Defeating Perfectionsim: Learning to Thrive in Your Imperfection
Perfectionism. I've struggle with this monster almost my entire life. I always wanted to be as skinny as possible, fix every imperfection in my appearance, and have the perfect grades. It became so extreme at one point that my desire for straight A’s turned into a desire for straight A pluses. Anything less than that, in my mind, was failure. My perfectionism also slithered its way into my eating habits, causing me to undereat and feel unnecessary guilt about every bit of food that I put in my mouth.
The funniest part is, even when I achieved my ridiculously high goals, it was never satisfying. I only felt the suffocating pressure to uphold the high standards I had achieved and anything less meant I was a worthless human. Literally. Any time perfectionism has entered my life, it has destroyed me, wrung me out, and left me running in an exhausting cycle of chasing goals that could never fulfill me, and were at times, completely unattainable. (I mean who can get a 100 on EVERY assignment or eat perfectly ALL the time? Yeah, no one.)
Some of you may not deal with this extreme of perfectionism, but I believe most of us do in some area of our lives.
At the core of my perfectionism is a desire to be worthy. To be loved. To prove to myself (and others) that I’m worth something.
Whenever I bring these worries to the Lord, worries that I won't meet the unreasonable expectations I've set for myself, I hear him gently say, “You don't need to prove your worth to me. Why do you worry yourself so much, little one? I've created you perfectly to do my will. Why isn't that enough for you?”
Every time His words smack me in the face. And every time, just hours or days later, I fall back into my toxic perfectionistic mindset.
Not only is it damaging spiritually, but also just practically. When we seek perfection, we may spend an inordinate amount time on a task or avoid even beginning a task because we are afraid we won’t do it perfectly. It’s an endless and exhausting cycle.
I once had a spiritual director say to me: “I can’t wait for the day that doing your best is enough for you.” And I hear God say that to me as well.
One quote that helps fight the perfectionistic voice in my head is from one of my favorites St. John Paul II: “ We are not the sum of our weaknesses or failures. We are the sum of the Father’s love for us, and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”
As long as you are trying to follow the Father's will, no matter how many times you screw up or "fail," you are good.
The Lord didn't die for us because we are perfect. (He wouldn't have had to die for us if we were perfect, folks.) He died for us because He knows we are broken, sinful, and weak, but nonetheless, are still precious and worthy beyond belief. That we are worth dying for.
If you don't need to be perfect for God then why should you worry about it? Easier said than done, but it is healthy to examine your behavior and look at its root cause.
Question why you seek this perfection and who you are trying to please. Maybe it’s your friends, coworkers, or parents. Hint: the only One you need approval from is Jesus, and He isn't interested in perfection. He doesn’t care if you have a 4.0 (as long as you are doing your best), or if your waist is a certain size. Approval from any other human or approval by any worldly standards will never be fulfilling. He gave you the skills you need to do His will, and that's all you need. As long as you are seeking to do His will, even if you fall along the way, that is enough for Him.
And that's why it should be enough for each of us.