others than I am about myself – part of reason we’re having this conversation, I suppose.) I’m not looking for you to pity me or to try and fix me, I’m just wanting to share a little bit of the behind-the-scenes, big picture of who I really am and the things I struggle with on this journey we call life. Of course, you’re welcome to join me on my journey – just don’t expect that I’ll always be perfectly successful every step along the way.