You don’t have to be good at everything.

The internet is a wonderful and crazy thing, and I almost can’t remember what life was like without it.

(seriously? I used to use a phone book??)

I could list a whole lot of positive things about the internet, but since you all are using it to read this blog, I know you already have a least a casual relationship with the web. ;)

So. Let’s just save time and say that there are a lot of fabulous things about the internets.

One major downside to the internet, though, is the way it allows us to easily see people who excel in any number of areas. There are great cooks, creative and fun moms, really fit people, skilled gardeners, style mavens, and home decorators extraordinare.

And we haven’t even talked about people who can seem to DIY any project, create beautiful art, or keep a home perfectly organized and clean.

That familiar enemy, comparison, tends to sneak in the back door of my brain when I see all of this, and then I start to feel awfully inadequate.

My house is never perfectly clean, I’m not an athlete, I don’t dress to the nines every day, I’ve never built a piece of furniture, and I’m really quite a terrible gardener/landscaper.

This train of thought was all brought about as I photographed one of the few things I grow well (my purple hyacinths). They’re incredibly low-maintenance, which is the only reason they’re thriving.

I think it would be great if I was able to maintain a neatly manicured and landscaped yard with a thriving vegetable garden, but I just don’t have the time and/or motivation.

I was feeling some level of guilt about that, and then I remembered something:

I don’t have to be good at everything.

And to go along with that:

No one is good at everything.

We all have a finite number of hours in our days, and we all make different choices about how we’ll spend those hours.

All of those skilled people I see on the internet?

They’re not good at everything either! It’s just that they post about the things they are good at, and that’s mostly all we see (a style maven who can’t cook her way out of a paper bag isn’t going to share that, probably.)

So, there we are, sitting at our computer screens, looking at the best features of everyone on the web, and feeling inadequate because we can’t somehow manage to simultaneously possess all the best features/habits/skills of all the experts.

It’s pretty silly when you actually sit down and think about it.

The problem is that this comparison thing and the unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves are really insidious…these thoughts just creep up on us.

If you’re struggling with this, join me in reminding yourself that it’s ok…you don’t have to be good at everything.

(P.S. the first: If you’re terrible at gardening, you should know that purple hyacinths, marigolds, and mint seem to be nearly impossible to kill. They all happily live at my house with very little care.

(P.S. the second: If the comparison problem is making you feel like giving up on everything, you might want to read It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect to Bless Other People, another post I wrote about the comparison difficulties the internet brings about.)

Comments

  1. says

    I think this is something we tell our kids a lot. That it’s okay to not be perfect at everything, but we forget to tell ourselves. I’m much better at this than I used to be. Also,I like your series of pictures with more coming into focus with each one.

  2. Ann says

    I heart you and your blog :-)

    I want to recommend this resource to ladies who feel inadequate: http://www.reviveourhearts.com/resource-library/. I love listening to and reading Revive Our Hearts. I first heard it on Moody Radio (love!) and now listen by podcast. One series that really helped me understand what I should be striving for as a woman is the True Woman series, largely based on the second half of Proverbs 31 in the Bible. I highly, highly recommend it.

  3. Battra92 says

    For some reason I’m reminded of A Boy Named Charlie Brown
    Linus: Winning isn’t everything, Charlie Brown
    Charlie Brown: But losing isn’t anything.

    The problem I struggle with is there are times I see others excelling at all sorts of things and I feel I’m not great at anything. It’s a very humbling experience.

    • WilliamB says

      Being pretty good at many things is very useful. Being fantastic at one is generally overkill, and can come at the expense of being good at anything else. Check out the Greek philospher Eratosthenes.

  4. Libby says

    One of the things I’ve learned recently is this, “Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.”

    It is too easy to think that everyone you see has their act together. We all, naturally, put forward our best and we don’t advertise our weaknesses. However, if we compare ourselves – warts and all – to only what we see on the outside of others we will fall short. It is comparing apples to oranges.

    Great post – thanks Kristen!

  5. Ingrid says

    Thanks, I needed this. I stopped reading certain blogs b/c I felt like I couldn’t compare (just because she runs 12 miles a day, doesn’t mean I have to!)
    Thank you!

  6. says

    Thank you so much for this post. I remember reading somewhere that the reason you often seem inadequate is because you compare your behind the scenes with everybody else’s highlights reel (or something like that). I need to remind myself of this more often.

    PS. My mint refuses to grow any bigger than a seedling.

    • Kristen says

      Well, I feel proud of myself for keeping my mint alive, then, since it’s possible for it not to thrive! =P

  7. says

    This quote always grounds me when I start to compare myself to the many talented, successful people I see blogging and publishing online: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” (Steve Furtick)

    When I compare my present moment to someone else’s highlight reel, of course it looks shabby that I have dishes in the sink, a full hamper in desperate need of washing, blog posts to write, and food that’s about to spoil in the fridge. But there are triumphant moments when I tick many things off my to do list, connect with someone I’ve been missing, and so on. I think it’s important to hold onto these moments and cherish them in order to feel less compelled to compare to the highlights of someone else.

    • Kristen says

      That’s Facebook in a nutshell, isn’t it? Everyone else’s highlights are paraded in front of us, and we compare that to our everyday, not so perfect lives.

      • Sarah says

        That’s so true of Facebook!! If we’re not careful, we can easily feel crummy looking at everyone else’s “life.” People always post only the best of themselves: the best photos, the most cleverly thought out posts, the most impressive information. There is no advertising the “dirty laundry.” Good to remember!!

  8. Fereshteh says

    I love this plant but can’t find it on the web. Are you sure it’s called purple hyacinth? When I google it and look at images I’m just seeing the standard chubby hyacinths. Thanks for your help!

      • Kristen says

        It’s an annual, but the seeds inside those purple pods are SO easy to dry and save. And planting them in the spring is easy…they sprout as easily as regular beans do. Once you’ve got a few seeds, you’re set for life. You’ll have more than you need, and plenty to share.

  9. says

    Very nice. Old school “be everything” motivational books always stress working on your weak areas. I’m not trying to be everything to everyone. I’m trying to be me.

    DSG
    zenpresence.com

  10. Janelle says

    I love my parents dearly, but I wish they told me this more growing up. I can look back and remember how I was stressed, even in middle school or earlier, because I thought I needed to always look great, always get the answers right, be a great soccer player (and really, I just wasn’t!), etc. I’m slooowly learning this now.

  11. Sher says

    from the minimalist mom blog a few months back I have found my mind repeating this quote: “Comparison is the thief of joy”. She was refering to it in terms of our possessions and the “keeping up with the Jones'” of society and culture. But I think it also relates well to our own identity and self image! I love this reminder from your topic today! We need to cultivate the things we are good at and enjoy doing. Why waste a life trying to be someone else!?

  12. SarahD says

    Thanks for this. I am at this place in my life exactly right now, where I am trying to shed the comparison problem and just be myself. I’ve always gotten myself in over my head with many committments, thinking that if I just pull myself up by my bootstraps enough, I will have a garden or home just as gorgeous as so-and-so’s. And that just never happens. I have begun to examine my OWN priorities, my OWN desires for my life and let the voices of others’ be quieted in my own mind. It really is a very freeing thing when that begins to happen.

  13. says

    Personally, I think it would actually be rather boring to be good at everything. No effort, no striving, no mystery – ever – no thanks!

  14. Tracy says

    I spend way too much time comparing myself to other people. The two people I compare myself to the most and always find myself lacking is my ex husband’s new wife, and my husband’s exwife. They always seem to have it more together then me. My husband when I start doing this comparing thing is always quick to remind me that they do not have five children to care for, they do not commute three hours a day to work, and they don’t have both or us anymore. Comparing yourself to others is very destructive. Thanks for your post it is a good reminder that we can not be good at everything, and that we all choose where were spend our limited amount of time and energy.

    Tracy

  15. says

    What a fantastic post. I was just thinking this morning that I can’t remember how I managed to do it all back when I was working full time. I was starting to feel like I’d descended into a pit of slovenly, inadequate laziness. Then I remembered… back when I worked full time I didn’t cook, my garden was less than half it’s current size, I didn’t fix things around the house, I didn’t maintain my own business, I didn’t ride my bike, I didn’t hang the laundry out to dry, I didn’t preserve vegetables, I certainly didn’t blog, and I never, I mean NEVER got enough sleep. Maybe I’m not so bad after all.

  16. says

    Love this! Yes, we definitely get a skewed idea of the rest of the world’s skills and talents based on the Internet. It stands to reason that we post about the things we’re good at! But it’s easy to kind of create this imaginary person in our head who is an amalgam of ALL the talents and skills and great character traits we witness out there in the blogosphere. I call her the Ideal Mother. And she is a fantasy.

  17. Cheryl says

    Thanks for this reminder, it encouraged me greatly ! I so enjoy reading your blog ! Have a wonderful weekend :)

    • Candice Freeman says

      Hmmmm… I found Pinterest – as addictive as it, left me more feeling deprived and lacking, as I saw the best ideas from around the world on display….so i have taken a bit of break…
      One of my favourite books “The Happiness Project” talks about this quite a bit – there are really 2 parts –
      1. don’t let perfect keep away the good….i.e. just because you can’t do something PERFECTLY, don’t shy away when good enough will do (and especially when it will bless others)….
      and 2. you can do anything (I guess if you really put your heart and soul into it the sky is the limit and of course the sacrifices you are prepared to make) , but you can’t do EVERYTHING! – that one makes me always feel better….

  18. Laura says

    Hi Kristen,

    Thank you so much for writing this post. It really is so easy to get bogged down by the “comparison voices”, and as soon as one recognizes that, they lose a lot of their power. So thank you for helping us recognize/remember this! I really enjoy your blog and your even, happy style. Thank you also for the gift of your blog. :)

    Sincerely,
    Laura

  19. Brandi says

    OMG this is right on time! I have definitely found myself doing this ALOT lately. Between friends whose business ventures have taken off and my other friends that are SAHsuperM, I have been feeling that way. Now that I am no longer working and SAH with my little girl I always feel like I have nothing to contribute. No talent, no quirks, just nothing. This post is really inspiriational. I’m thankful to you for being open and honest.

  20. tiffani says

    what a great post and thank you for putting it in black and white and saying it out loud. this is me in a nutshell.

    the comments are also so great to read and have given me a lot of insight.

    each night while my son is sleeping right before i go to bed i give him a kiss and tell him “you are good” – after reading this and most of the posts, i think i should do the same for myself.

    thank you

  21. Yvonne says

    I am really really good a growing weeds….:-) so once I kill the awful thorny blackberries we inherited perhaps I will grow some Marigolds and some of the purple stuff you mentioned.

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