“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
Hi, my name is Emily, and I am a recovering perfectionist.
Even as I write those words, I squirm a little because I am still very much battling my perfectionist tendencies. I’d like for my home to be spotless, my inbox to be sorted, and my children to be wonderfully behaved at all times, please. Also, I would like to have abundant energy, flawless skin, and wear the jeans I wore in college. Thank you. Not too much to ask, right?
And yet, while I’m able to achieve some of those things some of the time (minus the jeans from college), I’m never able to achieve all of them at the same time. And even when I’m able to achieve one of them, I’ve sometimes realized that perfection wasn’t worth the cost.
In those moments I often ask myself, Can I choose good instead of perfect?
Good is a lived-in home. A space with storage and systems, baskets for blankets, boxes for toys, and a junk drawer for quickly cleaning off the kitchen counter. Our home isn’t perfect at all times, but it’s lived in. It’s full of love. It’s flexible and messy and real. There are sometimes dishes in the sink, dog toys all over the floor, and remnants from last night’s spaghetti on the counter. There are loud, happy people making noise upstairs, cell phones dinging with the work we get to do, and school drawings taped to every side of our fridge. That feels pretty perfect to me these days.
I carried the weight of perfectionism for a long time. It is a heavy weight to carry and an unachievable, unmaintainable standard to aspire to. Put simply, it was exhausting. I wondered, what would it look like if I just leaned in a little to the mess? What if I stopped working so hard to have it all together and started slowing down to enjoy it all?
What weight are you carrying right now? What would your life look like if you laid that weight down? What would your hands be free for?
I once met with a therapist during a particularly busy season. I was managing a lot of things at work and at home, and I was struggling to stop “over-functioning” and burning myself out. My therapist and I talked about perfectionism and my tendency to go all-in, all the time—and how God’s grace saves us from having to reach for such a lofty goal. A few months into our work together, I remember telling her, “I love my kids. I love my job. I love my husband. I want to be good at all my jobs, but I am trying so hard not to be that stressed-out, frazzled, overwhelmed-all-the-time woman I once was.”
What I came to realize throughout the course of my time with her is that women often burn themselves out because they love so many things so deeply. We want to do a good job at all our roles not just because we are over achievers, but because we love so many things so much. The trick is learning when good is good enough. Untangling yourself from the grips of perfectionism is actually a healing process.
“You are healing,” she said to me. “Recite these words to yourself whenever you feel those feelings coming to the surface: I am healing.”
Whether you are healing from perfectionism, burnout, over-functioning, trauma, illness, or grief, place your hand on your heart whenever you need to. Remind yourself, “I am healing.” You are a beautiful work in progress and that is good. There is time to get the work done. There is beauty in the mess of life. There is no one way to go about living. Give yourself permission to rest in the joy of that journey.
My hope for you is that you’ll allow God’s grace to wash over you again and again throughout the day. Allow it to release you from the bonds of perfectionism and usher you into a new way forward. You are healing. And you are doing a good job.
Adapted from Near in the Night by Emily Ley. Copyright © 2023 by Emily Ley. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.
Emily Ley is the founder of Simplified, a brand of planners and organizational tools for busy women. Her newest book, Near in The Night, is a collection of reflections on finding God’s peace and rest. She has been featured on Good Morning America and in Forbes, Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens, Glamour and Good Housekeeping. Now, as an author, entrepreneur, wife and mother to three, Emily lives in Pensacola, Florida, with her husband, Bryan, their son Brady, and twins, Tyler and Caroline.
Keep up with Emily on Instagram @emilyley!