Confessions of a (Recovering) Perfectionist came to mind as my initial title for this post. I know something about the dodgy distraction of pursuing perfection.
I’m acquainted with the compulsion to get everything right. To be right. All of the time.
Not long ago I was paralyzed by one version or another of the perfectionist’s creed: “If you can’t do something right, don’t bother to doing it,” or “If you’re going to do something, do it right.”
Yes, well, a perfectionist’s auto response to that kind of pressure includes a hefty dose of procrastination fueled by self-doubt and fear of failure.
There’s more. More often than not, the perfectionist sports a critical spirit, calling herself and others to answer unrealistic and exhausting expectations. Sigh.
Can you relate? We’re not alone.
Never mind that all-around perfect isn’t an option for earth-bound humans, the deceptive path to picture perfect is a crowded dead-end.The deceptive path to picture perfect is a crowded dead-end. Click To Tweet
Wondering if you might be wrestling perfectionist tendencies? Answering the following questions might help:
• Are you an obsessive rule follower and enforcer?
• Do the people around you consistently fall short of your expectations?
• Does the prospect of making a mistake rob you of sleep?
• Are you only proud of your work if someone praises you for it?
• Do you have trouble bouncing back from a personal failure?
• Does the thought of being considered average trouble you?
• Does your sense of worth pivot with your performance?
• Do you judge yourself on how others respond to what you do or say?
• When you’ve finished a project or accomplished a goal (or someone else has), are you able to celebrate the achievement before pointing out the imperfections?
Friend, if you answered “yes” to a third or more of the questions, you’ve likely pitched your tent in the perfectionists’ camp.
But I have good news! We don’t have to remain there.
In response to a dispute recorded in John 8, Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
The following truths helped set me on the path to freedom.
1. Perfectionism creates an aversion to authenticity.
The perfectionist craves acceptance, which can drive the need to perform perfectly as a means to please others.The perfectionist craves acceptance, which can drive the need to perform perfectly as a means to please others. Click To Tweet
Perfectionists strive to do the right things and say the right words, as if following a script.
Burying one’s true self beneath a façade of having it together protects us from vulnerability. But our true self is what creates an authentic connection with others.
When we’re not being our authentic selves, any acceptance from others is based on a perception arrived at by way of pretense.
2. Perfectionists inadvertently choose rules over relationships.
Perfectionists usually feel most comfortable in surface relationships, where one’s true way of thinking or behaving remains in the shadows. But there’s another way in which a perfectionist’s relationships suffer.
Ever been the subject of a perfectionist’s policing or (s)mothering?
If so, you know what it feels like to be under constant scrutiny. Always corrected or directed. Uncomfortable.
Why do perfectionists wrestle so with disillusionment and discontentment? Nothing’s good enough, because they don’t believe they are good enough.
Perfectionists function at odds with grace. Grace acknowledges the absence of perfection and supports our need for unmerited favor. Perfectionism makes it nigh to impossible to grasp grace, let alone extend favor to others.Perfectionists find themselves at odds with grace. Click To Tweet
All of that makes perfectionism a lonely pursuit.
3. Perfectionists tend to see God as a critic rather than as a forgiving Father.
Perfectionistic traits and tendencies spill into every aspect of life, including our spiritual lives.
Perfectionists prefer a formula over humbly following. If I do this, that will happen. Seldom a true story. Disappointment and disillusionment follows. The performance / reward way of thinking reeks havoc on a relationship with God.
A perfectionist can’t just show up. We prefer to carry a plan for every occasion.
Toting a safe agenda makes it difficult to follow a God that isn’t predicable.
But Scripture has more good news for us! In Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote that he was confident that He [God] who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion.
Truth is . . .
God created you and me.
God is the One who began the good work in us.
God will continue His work. To completion.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Any experience with an over-the-top pursuit of perfection?
Click here to download 30 Bible Verses That Reach Deeper Than You Think.
Click here to read How Messes Can Help You Master Perspective.
Click here to read When Plans Go Sideways.
Click here to read 7 Liberating Facts for Testing Your To-Do List.