I’ve always loved this phrase. Probably because I’ve struggled with unhealthy achievement standards for myself throughout my entire life. I’ve always wanted to be the best at everything. Even if it wasn’t something I was remotely skilled in, I would fantasize about what it would be like to be the absolute best. I wouldn’t say this thought alone caused me to have an unhealthy outlook on achievement, but it was normally paired with thinking poorly of the person that was the best or comparing myself to the one that was at the top.
I did well in school growing up and I began to blossom as a softball player, which was probably the cause of both the root and the perpetuation of this game I was playing in my head. I broke records at Oregon and became the first Duck to be a three-time All-American. YES. No one can take away that one. Even if someone else were to achieve the accolade the same amount of times, they wouldn’t be the first like I was. I have an innate desire to be unique so a unique achievement checked all the boxes.
It wasn’t just in sports or abilities either. I wanted to be the smart girl, pretty girl, girl you want to date, girl you want to marry, girl you talk to your friends about, girl worth changing for, and on and on. This created exhausting striving internally. Even writing it out now feels icky, I wasn’t even close to being able to admit these things out loud when I was in high school and college to friends. The unhealthy thing about all of it was I thought it was achievable. It took me a while to realize that if I was the best at everything - or better yet, perfect - I would be God. And more than that, I wouldn’t need God.
Would you believe me if I said I still struggle with this? Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn’t. But it turns out this desire is not a new idea. It actually shows itself for the first time in Genesis. The very first book of the Bible. Genesis 3. Specifically verse 5, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The devil knew the way to tempt Eve into eating the forbidden fruit at the beginning of humanity would be to lure the idea of being like God in front of her face. However, we are the created not the Creator.
We weren’t created to live in a sinful, twisted world. We weren’t created to carry the weight of humanity that only a perfect God is able to do. So when we think we want to reach a level of perfection, we must rethink our part in the story, dive into our design, and meditate on our motivation. If my motivation is simply to be considered as better than other humans… man, there’s something off about that when I look at things from a biblical perspective. So maybe I need to remind myself that there is indeed room at the top.
I love that there’s room for everyone on top of the podium. We don’t have to pick one representative to hold a gold medal in place of all 18 of us at the Olympics. We’ll all get to stand up there. I love that there’s also room for everyone in heaven. There are no limitations or caps on attendance. It’s not like a wedding where you have to put certain people on a B-list only inviting them if someone else can’t make it. There’s room at the top. As a recovering perfectionist, I have to be so intentional to inwardly and outwardly steward this thorn in my flesh. What are my motivations? Why can’t I celebrate another’s abilities? How can I fiercely compete without becoming unloving? Do I celebrate the fact that I am not God? That I am not perfect? Maybe you have to ask yourself these questions too. If that’s the case, I want to be the first to welcome you to the club. We’ll get through this together my friend.