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The Masks of Fear: Perfection & Distraction

January 31, 2014


The photo above, from Tal Ben-Sharar's book, Being Happy,  reminds me of how life really is. I have always been a big dreamer. However, when it comes to being a believer and a doer, those aspects have not always come inherently. Two of my biggest personal flaws are striving for perfection and partaking in distraction.


I have struggled with these all of my life. I remember as a child, I was afraid to make a mistake. I would walk up to the batter’s deck with the thought of, “Don’t strike out, please don’t strike out,” instead of “I’m going to hit a home run.” I wouldn’t accept anything but perfection. I remember one time I came home with my straight A report card. My father looked at it, and said to me, “Kelley, I will be happy when you bring home a B and do not get upset about it.” I couldn’t believe he actually said this! Years later, I finally understood what my father meant. I studied like crazy in organic chemistry my freshman year of college and earned my first C+.


Along with striving for perfection, I have always been the person that has to be involved in everything. I was class president all throughout high school. Years later while in graduate school I volunteered for every committee, taught free group training to professors, sat on student organization boards, partook in research, personal trained, and taught at the school gym. These were all great experiences, but the reality of it is, they were not facilitating the development of my dream. 


It wasn’t until this past fall when I sat down with a pen and paper. I made a list of opportunities that would help me pay for tuition and help me create my career. If an opportunity was in front of me that did not fall under those two categories, I would politely decline the offer. My mentor and role model, Jill Coleman, has helped me with this. Just this week I was writing about my struggle of saying no. Jill suggested coming up with a pattern-breaker: When so-and-so says X, I say, "You know what, thank you so much for asking me, I'm honored. Can I get back to you on that? I just have to make sure that I can swing it, and I don't want to overcommit, because I know when I do, my effort suffers and I'd hate for that to be the case with this." I know this isn’t going to happen overnight, but if I can start one day at a time by implementing my pattern-breaker, huge changes will happen over time.


What does this mean? I believe my longing for perfection and distraction are my coping mechanisms for dealing with the f word, FEAR; fear of the unknown, fear of risk, fear of uncertainty, and fear of reaching my potential. I can continue to use these coping mechanisms and get by.  That would mean living a mediocre life, working for other people’s passions, and being 100% secure. And that is OK. Or I can choose to embrace the uncertainty, embrace possibility, and embrace taking chances. It’s scary stuff. But the more time that goes by, the more I realize the infinite possibilities ahead, if I choose to accept them.


John C. Maxwell mentions in his book, “How Successful People Think” that he spends a few hours at the beginning of every month to plan out his schedule for the next four to six weeks. By doing so he iterates how productive he is with his time and accomplishing his goals. Part of dealing with uncertainty is preparing for it. Instead of going through the motions, striving for perfection, and accepting every distraction, I have decided it is time to live with purpose.


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