It was Prom 1994. Rebekah, Amanda, Jess, and I decided that the girls would get ready at Rebekah’s house, but that’s not what I did. I got ready at my house so I could help the others get ready. Somewhere along the way, I decided to be the “low maintenance” one, but it came at a very high cost.
To me, being low maintenance meant the following:
I don’t have needs because I’m tough, or my needs are secondary to the needs of others because I’m a martyr.
I stuff down my true feelings because I value being happy, light, and fun. I’ll never tell you if you hurt my feelings, so I always wear my game face.
My body is here to serve me so I’ll push, push, push. I’ll power through tiredness, hunger, and pain to get the job done.
I don’t give voice to my concerns, ideas or suggestions. I’ll keep trucking along, even if I don’t agree, so that I’m not perceived as a whiner and I’m, instead, admired for my flexibility. I don’t want to rock the boat.
Many of us want to be viewed as your work-horse, get-it-done, don’t-need-a-break, utility players. We don’t believe that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but that it’s a prima donna who’s not being productive.
This low maintenance perspective isn’t right, and it isn’t sustainable—there is a high cost to being low maintenance.
You do have needs, and they aren’t any more or any less valuable than that girl sitting next to you. When we deny them, our needs don’t go away, they just go unmet. Then those unmet needs turn to bitterness and, eventually, resentment. And help never arrives, even when we’re lonely and exhausted, because we never expressed those needs in the first place.
You do have feelings, which are given and designed by God, and they’re meant to serve as clues to the state of your heart, soul, and mind. When we deny **them,** we stuff our emotions down and never deal with the hurt that leaks out over time.
You do have a body, which is a temple that’s wired to need rest, good food, and touch. It’s to be cherished and not ignored. When we deny this,** our body putters out, gets sick, gains/loses weight, and has no strength.
You do have opinions, plans, and a voice, which you’re allowed to share because sharing your preferences and ideas isn’t whining. **When we deny this,** we subjugate our future to someone else’s dreams for us, and then we wonder how and why we are where we are.
In our quest to become low-maintenance, we become less and less ourselves.
Instead of negotiating to meet needs, we accommodate. Instead of entering into the parts of our story that make us feel uncomfortable, we wall off truth. Instead of entering into authentic connection, we keep ourselves at a safe distance from others.
As Shauna Niequist writes in Present Over Perfect, “… what good is it doing me to have people think I’m laid-back and flexible…when really that cherished reputation keeps me tangled up, needs unmet, voice silenced?”
My tendency to think in extremes led me to believe that the opposite of being low-maintenance was being high-maintenance.
And being high maintenance meant that my needs were the ultimate. That I should stop serving and helping. That I should hold my ground and express every opinion that I’ve ever held back. #NotTruth #Don’tDoThis
So, instead of swinging between extremes, let’s take the God-centered approach.
1. Recognize that God gave you all those needs, feelings, opinions, and dreams. He wants you to bring those to Him, sort them out, and make a plan. His plan for you is not to live an exhausted, frustrated, and resentful life. His good plan is to give you a hope and a future when you seek Him with all your heart.
2. Recognize that you are a person and not just a producer. You are more than your work and your performance. You are a child of God who He delights in no matter what.
3. When we learn a new way, it’s easy for us to beat ourselves up for not knowing better, but let’s forgive ourselves instead. Remember that all these needs and feelings are just signposts directing you to the God who loves you and longs to help.
4. Ask yourself, “What can I do to be kind to myself today?” It may look like taking a nap or ordering a pizza. It may look like opting out or jumping into a passion with both feet.
Even as an adult, I’ve fallen into my Prom 1994 low-maintenance trap by denying my need for rest, my feelings, and my ideas for a more balanced life. Achiever-Friends, that’s no way to make a life. Let’s remember that there is a high cost to being low maintenance, and you don’t have to pay it. Live in the freedom and joy that God has created for you—it’s a better way.