On occasion, I am interviewed via Skype about establishing healthy boundaries between technology and life. I am not going to lie. This is my least favorite way to share the Hands Free message. I much prefer writing about it so I can tweak my sentences until I get them just right. Not to mention, when I’m delivering messages from my keyboard, appearance is not a factor.
I have no doubt that my preference for writing over public speaking has been influenced by the years I spent pursing perfection—pressuring myself to sound and look just right. For every self-deprecating message I said to myself, a wound was left on my spirit. That wound deepened to the point that I declined social gatherings if I did not like my reflection in the mirror. My wound deepened to the point that I refrained from sharing my thoughts and ideas if I feared they would come out wrong. My wound deepened to the point that I shied away from living, laughing, and pursuing my dreams because I thought I might not measure up.
But things are different now. And I probably wouldn’t have fully realized the healing that has taken place on my bruised soul had it not been for the wisdom of a child.
This is my story …
On the morning of my television interview, my 6-year-old child was home from school with a sore throat. The day before, she’d tested positive for strep. But with two doses of Amoxicillin in her system she was feeling pretty good (aside from a little discomfort when she swallowed).
“So what are we gonna do today?” asked my pajamas-clad daughter with a toothless smile. “I love having alone time with you.”
I explained that I had a television interview at eleven o’clock, and I needed to spend some time practicing what I was going to say. I told her I would also need to shower and wear something a little more presentable. As I spoke, I waved my hand over my “writing uniform” (workout clothes and a ball cap) thinking my daughter would agree that my appearance needed improvement.
“I think you look good enough for an interview,” stated my child who would wear her pajamas in public every single day and brush her hair once a week if she were allowed.
I chuckled at her wise and empowering “good enough” perspective, which she took as an invitation to play.
“How about a game of Connect Four? Remember, you were the Connect Four champion of your family when you were little.” I think she threw out that last bit out as a challenge.
I glanced at the clock. I figured I could play a few rounds and still have time to prepare for my interview.
Connect Four was not nearly as riveting as it was when I was nine, but there was something about sitting across from a child with disheveled hair and joyful eyes that made me lose track of time.
Suddenly feeling a little behind schedule, I told my daughter I needed to prepare for my interview. I set her up with some crayons, a blank notebook, and a glass of Gatorade. She quickly got busy on her artistic creation.
I reviewed the reporter’s questions just once. The former perfectionist in me felt the urge to review them again, but my daughter’s earlier words drowned out the inner critic. It’s good enough for today, I thought.
I took a quick shower and put on the first outfit that appealed to me. Again, I hesitated and wondered if I should try on something else just to be sure. But it only took a quick glance at my favorite purple shirt and freshly washed hair to embrace my daughter’s wise mantra once again: Good enough for today.
I walked out of my bedroom fully prepared to use the remaining few minutes to prepare for the interview, but my child had a notebook full of drawings she wanted to show me.
“Here’s a picture of you. I messed up on your hair, but that’s not what’s important,” she declared with confidence. My child’s portrait of me instantly confirmed my decision not to spend one more minute on that stubborn piece of hair that was determined to stick out. Because now I closely resembled the happy lady in the picture who held a star in her hand—not a hairbrush.
Before I knew it, it was time for the Skype interview. I’d placed a few sticky notes around the edge of my computer as “cheat sheets,” but found I didn’t need them. The news anchor was warm and friendly and had excellent questions. I found myself talking to her about my journey with ease.
At the end of the interview, I shut my laptop with a sigh of relief and satisfaction. To my surprise, my child jumped out from around the corner where she had been listening quietly. “You did great, Mama!” she exclaimed. “Now let’s go out to lunch!”
I could have easily said, “Not today.” I had a slew of deadlines to meet and more editing to do on my book, but it’s not every day that I have a lunch date—especially one with a toothless smile. I said yes to my child’s suggestion, and within the hour we sat across from each other enjoying the midday fare at her favorite restaurant.
Our attentive waitress noticed when our plates were empty and unexpectedly presented a brownie sundae to my daughter. My child couldn’t even speak. All she could do was laugh, and laugh, and laugh with giddy delight.
Maybe because it was fun to be out to lunch when you are technically “sick.”
Maybe because the sight of ice cream with sprinkles just makes a person happy.
Maybe because the kind gesture made her feel extra special.
Maybe because she felt the overwhelming love coming from across the table.
I can’t be sure. But what happened next was monumental. The waitress, who had turned to leave, stopped mid-stride. And despite having food orders to take and glasses to refill, she paused to listen to the sound of my child’s laughter. Suddenly, the woman put her hand over the heart, looked up to the sky, and cried out, “That laughter is coming straight from the soul! Straight from the soul! And it’s a mighty beautiful sound!”
My child then took the first bite of her succulent treat. After swallowing the icy, cold goodness, she excitedly announced, “My throat doesn’t hurt anymore! It’s healing, Mama!”
I had to fight back my tears as the significance of the waitress’s words and my daughter’s declaration hit me in full force.
My bruises, the ones made by years of critical torment, are healing too. Because each time I let go of perfect and allow myself to show up “as is,” the bruises on my spirit fade a little more.
And this revelation brings me to offer this message to you, my faithful companions on the Hands Free journey:
Let’s stop pressuring ourselves.
Let’s stop comparing ourselves.
Let’s stop being our own worst enemy.
Let’s stop holding ourselves back from life.
Instead, let’s see ourselves through the eyes of our children.
Eyes that see beautiful when we cheer at the ball field with sweat-laden faces and tear-stained cheeks.
Eyes that see beautiful when we soothe away bad dreams in a fossilized college T-shirt with sleep-deprived eyes.
Eyes that see beautiful when we’ve got on our bathing suit and have slicked back hair as we twirl them in the pool.
When our children look at us, they don’t see flaws and imperfections, they see love—sweet, beautiful, never failing love. Let’s try to see it, too.
The next time you find yourself going down the damaging path of criticism or comparison, try this freeing line: Good enough for today.
Just that one little change in thought can provide the courage to
Grab a star,
Let go of perfect,
And laugh until tears run down your face.
See yourself through the eyes of your child today.
And let the healing begin on your wounded soul.
Do you fall victim to self-doubt, criticism, or comparison? Have negative thoughts held you back from living your life? Do you have a mantra like “good enough for today” that you use to push away critical thoughts? Please feel free to share your own difficult truths, insights, and tips in the comments below. There is so much healing in the act of sharing our stories and supporting one another. Thank you for being a part of The Hands Free Revolution. I love sharing this journey with you.
*To watch my interview from that day, which covers how I overcame my “almost addiction” to technology and how I became Hands Free, click here. And this is the accompanying news segment which describes the impact of my post, “How to Miss a Childhood,” on a caregiver/parent.
**I was recently asked to share a truth, a tip, and a find on the inspiring site, “3 Things for a Mom.” In this piece, A Rare and Beautiful Gift, I chose to share three valuable insights from my Hands Free journey. It is my hope that my truth, tip, and find may help someone else let go of distraction and perfection to grasp what really matters!