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The Joy of Strictly Average

How do we show up without Fear of Failure? All of those inspiring quotes say "live in the moment" or "make the most out of life." Because, okay yes, that sounds great. But how do I do the thing? How do I bridge the gap from feeling like I shouldn't try because it won't be good enough, to actually "living life to the fullest?"

I Love an Origin Story

Let’s travel back many year’s ago. I’m in undergrad at a small liberal arts college (lol) in Kentucky. A friend invites me to play piano in their band. "We’re ‘strictly average.’ We just play for fun.” He warns me. "Love it." I think to myself. That way, whenever we sound horrible, we laugh it off because after all, we never claim to be going pro here. We’re “strictly average.” It becomes a common phrase to throw around in our friend group, a disclaimer of sorts. It’s permission to show up exactly how you are. Permission to feel incomplete, and still be valuable. Want someone to look over your project, but go easy on their critique? Tell them it’s “strictly average.” Inviting someone on your run? “Don’t worry, I’m not very fast. I’m “strictly average.” You get it. See, somewhere along the way we subconsciously and collectively set a standard. We unknowingly adopt a belief that things need to have a certain level of excellence, of perfection, to be of value. And unless it's of value, it isn't worth sharing or taking up space. So how do we redefine what it means for something, someone, to have value? Further, how do we allow space for ourselves while we redefine?

The 80% Rule

When the Perfection Paralysis grips you, giving yourself permission to be less than perfect feels like a lifeline. Next, I have another story for you. Jump with me again back to my college days. I know, I know–but formative years and all that. It’s fine. Alright, I’m in an upper level class for my media communications degree, and struggling with a project. My professor notices the struggle and tells me, "Theresa, maybe you're not cut out for this. Maybe you should just live in a hole in the ground where you belong." No, hah, what he really says is, “Theresa, let me teach you something. I know you’d normally work to get a piece to 100% before sending it to print. But I want you to aim for 80% instead. Get to 80% complete, and then send it to print.” I was baffled. Why would I ever sacrifice that 20%? Has he forgotten that he gives us grades for these?? He continued, “Sometimes when we push for 100%, we tweak and tweak so much, trying to make it perfect, that we overwork it and ruin it. 80 is your new 100.” He hands me my project, and I back away slowly, still unsure.

But he’s right. This is another example of the same concept. It’s further permission. Another tool to practice using. And turns out, these two concepts would grow with me. And years later, begin to set me free.

Lunch Party!

"Just change the U to an A."

"Then it would say lanch party, Kevin. Would it really better if it said lanch party?...It's supposed to say launch!" This whole thing is a reference from The Office. IYKYK. I was going to call it "Failure to Launch, but I'd rather be associated with The Office than an early 2000s RomCom.

Anyway, did you ever see that poster in elementary school? “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Let's unpack this together, yeah? First of all, that doesn’t even make sense. The stars are actually much further from the moon. Imagine planning a road trip from Virginia to Colorado and being like "oh, shit. We accidentally drove to California. Oh well!" I suppose if you shoot for the moon and then free-fall through space, you could end up among the stars? Second of all, I’ve seen enough movies to know that actually puts you in a pretty dangerous position. Completely untethered in space. That’s how it feels, doesn’t it? I’m afraid to launch because what if I miss? What if I free-fall through outer space, never to return, waiting to run out of oxygen? Too extreme? Maybe, but I tell you what, that's how anxiety feels, doesn't it? I’m sure you see what I’m doing here. I’m setting us up to find our freedom from fear of failure.

Rocket to Nowhere

Listen. You can show up exactly how you are, and allow that to be enough. I live just outside Cape Canaveral and often drive up to watch the Space-X launches. My equal-parts nerdy and gorgeous husband once stood on the shore, with pure joy on his face, watching a rocket launch. "Where's it going?" I asked. "Nowhere. They just needed to be sure it would launch and the boosters would return." I'm sorry, but what the fuck? Why did we drive all the way out here to watch a rocket to nowhere? And more importantly, why am I so focused on the self-imposed definition of success that I completely dismiss the magic of the moment?

If Elon Musk can do it, then you can, too. We can aim instead for average, plan for failure, knowing that wherever we land is still good. Because the point of the mission is the launch. A rocket launch in and of itself is absolutely wild and incredible. Sure, we can calculate with the destination or goal in sight. But first, we practice the launch. We show up. We TRY. I’m not ready to go to the fuckin’ moon, please stop talking to me about the stars. I’m in the stage where we fix the bugs to avoid burning up on re-entry. Or maybe we’re in the math stage where we’re solving problems and getting things wrong in an effort to discover what’s right. Maybe, before we decide what space rock to aim for, we see if it’s even possible at all? Isn’t that enough for today? All the stages are important and necessary. Let us value each stage, embrace failure, and never miss the magic of the moment.


So here we are at the part where I tell you about how I'm practicing these things. Because practice makes progress. I learned in 12 step, once we learn about a character defect, we are now responsible for the change. And change happens through practice. Think of your favorite sports ball teams (lol idk). Think of your favorite musicians. These people have to practice. They have to show up every day and train. Practice makes progress. If you want to see progress, you have to practice. That means practice setting the boundary. Practice listening to your inner child. Rehearse saying "no, I don't have the capacity for that right now" out loud to yourself.

This concept takes some time to click, but when it does, it makes all the sense in the world. So how do we practice mental and emotional health? Well, it's in the way that you speak to yourself in your mind. That's it. Sounds simple, but we wouldn't be here if it was. Ha! Because in order to learn a new way, you typically have to unlearn the way that brought you there. And backtracking up a path that you were forced to climb is really fucking unfair. But I promise, it will all be worth it. But it isn't easy! And you won't always do it perfectly. Even in all the progress I've made in areas like family boundaries, eating disorders, PTSD, marriage, gentle parenting, I was almost done in by an Icee.

What, Like it's Hard?

A few weeks ago, we're at a trampoline park. My daughter gets handed the wrong flavor of Icee, and starts crying. Sorry kid, it happens. "I'm sure it's still good! Just try it!" If it was me? Drink the Icee or don't. But under no circumstances will we be inconveniencing this nice retail worker. However, I look at my kid, and see myself. I see little Theresa, who's needs were dismissed one too many times. I see little Theresa, who now, instead of asking for what she wants, accepts what she's given because she doesn't want to inconvenience anyone. I see grown-ass Theresa, who has accidentally practiced silencing her own self in an effort to make others comfortable. So I roll my eyes, then take a deep breath.

"Excuse me, miss? This was actually supposed to be a Coke Icee" I say, literally trembling from anxiety. Which I realize is an absurd reaction for this exchange, but that's how PTSD works, friends. I apologize profusely to the worker, and lean into the uncomfortable moment. "I normally wouldn't say anything, this is strangely difficult for me, but I'm practicing teaching my child that what she wants is important. Thank you so much." I did it. I practiced. I survived. I'm learning a new way. Don't pass out.

Maybe tomorrow we'll tackle oversharing.

Even this strictly average blog is now part of my practice! I have all these ideas of places to start, and so many potential decisions to be made, so what do I do? It's hard for me to know where to start when sharing a story. Do I start a new social media page? Do I start a blog? Do I journal a shit-ton first? Do I open a business? I don't fuckin' know. And then, it settled in my soul like a firm knowing. You do exactly what you're hoping to share with others. You practice. You show up. You take one small step. So I decided to not worry about the launch, and just put words on paper. That's why all my blog photos look like erectile disfunction ads. :) Of course, I'll eventually take my own pretty Insta-worthy photos with a ring light and all! But that wasn't required yet for me to just show up. So, first? We're talkin' bout PRACTICE. (Thanks, Ted Lasso.) You just practice. And trust your intuition will prompt you to make new decisions once you've gathered more information. But you're not there yet! You're still right here, in this moment, with me. Give yourself permission to be strictly average and just show up. The happening will happen once you give yourself the space to be where you're at.


Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I was hoping to see you here. My name is Theresa, and I write all these words you read here. Find out more about me and the ATA story.

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