“I already know it’s not going to look good, so I’d rather not waste my time on it.”
“I mean, I guess it’s good…but it’s not perfect so let’s try again.”
“It should be better.” “I should be better.”
“If I just had ___ I could make this/do this perfectly.”
Do you ever find yourself saying any of these things? I know I do. ALL the time.
“Perfectionism is defined as a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness – setting high performance and sometimes unrealistic standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.” (Stoeber and Childs, 2010 ; Flett and Hewitt, 2002).
Perfectionism is one of my biggest weaknesses. This has been especially apparent since I started my own business. I’ve always given the excuse that this is just how God made me. I started to believe that perfectionism is okay because I help make things better, but I started to pay too high of a cost for being so demanding. It started to steal my joy and put a wedge in my relationships.
It drove me to exhaustion, and I finally decided physically and emotionally I couldn’t do it anymore. So, with great desperation, I cried out to God and begged him to help me understand why I had this deep desire to make things “perfect.” After many days of praying and begging God for answers, He slowly started revealing little nuggets of wisdom.
The first thing He reveled to me was through something I heard my mom teach recently. Our hearts were created for the perfection of the garden of Eden, but we don’t live there anymore. The problem is that sin came in and tainted what God made perfect. So, our human hearts crave the perfection of God’s original design but won’t ever live there on this side of eternity. We will always have this void/desire for perfection in our hearts. Honestly, that’s actually a good thing.
That craving for perfection is actually what draws our hearts to the only perfect match for our longings. Jesus came to live a perfect life and die for our sins so we don’t have to be separated from the glorious eternity God has planned for us.
The Lord is the ONLY one who can fill that ache we feel so deeply. None of our attempts at perfection will ever fill that void.
Secondly, perfectionism is a sin. It’s a trap. It’s the enemy’s way of convincing us that we can somehow earn our worth. My worth was totally wrapped up in the lie that if I can just post one more perfect picture, produce one more perfect blog post, or do this project perfectly then I would earn my worth or prove that I was a good blogger.
When it comes to David and I, I thought if I can just write the perfect post about everything I’ve learned in marriage, attend every church event, cook dinner every night, keep my house clean, and above all making sure not to say or do the wrong thing, that I would somehow prove I was a good pastor’s wife. Doing all that stuff perfectly would make me worthy of having influence in the ministry world.
But the truth is, I’m worthy because I’m a child of God. It’s my position in Christ, not my perfect performance that gives me my worth.
Lastly, God showed me that excellence and perfection are two completely different things. God created me with a special eye for excellence. “When we pursue excellence, we’re determined to do something as well as possible within a given set of talent, resource, and time limits. But perfectionism is a pride- or fear-based compulsion that fuels our obsessive fixation on doing something perfectly” to prove our worth. (Jon Bloom, desiringGod.org)
Perfectionism is our desire for acceptance and fear of rejection – fear of what people will think of us. Excellence is being confident in the skills God has given you and giving it your best shot, without fear of failure. Excellence is fueled from having confidence in who God says you are. Perfectionism is fueled by insecurity.
Now that we understand the problem, lets jump into the solutions – how do we fix this and overcome perfectionism?
Mediate on who God says you are and how much He loves you, daily. Remind yourself that you are worthy because God says so, and He believes you’re worth dying on the cross for. Before doing something ask yourself this, “Am I doing this because I’m trying to prove my worthiness to cover up an insecurity I have?” If the answer is yes, then stop and revaluate. I promise it will be so worth it because you won’t be handing your joy over to the enemy.
Set realistic goals:
Be realistic with your goals and expectations. Now, don’t get me wrong…having big dreams is a great thing and that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about actual goals and expectations that you have. Having unrealistic goals and expectations is setting yourself up to fail, be disappointed and ultimately lose your joy and sacrifice too much in your relationships.
Be okay with failing:
This quote by Jen Loser says it perfectly, “It’s ok to fail. I know it doesn’t feel like it, I know you don’t want to, but really, it’s ok. You can fail and still be loved, you can fail and still be worthy of love, and believe it or not, failure can actually be a good thing. When we fail, we are given the opportunity to affirm the reality that we are human “beings”, not human “doings.” Failure also gives us the chance to ask for help and to rely more fully on God and others.”
Celebrate your wins:
This is so important. As a person who struggles with perfectionism, I know all too well how easy it is for me to think negative thoughts and dwell on all the things I did or someone else did wrong. Celebrating your wins brings joy and it’s proven that people get a lot more done, and are a lot more productive when they are joyful.
These solutions have helped me so much, and I know they’ll help you too. I so wish I could jump through the computer screen and do an imperfect victory dance with you right now. Just by reading this article today, we’re one step closer to overcoming the paralyzing effects of perfectionism.