You Don’t Need Permission
Book Review: Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect
By Maggie Bieritz (email@example.com)
If you’ve been waiting for someone to tell you it’s okay to abandon your relentless pursuit of perfection, the wait is over. But much like Dorothy finding her way out of Oz, you don’t need special shoes or approval. You could’ve done it any time you wanted.
The author invites us into the mayhem and mess of authentic life, reminding us that for most people, having it all is a façade. Your house can be spotless, your kids can be well-behaved, your yard can be landscaped and your parties can be worthy of A-list celebrities. But if it’s all about the hustle with little left over for connection, is it worth it?
Through a series of essays, we learn that Niequist knows a little something about hustle. Writing about the power of the word “no,” she tells us of a time when she said “yes” over and over, leaving her feeling busy and exhausted. I don’t know a single person who is a stranger to that feeling.
So why do it—why not accept that being present and experiencing the joy of each moment is so much greater than trying to be perfect? When we peek behind the curtain of perfection, we often find the burned-out shell of a human. So maybe now is the time to take another road.
Writing in a way that makes her feel at once an expert and a trusted friend, Niequist encourages us all to stop trying to be so productive and instead draw those who matter to us close, letting them know us as we truly are.
“Love,” she writes, “doesn’t allow hiding. Love invites whole selves and whole stories out into the light. Friendship sees into us, into our secrets, into our elaborate games and excuses.”
All of which has me wondering what would happen if I hosted a dinner party and didn’t dust before my guests arrive. Because here’s the thing: I don’t dust.
Niequist makes that okay, because what’s important isn’t how tidy my home is, it’s the connections we make across the table. No one will remember the cobwebs in the corner, but they’ll remember the laughter. They’ll remember the stories. They might remember that I burned the rolls, but they’ll also remember that we scraped off a bit of the char and the rolls tasted just fine.
Present Over Perfect is your invitation to burn the rolls and have a great dinner anyway. Maybe it’s time for us all to live in a way that’s marked by grace, love, rest and play.