When the struggle is real

As women and leaders, we can easily become too focused on being everything for everyone. We don’t realize we’re working ourselves into complete exhaustion until it’s too late. If you’re like me, this results in a massive blowup, typically consisting of a lovely mixture of frustration, anger and hopelessness. Trust me, not my finest moments. Trying to be the perfect woman, wife, mother and friend coupled with working and ministering was taking its toll (key words: “trying” and “perfect”).

Needless to say, I was burned out. My marriage was suffering, and my emotional and physical health were teetering on the brink of irreparable damage. I was drowning under improperly placed performance, perfectionism, and drivenness when I discovered three healthier alternatives in Colossians 3.

1) Replacing performance with excellence.

Performing solely for recognition and applause from others isn’t sustainable. Being a people-pleaser to gain acceptance is exhausting. Both will certainly lead to burnout. On the other hand, doing our tasks with excellence gives us a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that IS sustainable. Fostering a culture of excellence rather than performance promotes humility and best efforts while dissipating pride and stress.

2) Replacing perfectionism with progress.

I want to be better than I was yesterday knowing I won’t ever be perfect. I want to be teachable.

I heard a piano teacher once say, “Practice makes progress.” I almost corrected her obviously misplaced sentiment, but realized the beauty of it instead. When we focus on progress, instead of perfection, we are inviting the Lord to help us be the best version of ourselves for His glory. It takes the pressure off, and gives us grace and endurance to finish the task at hand without the burden of perfection.

3) Replacing drivenness with diligence.

I don’t want to be so driven in life and in leadership that I completely bulldoze people around me. 

I would rather possess a steadfast diligence. Drivenness depletes our energy quickly, like a runner sprinting at the start of a marathon. It doesn’t allow us to truly value the beauty of our present journey, because we are only focused on the end goal. Diligence, on the other hand, is steady, hard work without the negative connotation of “win at all costs.” Diligence allows us to finish our race strong by wisely pacing ourselves to the end. It allows our schedules and tasks to breathe, which in turn, opens our eyes to those around us. This provides opportunities to encourage others, speak life, and lead well.

Occasionally, I revert back to my perfectionistic, performance-driven ways, and everything comes crashing down in a heap of burnout. The struggle is real, ladies, but it’s not the end of the world. Learn from mistakes; stop feeling guilty; pick yourself up; love a little extra on the kid you were late picking up from the wrong activity (again); and remember that tomorrow is a new day filled with fresh mercies and grace. Avoiding burnout by approaching life with excellence, progress, and diligence provides endurance and success in our careers, ministries, and families. Do your best for God, and enjoy the journey.

Karen Harmon

Karen is a wife, homeschooling mother, and physical therapist. She is active serving in her church through worship, small groups, and media. You can connect with Karen on her website.

Join the discussion

Elizabeth August 18, 2017 at 11:59am

Really great perspective change and refocus. Thank you!

Lydia Sellers August 9, 2017 at 12:20pm

Thank you for sharing! This was a timely reminder for me :)

Jessica Lance August 8, 2017 at 2:17am

Boy...I needed this!!! Thank you!! :)

Brady August 6, 2017 at 5:28pm

I loved this article. Filling multiple roles all while striving for perfection is not only unrealistic but simply not efficient. I cannot lead and love others like Jesus, when I don't prioritize seeing them through his eyes... which isn't always "efficient" but is always far more effective for the kingdom. Thanks for sharing, I needed this reminder today!

Mayra August 6, 2017 at 11:20am

Loved "practice makes progress" 😍😍

Cynthia August 6, 2017 at 2:21am

Karen, thank you so much for sharing your story. I can't express how similar our experience has been. Learning to slow down and do it God's way not only opens the door for peace to flood our lives, but for other's lives to be affected by the change we now welcome. It slows us down a bit to see and hear the needs of others. It took me a long time to realize I did not have to be perfect or do everything perfectly for God to love me, and that performing was taking everything I had...it wasn't the true me that God made me to be. God just wants us...He will show us how to do the rest in the best possible way. To God be the Glory for the things He has done!