The Struggle of Being a Perfectionist

Hey! Where are my fellow perfectionist peeps at?! I’m calling all of you friends who can relate to the feeling of needing EVERYTHING that you do to be perfect. Let’s call it the “Midas Touch” of today. If we touch it, it better be gold. Friends, it’s a blessing and curse, right?

I admit that I am a struggling perfectionist. This has been something that I’ve had to battle since I was a child. The drive to do everything with the utmost excellence can be a great quality, and yet it can be a burden if we allow it to creep into the obsessive zone. I precariously teeter on that line, and I believe it’s how I’m wired. But over the past few years I’ve been working on finding a better way. 

Perfectionism has some ugly side effects that I have definitely seen in my life. The first being “The Freeze.” I’ve often felt that if I can’t do something, and do it perfectly, then I’m just not going to do it. Period. This plagued me as a child big time. I remember being young and learning new skills like golf, for example. Okay, I know, probably not a great example to start off with. I personally think golf is one of the most frustrating skills to master on a good day, but stay with me here. 

My parents did a great job of working to instill skills and hobbies that would be lifelong social assets as I was growing up. However, I often failed to stick with certain things because I couldn’t do them “perfectly” right off the bat. In golf I hit a few great shots, and then the rest sent 99% of the nearby woodland creatures, living near the golf course, running for the hills. So what did my perfectionist mind tell me in those situations? That’s right, if you can’t do it perfectly then don’t do it at all. And I quit taking lessons. There were many other examples of times when I didn’t even try a new skill because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it perfectly, immediately. I like to call this, “The Freeze.”

“The Freeze” manifests itself in so many more ways, specifically if I’m working on a project. If the project has any ounce of creative attributes, I will often delay completing it or all together abandon it if I don’t think it looks or feels “perfect”. 

The other side effect of perfectionism is self doubt. That nasty perfectionistic voice, many of us know so well, starts telling me that if I can’t do something perfectly, then I must not be good enough or truly called to do that work. Hence, I become extremely hard on myself and critical. 

Is this resonating with you at all? Because I know I’m not the only one out there that feels this way. But here’s the good news. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT. Hallewooyah, pa-wayze  da Lord! (as my daughter used to yell around the house as a three year old.) 

God didn’t call us to be perfect. That’s why He sent His son Jesus to this earth. He is the ONLY one who is and ever was perfect so why are we putting that burden on ourselves? 

Corinthians 12:9 says, “Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 

The first thing we need to do is embrace who we are and all of the weaknesses that we have. We ALL have weaknesses and that’s okay! We aren’t going to do everything perfectly, but that’s the cool part. When we let Christ into those areas of weakness HE will show up with His strength and downright awesomeness to fill in where we lack. 

The other area that us perfectionists need to constantly keep in check is PRIDE. Ouch. Yep, I said it. We are prideful! Isn’t that the true root of why we feel we need to be perfect? It’s because we are concerned with how we look to others. If what we do or create isn’t perfect then someone else might think we aren’t talented, good enough, or as fabulous as whatever the “best of the best” is out there. Whenever my pride starts creeping in over a project I’m working on, I run to a very specific Bible verse. This is my weapon I use to fight that sneaky, flaming, pride dart. 

Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord.” 

Everything we do, and I mean EVERYTHING, should have a heavenly focus. Is what you are doing pleasing the Lord or are you trying to please people? When I started making this focus a priority and filtering everything I did through it, I found so much peace! I stopped worrying about what other people thought of me and my efforts and it was so freeing! However, it’s still something I have to continually check myself on because pride is a cunning adversary. 

I have a sneaking suspicion that some of you fellow perfectionists are screaming right now, “But Jamie! Are you saying I shouldn’t care about the quality of my work and completely chuck all desire to make what I do really really good?” Heck no! You are wired the way you are for a reason! I believe that God calls us to a life of EXCELLENCE! There is a big difference between excellence and perfection. God doesn’t want second class products because He is far from second class. So do your best in all you do! But don’t let the fear of it not being perfect stop you from putting it out there. 

Staci Wallace, a dear friend of mine who is full of Godly wisdom, has taught me this. 

“Progress over perfection.” 

Just do something! Don’t let your fear of not being perfect paralyze you and hold back the thing that God wants released into this world through you. You’re not perfect, but He is! Let yourself off the hook and start partnering with the One who can make everything you touch HIS version of gold. 

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