Moving the Goal Post

For most of my life, I didn’t want to be simply good at something; I wanted to be the best.

The best daughter. Sister. Singer. Teacher. Wife. Mother. Friend.

The problem with trying to be the best at something is that best is highly subjective.

It’s an ever-moving goal post.

So I shifted from trying to be the best at something to becoming someone’s favorite. At least then I’d have concrete proof in the form of these simple words:

YOU ARE MY FAVORITE, JULIE!

Favorite blogger. Favorite author. Favorite writers’ group member. Favorite human.

(Small goals, right?)

I loved any positive feedback, but I always craved more more more. And any feedback that suggested I’d failed was devastating.

On that note, is there ever enough praise or reassurance for someone who wants more more more?

(The answer is no.)

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of nice and generous things to prove that I’m worthy of love. I’ve also done some not-nice and selfish things to prove I’m worthy of love.

Then I spent a lot of time in denial about this—rationalizing, arguing, defending. Shaming myself. Forgiving myself.

As it turns out, that does not feel good.

Right now (like literally this exact minute, and also earlier in the day while I was out walking the puppy) I’ve been working on believing that being genuine with people is more important than being the best, or becoming their favorite, or hogging all the love.

For that matter, bending myself into a pretzel that is NOT JULIE in the hopes that allofthepeople will love me doesn’t actually serve anyone.

When people are busy liking NOT JULIE, they’re being deceived, and the REAL JULIE isn’t being liked at all.

Of course it’s human nature to seek approval, to search for evidence that we belong. Our ancestors’ survival depended on their belonging. To be rejected by the group was a death sentence.

(Yikes. That’s heavy stuff.)

To this day, a part of us clings to that instinct. We’ve got these deeply internalized fears that if we aren’t picked—first and/or above others—we might be the one left behind.

So we can try not to care about the number of stars we receive in a review, or the likes we get on a post, or the comments and shares and support we feel from the broader world, but…

Each like is a dopamine hit.

Silence breeds concern.

And flat-out negative feedback can be crushing.

No wonder we humans are kind of a mess.

(Unless you’re one of those rare souls who’s always confident. If you walk around feeling inherently worthy and valued, that’s wonderful. Please carry on. I’m not even being sarcastic.)

As for me, I’m a work in progress, hoping to calm that animal instinct.

Of course I’ll still be a nice person. Kindness is in my nature, and generosity brings me joy. I guess this is selfish in its own way. I’m nice to you—you feel good—I feel good.

It’s a chain reaction of win-win.

But I’m also going to be REAL more often than I’ve been before, to say no when I mean no, to be honest about what I want to embrace.

The desire to constantly please others can be paralyzing, and it takes up too much time. I need to spend more of mine in pursuits that please me.

Does this sound selfish? I sure hope not. Because it might be how I need to show up in the world from now on.

Not as the favorite. Not as the best. Not perfectly.

Just Julie.

I hope you’ll stick around anyway.

(This is the workspace I squeezed in at the top of our stairs, with stuff that inspires me crowding the desk and taped to the walls above.

Not pictured: the puppy trying to crawl in my lap to apologize. She smells like fertilizer after digging in the hydrangea bed we planted yesterday.)

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7 thoughts on “Moving the Goal Post

  1. Kay Moir

    Julie,I don’t think you will ever be “just Julie” you have accomplished far too much for that.
    As long as we can be the best version of our true selves i think we will be okay…or more than okay.

  2. Ally T

    Love you Julie. For real. Typos and all! (Not that I’ve ever seen one!)

  3. Diane McEvoy

    “Just Julie” has been my favorite for as long as I have known you, and that’s a long time!

  4. Oh boy, does this resonate! And I like you, and I think you’re the best! ❤️

  5. Heidi Cave

    YES. Yes to all of this. Sincerity is one of my very favourite traits in a human. And you are that.:)

  6. I happen to think JUST JULIE is also REAL JULIE and I think they’re both pretty great.

  7. I love this. Speaks to so many (me too). I’ve seen this in myself and tried to go to the other side (to rebel against myself) and ended up in the middle again trying to figure out who JUST RINA is. I still may not completely know but one thing I do know is JUST RINA LOVES JUST JULIE way more than PERFECT JULIE. So happy to share our journeys.

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