Hello, my name is Tiffany, and I’m a recovering perfectionist.
Perfectionism is something that I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. I have always had very high expectations of myself and everything that I have done. And if I wasn’t able to meet my very high standards of excellence, I would be left feeling defeated and like a failure, even if the end product was good.
This is an exhausting way to live. Why? Because it is impossible for everything in our lives, for everything that we do, and for our surroundings to be perfect. It is just not possible. We live in an imperfect world, and we ourselves are imperfect. So why do we put that kind of pressure on ourselves?
I used to think that being a perfectionist was a good thing. That it was almost something to be proud of. And in some ways, I suppose it does produce good results at times. If we aim for perfection, even if it isn’t attainable, at least we land somewhere in the realm of excellence (goes with the whole “Shoot for the moon, and if you miss you’ll land among the stars.” idea).
But recently God has been showing me that my impossible standards of perfection are causing unnecessary stress in my life, and ultimately it is an obstacle to me living in complete peace.
I recently heard that “perfectionism is the mother of procrastination.” This really made me stop and think. Yes, perfectionism causes me to strive for a ridiculous level of excellence in all that I do, but often times it would halt me in my tracks altogether. If I knew that I was unable to reach whatever level of perfection I expected of myself, I would often put it off or maybe not do it altogether, because I feared the sense of failure that I knew would inevitably come. Perfectionism can bind you and keep you from living fully and pursuing all that God has for you.
I don’t want to live that way. I don’t want to be bound by the unrealistic expectations that perfectionism places on me, or the people around me.
This process of realization for me really began when I became a mom. Suddenly, I had this little human who was relying on me in order to survive and thrive in this world…and just as suddenly, I was unable to do and be all that I used to for everyone else. And that was upsetting. I had expected myself to be Supermom and at the same time still be able to maintain the level of involvement and excellence in ministry, relationships, hobbies, work, house keeping, cooking, etc. that I always had. This was impossible. I wasn’t perfect..I’m not perfect, and I’m not able to be all things to all people (including myself.)
I love this passage in 2 Corinthians 2:8-10 where the Apostle Paul tells about how he was asking God to take away his weaknesses…
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.‘ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
It is okay for us to not be perfect. It is in our imperfection, in our weaknesses, that God is able to work in and through us and HIS strength is perfect to help us. What a blessing that is! That sure does take a lot of pressure off of me, knowing that He will make up for any area that I’m not strong in. His grace is more than enough.
Does this mean I will suddenly stop striving for excellence? No, not at all. I believe in doing things well. I believe that honors God greatly. But when things aren’t perfect, and my weaknesses are exposed loud and clear, I will breathe deeply and know that it’s okay. God’s grace is enough.
As Emily Ley says, I will hold myself to “a standard of grace not perfection.”
How about you? Are you a perfectionist? Are there areas in your life where you feel like you need to let go and embrace imperfection, and let God’s grace be enough?