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Awards That Don't Exist

Amber Ginter

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Published May 06, 2024
Awards That Don't Exist

God doesn't expect perfection. He expects open hearts and minds, malleable to how and where He leads us.

There's a photo circulating the internet entitled "Awards That Don't Exist." It lists things I think both you and I have been guilty of working towards or achieving:

-"Most Perfect"

-"Never Said, 'No'"

-"Rested the Least"

-"Didn't Need Help"

-"Worked the Longest"

-"Didn't Make Any Mistakes"

-"Lived Up to Everyone's Expectations"

Ouch. Did you think Yikes! when you read those? I know I did. On more than one occasion, I've been guilty of striving towards these nonexistent awards. Except in my mind, they're very much real and very much count towards something, even if it's my pride, ambition, or addiction to productivity. Which "award" stands out to you the most?

In this article, I'd like to discuss why each of these awards is unrealistic. I'd then like to provide simple ways to combat them through healthier living:

"Most Perfect"

I still remember the day I decided to strive for "All 'A' Honor Roll." My best friend had always been intelligent, but something in me wanted to be just like her. I was a decent 'A/B' student, but I'd never really stressed about grades. The summer after 7th grade, however, that all changed. 

Almost overnight, I became a girl obsessed with perfection. I had to have perfect attendance, perfect grades, perfect clothes, and perfect behavior. If I spilled a glass of milk or received an 'A-" on an assignment, I truly thought it was the end of the world. The deep pit in my stomach made me feel like I didn't measure up. And in my mind, if I failed perfection, I didn't.

What 14-year-old Amber didn't understand is that you don't receive an award for being most perfect, and you never will. Because if perfection is our goal and ambition in life, we will always fail. We're finite human beings living in a fallen world. We're not perfect, and here on earth, we never will be. Even the grace and salvation of Christ that redeems and restores us doesn't prevent us from the fallenness of humanity. The Gospel of Jesus rests on the confession that we can't save ourselves. We aren't perfect, but He is. And that's why we continually need and continually need saving. 

One simple way to combat this belief is to redefine your expectations and goals in life. While it's important to try our best and give 100% to everything we do, we don't have to be perfect, and God doesn't expect perfection. He expects open hearts and minds, malleable to how and where He leads us.

"Never Said, 'No'"

If you were to ask my husband what I was like in college, he would most likely say that I "never said 'no'." With my fifteen-color-coded calendar, I was a chicken running around with my head cut off. And I loved living life that way. Until one day, I didn't. 

I was scheduled from 7 am to 10 pm daily. The grind weighed heavy and I barely kept my head above water. On the outside, I was thriving and busy. On the inside, I was crumbling and breaking. Slowly, I knew I had to give up some of the things I loved so that I could care for what mattered most.

Painfully, I began to pry away the "extra" things in my life. They were good things---leading small groups, singing for three worship teams, volunteering, etc. But they weren't the most important things. If I could offer one simple way to combat the mantra that you "never say 'no'," it would be to try saying "no" to just one extra thing this week. 

I know what it's like to feel like everything is essential. Anxiety tells me everything is on fire 24/7. What I've learned, however, is this: If you never say "no," you'll never make room for the things that matter. Making organized lists of your priorities and learning to say "no" will take time. Over time, and with one "no" at a time, you can free yourself from this heavy and unrealistic weight. 

"Rested the Least"

One thing my best friend and I have in common is that we often rest the least. In society, this is praised and viewed as productive. We're always busy, on the go, and looking for the next adventure. The difference between my best friend and I, however, is that she will take time to rest, and I live in denial—until my gas tank ends up empty and I find myself stuck in bed for three days. 

Rest is an essential that our bodies, minds, and souls require. Though many of us may act like we don't need to stop or sleep, this breeds serious consequences. Individuals who don't take time to rest are more anxious than those who take appropriate breaks. They also suffer from a fear of missing out (FOMO) and don't know how to be content. 

Implementing 5-10 minute breaks throughout your day is a good way to break this nasty cycle. Getting away from your desk or workstation during those breaks will also help you recharge more easily. There's an old quote that says something to the extent of this: "If you don't make time to rest, your body will force you to." I believe that's true. 

As someone who runs herself dry, this is not the life I want for you. Friend, if you can learn to take breaks, or schedule rest as a habit, you'll be better off in the long run. And it doesn't mean you're lazy, broken, or didn't work hard enough. It means you recognized you're human and took time to tend to yourself. 

"Didn't Need Help"

As long as I've been alive, I think I've believed I didn't need help. As a child, I was independent. My parents would find me reaching for things I clearly couldn't reach, or attempting tasks that needed someone else to help me complete. In my teenage years, not much changed. I hated asking others for help because I thought it made me weak. The opposite is true. 

When we believe that we don't need help, we put unrealistic expectations and pressure on ourselves. We can also become prideful, even when we don't mean to. The reality is this: Christ created us for community and companionship, and this extends into helping one another. Why else would Christ die for us? Even the gospel points towards our need for someone else to save us because we couldn't save ourselves. 

In the realm of mental health, it took me a couple of years to admit that I needed professional help. It was scary and unknown, but I eventually realized that God gave us other people (medical professionals included) and resources because He knew we couldn't do life on our own. If I could offer one piece of advice in this realm, it would be to have a heart-to-heart with God about your need for help. Recognizing that you can't do it all is a good first step towards letting others into your life. 

"Worked the Longest"

Of all the non-existent awards I struggle with pursuing, this would be mine. Although it's heavily praised in society, I'm ashamed to say I'm obsessed with productivity and my work. I'm not exactly sure why it's become such a high priority, but being addicted to anything, including your work, isn't pleasant. 

In college, I was known for working three jobs. I was a writing center tutor, worked for the local newspaper, and was a reporter. While student teaching, I maintained all three jobs and followed suit into adulthood. In my first year of teaching, I worked full-time as a reporter. By my second year of teaching, I switched reporting out for freelancing. For the last three years, I've taught full-time while freelancing and being a student in the Author Conservatory (like a Masters program). I've realized that while can do it all, it isn't a healthy way of living for me. 

It's as if "Worked the Longest" has become my identity, but I'm worth so much more than the work I do. And so are you. One of the best ways to overcome this way of living is to remember our worth is not based on what we do but on who we are in Christ. Take time to reflect and journal on what reminds you that we're not machines but human beings. We're created to enjoy life and live. Partaking in fun activities (with no productive purpose) can also help remind us of this. 

"Didn't Make Any Mistakes"

In high school, I was set on being a salutatorian. Everything I did was geared towards that ambition, and before I knew it, mistakes were my enemy. When I missed the award by a fraction of a decimal, I felt like such a failure. If I would've received .2 higher on one test I would've won. It was heartbreaking. A compassionate teacher saw my distress and told me this: We learn more from our failures than perfection. The same is true today. 

If we as human beings didn't make any mistakes, we'd never know our need for Jesus. And as much as I've been someone who strives towards perfection, confessing this reality is humbling and helps adjust my heart to its rightful place. Mistakes are unpleasant. They make us feel incapable, silly, or maybe a bit dumb. But mistakes are how we learn and grow. 

Embracing failure and mistakes as a way of growth isn't easy, but it's a great step we can take to heal this toxic mindset. 

"Lived Up to Everyone's Expectations"

While living up to expectations you set for yourself can increase hard work and motivation, living under everyone else's expectations for you can feel stifling. It's a struggle in today's world to remember that how you live is up to you. And as Christians, how we live should be ordained by how Christ has called us to live. 

Living under the weight of others' expectations brings us down, but living in the reality of Christ's expectations can bring freedom. Because "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Corinthians 3:17). And what does Christ ask of us but to walk humbly and justly with our Creator (Micah 6:8)? 

One thing that has helped me with this unnecessary award is to admit that while I do care what others think, I must think more about what Christ thinks of me. If He calls me to something, I must obey, even when the world thinks I'm crazy. 

Which award have you been guilty of striving towards? What's one way you can work away from this award and towards freedom today? 

Agape, Amber

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Martin Barraud

amber ginter headshotAmber Ginter is a teacher-turned-author who loves Jesus, her husband Ben, and granola. Growing up Amber looked for faith and mental health resources and found none. Today, she offers hope for young Christians struggling with mental illness that goes beyond simply reading your Bible and praying more. Because you can love Jesus and still suffer from anxiety. You can download her top faith and mental health resources for free to help navigate books, podcasts, videos, and influencers from a faith lens perspective. Visit her website at amberginter.com.