I am a perfectionist. It limits me. It exhausts me. It paralyzes me.
Perfectionism crept into my life pretty early on. I remember turning in a project during elementary school and the teacher announced to the class that it was the best project she had seen in all her years of teaching…at least that’s what I remember her saying. In that moment, my 9 year old soul believed perfection was possible. I have worked hard to receive that perceived level of accolade again many, many times during my life. Approval and praise of my “perfect” accomplishments became like a drug to me. A drug that lied to me and told me that perfection was attainable.
That lie limited me.
As the years went by and I moved into larger spaces of life crowded with more people. Smarter people. Greater people. Fiercer people. I began the comparison game and it didn’t take long for me to realize I didn’t measure up. It was useless to even try to compete. I began to see that perfection wasn’t attainable, but I tried anyway.
The effort exhausted me.
Then, about 2 years ago, life became more than I could handle. Over the course of 3 months, my 40-year-old brother died, my dad had emergency surgery, my mom was unresponsive in hospice care, my career was demanding more of me than I could give, and my husband was entering end-stage renal failure.
These life situations paralyzed me.
Want to know what happens to a limited, exhausted, and paralyzed perfectionist? Well, just know that we don’t function well…if at all.
It was time. Perfection had to go. There wasn’t another option. I began searching for and ripping out every tiny weed of perfection I could find and started replanting in its place a life of perseverance. The road map I found to start this process was found in the following scripture:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Find Joy in the Trial
I’m going to be honest here. The idea of considering what I was facing with anything other than hopelessness, anger, or grief seemed impossible. I could put on a brave face to convince others that I was fine and the rest of the time I just avoided talking about it. It was a hard season, but I discovered that when I took the time to seek joy by finding things to be thankful for, I was free. In the beginning I was thankful for little things, like the socks on my feet and the extra deodorant in the medicine cabinet. As time passed, I got better at looking into my situation and being thankful for some of the very things that felt like they were crushing me. It didn’t happen overnight, but the more I practiced being thankful, the more joy came. Anger and bitterness had a hard time hanging on when I was busy announcing how thankful I was!
I am unlimited by my unchangeable situations.
Put the Control Where it Belongs
One thing I already had was faith. I already loved God and had full confidence that He was going to work out everything for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), even the things happening in my life. The catch was that I wasn’t sure I was going to like how God decided to work things out. What if it didn’t match up with what I thought was good? This is something that I have wrestled with my entire life. I trust God, but sometimes I think He needs my help. I realized I had to let go of the idea that I was in control and let God do what only He can do without my help. This simple, and yet very difficult, task flooded me with freedom.
I am invigorated by my trust in God.
Commit to be Flawed
One thing that really punched me in the face when I read this verse was that I am not mature and complete. If perseverance is still working in me (which I believe it will until the day I die) then I am unfinished. I am not perfect. I am still a work in progress. That whole idea is such a relief. Understanding that we are all broken and imperfect people and embracing that fact combats any misconception I have about perfection. I have committed to be flawed and I unapologetically stick to it.
I am strengthened by my imperfection.
Sometimes life is really hard and simply deciding to keep moving forward through our difficulties is the only thing that we can do. I know that the act of putting one foot in front of the other has become more important to me than how well I am placing my foot down. It doesn’t have to be perfect when perfect isn’t the goal…and that’s a relief.