Pressure, pushing down on you,
pressing down on me
no man ask for
That brings a building down
Split a family in two
Puts people on streets
-“Under Pressure” David Bowie & Queen
“Under Pressure” was an obvious choice for my blog name, partially because the David Bowie & Queen song has always been a favorite song of mine (their do do do da da do do not to be confused with the do do do da da da do of Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”) and also because that’s how I feel, like I’m constantly living “Under Pressure.”
Pressure- it can produce beautiful things- like tender beef in 10 mins from a pressure cooker, or a diamond from coal. Scientists have discovered that they can use pressure and high temperatures to produce materials like Kevlar or synthetic gemstones. . .
it’s not all bad, of course,
but the downside of pressure is that it doesn’t always produce beautiful things; concrete cracks and crumbles under intense pressure and, like a woman who can’t see the plethora of gifts surrounding her because she holds herself to impossible standards, too much pressure can ruin something special.
The truth is, I’ve never been good at just enjoying where I am, instead somehow preferring to worry incessantly about not living up to some entirely unrealistic expectation to perform.
I’d blame it on Social Media or Pinterest, or my parents, but if I’m honest, it’s just always been there. A small internal voice telling me in every situation that whatever I accomplished was “ok,” but it could have been better if I could have tried just a little bit harder. I’ve never been content to be a big fish in a little pond or even just an average sized fish in an average sized pond, instead I always choose to set my sights on goals that are just beyond where I swim, thinking that of course I should “want” to swim there more.
The problem with this philosophy is that I end up in over my head more often than not. Somehow I’ve typically been good enough to make the jump to that next bigger pond, but I’ve never really been “phenomenal” at anything. I was a good student, a decent soccer player; I am a fun, caring mom, a hard worker, and a thoughtful wife. But I always fall just a little short of being “great” at anything. Rationally I should be thankful to be “well rounded,” but unfortunately there isn’t much rational thought that factors into my self-analysis most days.
So I find myself stuck in bigger ponds, refusing to let myself jump back into the more comfortable water. Why does it not feel good enough or full enough or content enough just to be yourself? Why do we need to be some superstar versions of ourselves? I have a sneaking suspicion anyway that even superstars don’t feel like they’re good enough. I mean, the target is always moving and why else are there so many stars who succumb to drugs and addictions and drama and botox? Oh, we think to ourselves, I’d be so happy if I could just get that next promotion, or that slightly bigger house in a better neighborhood, or the faster car, or the cuter clothes, or just lose that extra 5 pounds, but then we do, and guess what, we aren’t any happier, not really. It’s because those things are just band-aids. The real issue lies far below the surface; in the deep down, dark, shadowy places that we don’t really want to go. In Satan’s quiet whispers when we’re alone.
The real issue is that we define our worth by how the world defines us.
Our worth should not be connected to the accomplishments, to how many followers or likes we have, or how picture perfect our house is, or how much money we make, or, heaven forbid, the achievements of our children. Don’t get me wrong, it’s OK to take pleasure in connecting with people and sharing things on Facebook or decorating or being successful financially. The problem comes when we measure our value in those things or define success by things other than our worth as a child of God.
I don’t believe God makes mistakes. I believe he created Erica to be Erica. I do. That he created Marty to be Marty. Jodi to be Jodi. Jenni to be Jenni. And while it’s easy to look at my husband or my friends and say, “I wouldn’t want them to be anything but exactly who they are,” why is it so much harder to see that in myself? While I believe God created me to be ME, I live in almost daily fear that I’m not living up to the potential God saw when he knitted me in my mother’s womb.
Perhaps the biggest pond I find myself in at this stage of my life is work. I work as a Women’s Ministry Leader in a pretty incredible mega church. I’m lucky; I don’t HAVE to “work” – my husband has a fantastic job and he and I have worked hard to put ourselves in a financial position that doesn’t require me to work outside of the home and that itself is an incredible blessing. But I CHOOSE to work. And I choose to work in a role that requires huge emotional investments and a level of deep vulnerability that I struggle with daily. There are many days that I am blessed beyond measure by the team I work with and the work I get to do, and there are many, many days that I am wounded and frustrated and confused and I wonder, “why?” I’ll always say it’s because God called me to it, but sometimes I think it’s because I’m not ok just being me. Because having a job at a church means I’m doing something with the potential God gave me. And I’d hate more than anything to throw away a gift from God. SO instead of enjoying the gift of the ladies I work with and the team I work alongside, I find myself suffocating at times under a self imposed, elephant sized, load of pressure. Pressure to perform, pressure to be ON, pressure to be something someone else believes I should be to be worthy of my role. To never say anything controversial, to never offend, to always be modest, to be considerate of and invested in every sad and tough situation (& happy ones too,) to have the right verses to respond with, to not say things like “bless the crap” on stage. . .
But isn’t living as a whitewashed version of myself, under pressure, under fear that I’d throw away a gift or opportunity from God NOT living the life He intended for me?
I dream of throwing off the pressure, of opening the proverbial windows and letting the breeze blow through my soul, of raising our kids to see through their mom that their worth isn’t in their job title or approval of leaders, or the rules that they follow, but just in knowing that God loves them and loving others because they are so thankful for that gift of God’s love. I dream of discovering the version of Erica that God created me to be, one that might look a whole lot like a broken ceramic plate put back together into a unique collage, or maybe even one that looks a little bit like a diamond.
So this is the first step on that journey. A journey toward freeing myself of chains and locks that only I have the keys to. This is my journey to discover what living free of pressure and expectations feels like. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 38 years to figure out how to take the lid off the pressure cooker. . .