The Race to Perfectionism
I wonder if perfectionism has hijacked a part of your life, like it has mine.
I notice it most when I feel a bit suffocated and incapable. Like my race is almost finished, the medal dangling just a few feet ahead. I just cannot take another step. There is a physical barrier in-between the finish line and myself, the tired, weary runner; making it impossible to complete the race. I hang my head low until I can "get it together again."
Perfectionism and "never enough" make sense together.
Perfectionism can also cozy up with my favorite "c" word, control. If perfectionism is the standard, I must control E V E R Y T H I N G.
Consider with me the "perfect" standard for pretty much anything in our lives. Marriage, beauty, aging, fashion, success, children, church attendance, housing, food, cars. Can you visualize what you have been told is the standard of perfection for each one of these areas? I know I sure can and it makes me tired just thinking about it. Check please!
Whether these unrealistic and unattainable standards are set intrinsically or superficially, let me say this. THEY MUST GO.
I tell you, these standards can eat you alive. Even as I type this, I feel the tension of stating the disclaimer that "healthy standards are good, we shouldn't all just let go necessarily, blah blah blah, of course." However, I want to start at the foundation, at the heart, because I think when we are honest with ourselves at the core, a life of true excellence awaits. We can deal with those details later and figure out that excellence and perfectionism are different. For now, I'm challenging and questioning what we say is beautiful, good, right, perfect. What our heart believed is and should be the standard.
Mike Erre has a somewhat controversial (to some) podcast, Vox, that I am challenged and encouraged by. In the most recent episode, "why pastors have affairs," he discusses a lot (go listen!), but this one point has stuck with me. He talked about how AA meetings have an admissible "we've all messed up" vibe. The jig is UP. No need to pretend, it is understood that every person who walks in either currently, or in the past, struggle with abuse of alcohol. I remember reading Glennon Doyle Melton's book, Carry On Warrior, and how she talked about the psychiatric ward being the place where she felt the most safe; because it was accepted that she was insane. She didn't have to BS anyone, the jig was up.
Both somewhat extreme examples, but I'm sure you see the point. Living in a world where "perfect" is the standard is utterly absurd.
I wonder where perfectionism has crept in. For me, it's always wanting to say and do the right thing. It's when the dishes pile up and I picture the clean kitchen and well-behaved kids that I don't have. It's not wanting to age or gain weight and angry at myself when I do. (You guys, do you see how crazy this sounds?) It's yelling at my kids at home and in public, pretending I am the mom that has it all together. It's lusting at Instagram photos of the perfect everything.
Doesn't freedom from perfection sound so liberating? Permission to stop pretending we have it all buttoned up and just let it out, set it free, be honest. We can admit our flaws and faults without feeling shame. Some of the wisest word from my mentor, "If you are holding yourself to perfection, you are also holding others to that same standard." Another mentor told me, "If someone is hiding their stuff, they may also expect you to hide your stuff." (which then perpetuates the perfectionism standard.)
What do you need to let go of? The good news, is it starts with you. We can't just sit around and blame the people who post perfect photos. The buck stops here. You can start telling the truth about your flaws and shortcomings, and then you can embrace freedom and grace; the fact that we are human. Often times, we are the hardest on ourselves, so start there. It's funny, this is when we actually need Jesus. Why would we need Him when we have it all figured out?
Wishing you a life of love, freedom, hope and embraced mess-ups.
Chose the freedom to be human today.