Ehhem – Hello, My name is Sally and I was a self-confessed perfectionist. Christian Perfectionist at that! What is that, first let’s look at the definition of perfectionist. “Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations”. In short, in my head I feel like I need to be perfect and when I am anything less than I fall into self-condemnation, you know- negative self-talk. It sometimes goes to a very dark space and I literally feel like the worst human on earth. Like I’m the only one that has done wrong, the only one that has sinned, that’s unlovable, unforgiveable and everything else in between. Now the Christian thing to say is that grace should be given and that I should only speak positive things over myself and that God has forgiven me so I should be able to forgive myself. And while I know this is true can I be honest for a moment- I don’t always feel this way. See the thing is that because we are Christians we are often times expected to always be positive, happy, see the silver lining and when we feel anything other than that it’s like we are shamed for it. This also is where some of the perfectionism stems from trying to hold myself to the standards of being a follower of Christ but not allowing for grace, thinking there should be flawlessness. The bible states;
“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ…”
– Philippians 1:27
Conduct myself in a manner that is worthy?!?! Well while I try, I don’t get it 100% and often feel that I am now all of a sudden a hypocrite or a liar, when in actuality I am human, flawed and still loved. This negative belief stems from the notion that I can earn love from God (or others) by being good, doing the right things and that somehow my good works and behavior will make me worthy. Newsflash- there isn’t anything we can do to earn God’s love, it is freely given to us as a gift. He simply loves us, flaws and all, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. He loves us because He is love.
This perfectionism also comes from the belief that things should go a certain way, should be done by a certain time, or even look a certain way. It is a way to control or have power of what the expected outcome will be. There is an importance for structure, timelines, and deadlines. There should also be space for interruptions, roadblocks, and you know life in general. So here’s an example… I started college in 2006 (don’t do the math, lol) and my anticipated graduation should have been in 2010. Well I took an extended internship at Disney and found out once I arrived and started the internship that the course would not be applied to my degree. A whole academic semester wasted but an invaluable experience I would never forget! Once I returned, I switched my major and that set me back another semester. Lastly, when completing my Senior Comps (an exam to graduate) I first wrote a draft on a different paper and when I was rewriting it in the exam booklet I ran out of time. Although I had completed all my classes and fulfilled all other requirements I had to wait until the following semester to retake the exam in order to graduate. Needless to say, I did not walk across the stage until Summer 2012. But I realize that no matter what happened or how long it took, I did it! I overlooked this accomplishment and so many others because it didn’t go the way that I wanted it to go but it doesn’t matter how it was accomplished, the fact is that it was.
Even in creating this blog and writing this post I did not want to release it because I wanted it to be perfect. I also wanted me to be perfect. I felt that I needed to perfect this walk called life, perfect being a Christ follower, have the perfect page, have the perfect words, etc. I mean y ’all I reread long text messages to make sure it sounds right. But Honey, let me tell you, perfection isn’t something we reach at the snap of a finger. It gets better over time, we get better over time. The blessing is in the valleys and through the storms, in the mess. It is slow progress at times and the freedom to not get it right always but keep trying. We lean in on God and what His word says about us and we surrender to the process, knowing that His mercy and grace towards us is abundant. We should continue to strive understanding and “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” – Philippians 1:9.
I may not always get it right but I am connected to the Most High One that is. And guess what?!? He loves is so much that He is willing and wanting to work with us. Christ says “My grace is sufficient for you and My strength is made perfect in weakness” – 2 Corinthians 12:9. This is where the secret lies, especially in our strive towards perfecting our walk of faith. It is in us surrendering and giving God permission to show up and show out in our weaknesses. Understanding that having these weaknesses or shortcomings doesn’t make us any less worthy but rather gives us the opportunity to allow God perfect us. It makes space in our souls and in our spirits for God to do the work in us. To lean into His grace, give ourselves grace and remove the limitation that are set rather than exploring the endless possibilities offered to us through Christ. God’s word says “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope”.
I choose to let go of being perfect; perfect words, perfect body, perfect behavior. The expectations of when I should have been married, when I should have had kids, when I should have bought my house, how I should have lost weight by now- I let go of it all. Instead I choose trusting in God, trusting His word, His plan and His leading in my life to get me to the beauty that He has planned for me. I’m accepting that I am an imperfect person loved and accepted by a perfect God. I am refusing to allow perfection to keep me from being the best version of who God designed me to be and letting go of the notion that achieving this “perfectionism” I’ve created in my head will truly make me content or feel fulfilled. I will allow myself to be in the moment, take in the journey, learn the lessons that God is teaching me and be present with Him and my experiences. There are so many wonderful stories of imperfect people in the Bible that God used to work out His perfect plan for us, just ask Jacob the cheater, Sara who was impatient, Noah who got drunk, Thomas who didn’t believe, Gideon who was insecure and Lazarus who was dead! I am fearfully & wonderfully made because of my imperfections. Thank you Lord that your perfect love covers my imperfection – You love me flaws and all…