If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you know that I consider myself a recovering perfectionist. While I will not share the entire depths of what led me to being a perfectionist, I will share that becoming aware of this tendency has been a huge breakthrough for me. One of the blessings of therapy has been getting to the “how” of some of the behaviors I’ve exhibited. I would like to share with you all what perfectionism looks like in me. My hope is that through sharing my struggle, you will see that you are not alone not only in your struggle with perfectionism, but in any struggle that you have.
Perfectionism keeps me tied around the opinions of others. I want everything to go right because I am preparing to hear the opinions, complaints, and criticisms of others. There is no room for a mistake or error because what others think about whatever is going on is at stake. If everything goes perfect, there will be no criticism. Yet, within all of this I forget that some people are just hard to please….point blank!
Perfectionism shifts the focus of my life from what I think is best to what others think is best. In Daring Greatly, Brene’ Brown argues that “perfectionism is not self-improvement….Healthy striving is self-focused: How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused: What will they think?” Why is this a problem? Well, in my 31 years of life, I’ve learned that you and I are inconsistent. People may like one thing on Monday and change their preference by Tuesday. What a person wants you to do on Monday morning may be different by Monday afternoon. When I focus on what others think, I join the mind circus of others who say at 8am that they want spaghetti for dinner but end up getting McDonalds.
Because perfectionism is centered on others, I start to live my life based on what everyone wants. Within this comes something that tempts me to get away from being myself, and that thing is popularity. Peter Scazzero argued that popularity is one of the stumbling blocks to us being who we are because it gets us away from being free. Scazzero states, “True freedom comes when we no longer need to be somebody special in other people’s eyes because we know we are loveable and good enough.”
So, what am I doing about this? First, I am bathing myself in God’s love for me. Life is cause you to believe that God only loves you when so and so takes place, or when you act in a certain way. God’s love reminds me that regardless of what others think, I can be secure in His love. Thus, if something doesn’t go exactly the way I want it to go, that is okay. If I have a moment when people are not as favorable of me as I want them to be, that is okay because of my security in God’s love. I do not see God’s love as a license for me to behave in whatever manner I choose; I see God’s love as a reminder of my value in Him.
Second, I am in the process of discovering more of who I am. The process of knowing who you are frees you from people who try to treat you as anything less than a child of God. We will make mistakes. We will mess up, but that doesn’t take away from the reality of who I am in Christ. Perfectionism is about putting on a facade in the name of portraying a perfect image. I know who I am, and within this I also know WHOSE I am. Thus, even when I am at my worst moment in life, I do not have to be fake because I have a solid idea of who I am.
Lastly, I am learning to live in the “enough” of life. Brown says, “If we want freedom from perfectionism, we have to make the long journey from ‘What will people think?’ to ‘I am enough.’” This last point relates to everything else mentioned, but it doesn’t hurt to say again: when you know who you are, you realize that you are enough. Regardless of what failures you experience in life, you are enough. Perfectionism wants us to not be satisfied in authentically who we are. The authenticity of who you are includes your pain, brokenness, sorrows, etc. Perfectionism wants us to hide the pain to show people that we have it all together. Heck no! While we should be selective of where we bleed, it makes zero sense for us to eliminate the entire being of who we are because we’re worried about what others think. It really doesn’t matter what anyone else says. You, every bit of you, are enough!
As a recovering perfectionist and, as Brown calls it, an “aspiring good-enoughist,” I hope that my struggle with perfectionism will encourage someone to, first, be honest about their struggle and, second, make steps to get away from perfectionism. Perfectionism is exhausting. It takes away the energy you need to accomplish everything God has placed in you to do.
If you’re struggling with perfectionism, I would love for you to leave a comment talking about your experience. Let’s support one another on the path to healing!
 Brene’ Brown, “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.” 129.
 Peter Scazzero, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a Revolution in Your Life in Christ.” 77.
 Brown, “Daring Greatly.” 131.
 Brene Brown, “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.” 56.