10 Things Every Perfectionist Should Know

 

To my fellow Perfectionists: be gentle with yourselves. This post may hit you like a great sledgehammer of truth; but I promise you, what it shatters it will restore with grace. I love you all so dearly, and I want you to know there is freedom for you. So without further ado, 10 Things Every Perfectionist Should Know.

  1. Perfectionism is a problem: Maybe you’ve heard the advice that in a job interview, when you are asked what your greatest weaknesses are, to divert the question to what may appear as a NON-WEAKNESS, by admitting shyly, “Well…I am a bit of a perfectionist.” In effect saying, “Hire me! My only weakness is that I will try too hard for the company and the result will be a screaming success!” I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but Perfectionism is a problem. A real actual problem.
  2. Perfectionism is a prison: If you’ve lived this way your whole life you may not recognize it, but the truth is you are being held hostage at gun point by a fictitious, judgmental, hypercritical and never satisfied version of YOURSELF. You can’t sleep, eat or breathe without her noticing everything you do. You are walking on egg shells. Sneaking around in the dark corners of your heart hoping not to disturb her. You know what I’m talking about.
  3. You are probably a pharisee: If you are a perfectionist who is also a christian, it probably hurts you that I say this. But from one Recovering Perfectionist to another, I’m sorry to say, but it’s true. When you try so hard to be perfect, you can achieve a certain degree of success in your flesh, and since you are likely only concerned with your outward actions (Especially in how they compete and compare with others) you have likely at many points in your life judged yourself “worthy”. I know for myself, I lived many years ACTUALLY BELIEVING in my heart of hearts that when God sent Jesus he sent him for all “those other people” and if Jesus hadn’t come, I thought I would have been fine without his righteousness. YIKES.
  4. Living with you isn’t a piece of cake: So if you are a people-pleasing perfectionist like me, I know you think you are doing all these things for other people. And if you are a Christian, you might even call it “serving”. So let me tell you a story. When Willy and I were first married, one evening after dinner I was running around the house like crazy frantically cleaning, when all my husband wanted me to do was sit on the couch and spend time with him. He kept asking me, and I kept pushing him off, shouting something like, “I’M DOING THIS FOR YOU!” But the truth was that I was doing it in service to the false god of myself. If I was truly trying to serve him, I would have done what he asked and spent time with him, and left a little cleaning for the following day. But instead I was doing it to appease that nagging voice in my head saying, “You aren’t a good wife! Look what a mess this place is! You haven’t even done your husband’s ironing yet! He should have married someone else who could keep house better.” So then, when I finally did give in and sit next to him, I was being so destroyed with guilt that I couldn’t even give him any of my undivided attention.  If you struggle with perfectionism like I do, then you are most likely up and down on the roller coaster of your own judgments about yourself, and your family is along for the ride.
  5. Your perfectionism is destructive not constructive, as you sometimes believe it to be: Some perfectionists believe that their perfectionism just pushes them to DO BETTER. And while it may seem that way at times, especially from the outside, I do not believe that anything good can come from that prison of perfectionism. If you simultaneously create a beautiful work of art, but are being destroyed from the inside by perfectionism, first of all, it’s doubtful you will even be able to enjoy the work you have created. Second of all, you yourself are being destroyed, and you as an eternal being are the more important creation to consider.
  6. “Comparison is the thief of joy”: This goes either way. Whether you think you are better than that person next to you, and so inflate your pride; or if you think you are worse than the person next to you and therefore delve into the pit, either way you will not experience joy. True joy comes in seeing yourself through the eyes of the one who made you and who loves you more than you can know. Either way your joy is dependent on changeable circumstances, instead of being based on the unchangeable God who loves you. (Quote by Kaitlyn Brouwer)
  7. You Aren’t in Charge. You may have noticed that at times in your life, when things seem to be going well and you are “meeting” your own standards or the standards of others without fail, you feel like things are “Okay.’’ In these times, it is especially hard to see that your perfectionism is in fact, all the things I have mentioned before. But then you do something “wrong”. Maybe it’s actually sin, or maybe you made a simple mistake; it doesn’t really matter because the result is the same: down you go, spiraling into the pit of despair again. If you are like me you’ll try to do “penance” to get yourself out of there. Or you may have some other equally destructive method. Then a week or so later you’ve recovered and the process starts itself all over again. I call it the roller coaster. And do you know what I think it’s caused by? The need for control. When things are going our way, it’s easy to believe the lie that we can control our world, and that we, and not God, are in charge. But then something happens; you burn dinner, something spills or you forget something you were supposed to bring to an important meeting and BAM. Your kingdom is shattered. You realize that you aren’t in control like you have falsely believed, and you work your way out of the pit with desperate attempts to patch up your shattered world. The reality of course is that you were never in charge to begin with, and the only way to get off this roller coaster is to submit and choose to trust the One who is.
  8. You are worshiping yourself—(Even if you have low-self esteem): It hit me like a sledgehammer; the day I realized that the true and deepest problem in my heart was idolatry. I realized that I spent all my time cultivating my opinion of myself, instead of accepting that what God had said about me was true. I realized that I was on the roller coaster because I thought that what I thought about myself was more important that what God thought of me. Allow me to label that for you; that’s idolatry. I realized it with such a great freedom; that it really didn’t matter what I thought of myself at all, but instead I should choose to accept what God has said about me. That I am so loved, and it has nothing to do with what I do, and everything to do with what he did.
  9. You need the Gospel: So you are a perfectionist. And maybe before you thought that that meant you were the closest thing to perfect that exists on this planet. I hope now that perhaps you see it differently. We perfectionists need the Gospel just as much as everyone else, if we can see the prison we’re in an desire that escape, I promise you HE WILL RESCUE YOU. It’s a process, but you can be set free from the need to be perfect all the time. You can get off the crazy roller coaster. You can breathe without fearing the tiny tyrant in your head will judge you for it. You can join me in becoming a RECOVERING PERFECTIONIST.
  10. You can’t actually achieve perfection (but Christ did it for you.) It should be noted that I am not anti-righteousness. I am not against making wise choices and doing your best work as unto the Lord. But I am against the bondage that Satan tries to lure us into in believing that we can somehow achieve PERFECTION on our own. The scripture tells us that no one is without sin…even if we somehow managed to get things “right enough” from here on out, it still wouldn’t be enough to allow us to stand blameless in the presence of a Holy God. THAT THOUGHT SHOULD NOT CAUSE US TO DESPAIR. I know it always used to make me weep…but that was before I understood HOW GOOD the Gospel is. JESUS WAS PERFECT FOR US. HE GIVES HIS PERFECTION TO US. If you believe that he died for your sins and God raised him from the dead so that you could receive salvation and live forever with God IN PERFECTION, then someday, YOU WILL BE PERFECT. I understand that desire to be perfect, and as with so many sin issues, it comes from a good desire that has gone haywire. We were originally meant for perfection! We were meant to be seen as GOOD before the LORD, just as he made us. But sin corrupts everything. The good news is that instead of leaving us here in our mess, God came down to show us his INSANE LOVE for us. We can hand in our dirty rags for His glorious white robe of righteousness. IT IS OURS! We are now seen as blameless before a Holy God, because of Jesus. It’s the best gift anyone could give, especially to a perfectionist.

 

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