This week I have been doing research for my book. In one particular book I was reading to learn more about the effects of shame, shame disguises etc. The name of the book is “Daring Greatly” by Dr. Brene Brown. As I was collecting some great research I came upon the chapter about the shields we use to protect us from being vulnerable. I got to the part about perfectionism and I connected immediately with what she was saying. I struggle with being a perfectionist. In the past I denied that it was a struggle and that I was just striving for excellence in all that I do. It was not until this past summer that I had a wise women help remove the blinders off of my eyes. I really believe my perfectionism actually started with a motive for striving for excellence, where I veered off the course was when my striving turned from healthy growth to a defensive mode. Dr. Brene Brown says in her book Daring Greatly,
“Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is at its core, about trying to earn approval… Somewhere along the way, perfectionist adopt this dangerous and debilitation belief system: “I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it…” Healthy striving is self-focused: How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused: What will they think? Perfectionism is a hustle.
I feel like I have been in a hustle for many years now. I am constantly perfecting because I don’t want to be subject to others judgment or shame. Dr. Brene Brown also explains that the crux of the matter is that perfectionism is a form of shame, it’s destructive and addictive. Here are some examples of my struggle with perfectionism: I want to make sure I am at a healthy weight, not for the sake of being healthy but to keep anyone from making a negative comment about my weight. I strive to keep my house neat and orderly because I need to prove to everyone that I don’t just sit around on my rear watching tv since I am a stay at home mom. I make sure I do all my lessons for bible study because I don’t want someone to think I have had my priorities in the wrong place. The list goes on and on.
The truth of the whole perfectionist issue that I learned this week from reading this book is that, perfection is like a mirage. I can chase after it but I will never get to it. Jesus Christ is the only person in history that was perfect! I am not Christ. Being a perfectionist robs you of the joy of moments, it robs you of energy, it robs others from really getting to know you, its stressful, and it leaves you anxious and depressed. This is not the abundant life God has in store for you and me. To quote my dad, “Perfectionism is like wiping your rear with a wagon wheel.” Its pointless. It is a tough pill to swallow but perfectionism is deceptive, it does not help but hurt.
For over a year now God keeps bringing to mind the story of Martha and Mary. Martha is so worried about perfecting all of the daily chores and Mary chooses to look past all of that and enjoy the time she has with Jesus. The verse in Luke 10:41-42 goes like this, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” My daily prayer has been that God would show me the necessary things and quicken my spirit when I am getting caught up in the unnecessary things.
At the end of the day all that really matters is that I am the daughter that wants me to be, I am the wife to my Husband that God wants me to be and that I am the mom to my children that God wants me to be. Sure, I need to cook and keep the house sanitary but immaculate is ridiculous. Yes, I need to take care of my body and exercise but fretting if I didn’t get a 5 or 6 mile run in every day is insane. Yes, reading my bible every day just because I want to spend time with God is great, but to fret if I don’t have all the blanks in my bible study filled in is silly.
Something else I realized is when someone is a perfectionist they think it only effects themselves but really we end up making our friends and family think and feel that they too should be at our same standard. If they are not you will hear comments like, “Don’t judge my house because it is not as clean as yours” or “I know I am not as skinny as you but I do try to work out and eat healthy.” Never in a million years would I want any of my friends and family to ever think that they are not good enough for me or that they don’t measure up, but by me being a perfectionist this is the message I am conveying. By working to not walk in being a perfectionist I actually end up showing others I don’t have it all together, and thats ok! It also removes the pressure that your friends and family may feel they are under when they are around you.
I cannot say that I don’t still struggle with perfectionism, on the contrary it is a daily struggle. Daily I have the opportunity to give it over to God and let Him help me or I can give in and end up in the hustle again. Some days I walk in victory and others I fail. Right now I boast in that fact that God’s mercies are new every morning and He is giving me a new opportunity to give this struggle over to Him.