Is approval found through high achievement healthy?

What is approval?  Why is it such an important component in our culture?  What are the underlying reasons for the perpetuation of ‘high achievement equals approval’ as a mindset?  And what are the potential impacts of such a mindset?

These questions have been on my mind a lot recently and have been brought clear to the surface as I read about Olympic swimmer, Emily Seebohm literally grieving over not gaining a gold medal in her race.  I’m not a swimmer, in fact, I resemble more of a drenched dragonfly forcing my body through the water with my feet dangling somewhere between mid depth and the pool floor!  But I find it incredulous to see a young woman who has faced multiple sicknesses over the past 18 months, has pushed her physical capacity to the limits to make the Olympic team, to race and to achieve an outstanding result of silver medal then break into tears and floods of emotional turmoil because silver was not good enough.


What grieves me most is the clear mindset that I am hearing, not just in this sweet young lady’s voice, but in the voice of a generation who are fast becoming disillusioned with the outcomes of their achievements.

But why the disillusionment?  What is causing this generation to feel that all their efforts produce is a bottomless void that craves more and more obsessive attention to achieve more and more… and then when achievement is fulfilled, to find that the cycle continues?

When I hear young people, and alas, I am no longer classed as a ‘young’ person, but as a middle aged person (eek!), state how disappointed they are in themselves, my heart rips open and I am left bereft of joy.  Why?

Because if there was one thing I could share with my adolescent self, it would be to say that I should never allow my achievements to become the measure I use to consider myself worthy of approval.  That instead, it is the view that I create of myself that matters and that this view must come from a place of knowing who I am, rather than assessing my self worth by the level of my achievements.  That by knowing who I am, I come to a place of understanding the measure of time, and that in time, I will accomplish more as a person who is content in the moment of achievement rather than reaching for goals that are unrealistic or unattainable in the short term, bringing only frustration and inner disapproval.

I know that it’s a tricky topic to bring up in light of the incredible pressure and stress Olympians are currently under but I truly believe that if we are to establish good healthy foundations for the up and coming generations, we need to look at how we value things such as approval, worth, and achievement. I also believe it is our (that is us who have lived through at least a few generations!) responsibility and joy to pass on what we understand, to undergird these younger ones and to support them in their pursuits, regardless of outcomes. I believe that healthy approval can realistically become the bedrock for the generations to come and that in fact, the level of achievement overall will ultimately rise as we participate in shifting our culture and bringing reform to what is clearly not a healthy mindset.

Feel free to check out the article below, one among many, that relays Emily’s situation. And perhaps consider joining me in praying for these incredible athletes as they face not only titles, times, physical duress and medal placement, but possibly also inner questioning, self castigation, unfulfilled hopes and anxieties about identity and self worth.  Let us be a part of building them up and supporting them.

Thanks for reading!


In the eye of the beholder

Just a quick thought today: what is the measure that we use to justify a ‘productive’ period of time? How do you quantify a day full of ticked-off items?

I question this because it’s been occurring to me lately that I have a very high measure of what I consider to be a productive time, and that perhaps my measure is not only very high but is also possibly unrealistic 🙂

So now what do I do with this?

I take the time to intentionally wind down the measure and reevaluate my expectations and then try to put that into practice.

I think ultimately the answer to these kinds of questions lies within each individual’s acceptable measure of productivity. If you can assess and work out what your measure is, carefully consider decreasing that measure, even just a little, you might just find some breathing space in your day 🙂

Anyway, I’m really just thinking out loud. Feel free to add your thoughts to the mix 😀

Guilt free resting

As I awoke at 8:15 this morning, which for me is a two hour sleep in, I breathed in deeply at the thought of an agenda-free day.
It’s now 2pm. I’ve managed to eat some food, check emails and Facebook, catch up on some fave tv moments and wonder at the notion that I feel no guilt whatsoever that I’ve done zilch else!
So why is it that when the rest of the fam are around, I become the qunitisential Stepford wife, pretending to care about all the ‘to dos’ that must be done on a Saturday?

What is it that drives me to push everyone, including myself, around on our day off?

It dawns on me too today, that I could knock off a heap of my own todos and yet something deep inside says to rest…

But what is rest, really? Is it just the physical body being given time off from activity, or is it more than that? And how do we really switch everything off?

My sister and her lovely man are currently off the grid for ten days. Literally! No phone. No Facebook. No laptops etc.
A part of me envies them. But I am also keen to hear about how they handled the tech-free quiet – was it hard? Did they have moments of craving their cyber link to the world? And would they do it again?

My current stand on the matter, as I sit here huddled up next to the heater in my pjamas, that I don’t have a solidified answer to my pondering as yet.

I’d love to hear from others on your take on the concept of rest. What do you do on a day like today? How do you define ‘rest’?

When it’s hard to believe

The truth as I see it is this:  sometimes it’s hard to believe that what is good in life, is not just for other people, but is actually for me too.  I often find it very easy to encourage others to believe that they are worth the goodness of God but it was just this evening while I was taking some time out to rest, that I realised that perhaps there are times that I don’t really believe I am deserving of that same goodness.

Hmm… at first I thought to myself ‘Don’t be absurd Miriam.  Of course you believe that you are worth the goodness of God’, but then as I lay there in the darkened room, listening to the soaking cd that I had recorded the other day, I caught myself hearing the words that I had felt were straight from the Father’s heart.  My first thoughts were about how these songs would impact the listener, forgetting momentarily that I too am the listener.

I felt that unmistakeable still small voice whisper into my heart: ‘You don’t think this is for you but it is’.  I began to argue but then realised that I had not yet listened to this music or much of any other music that I’ve written, from the ‘receiving’ point of view. I realised that perhaps I’ve been shortchanging myself.

It then occurred to me that so many times it is easy for us to receive God’s goodness for those around us.  We see the immediate impact of his love, his mercy and grace upon the person we are encouraging.  It feels so good too!  To see that heart being healed and that mindset restored, doesn’t it?

A good friend of mine was recently speaking at church about the subject of ‘no condemnation’.  She mentioned that whenever she read something in the Bible or got a word of encouragement for another person, she always added the disclaimer ‘but not including…’ and added her personal name.  She said that it was so easy for her to see that God’s goodness was available to everyone except her, because in her mind, she never measured up.

It’s taken me two weeks to conclude that I automatically do the same thing.  What a revelation.

But this time, I feel no condemnation.  Just realisation.

Jesus came for one and all.  There is no distinction about who He came to save.  And all that the Bible tells us, is for us, is for ALL of us 🙂

Last time I checked, I was a part of ALL of us. 😀

So I will go to sleep tonight with the decision to let myself receive… may you too feel that you are part of the ALL that was worth Jesus coming and saving.