To the Girl Who Struggles with Perfectionism
May 4, 2020
I’ve been there. If you’re reading this blog, you know where “there” is.
I’ve been there for as long as I can remember, and only recently have I seen glimpses of a life outside of these walls I built around myself.
For those who don’t know: when I say “there,” I’m referring to a state of being in which one cannot stand the thought of making any mistakes, craves others’ approval, frantically searches for ways to perfect their seemingly “not good enough” life, cares about how they appear to others far more than their feelings within, and maybe even takes extreme measures to do or to avoid these things.
I know what it’s like to feel helpless and completely out of control
I know what it’s like when small things feel like the end of the world
I know what it’s like to cry because you don’t want to be who you are
I know what it’s like to desperately want to not care…but that thought in itself seems impossible to grasp
I know what it’s like.
But you see, I also know what it’s like to rely on my God who is in fact in control and who is in fact perfect in all ways
I also know what it’s like to accept the everchanging circumstances in my life and choose to be patient and lean into the Prince of Peace despite the worry I feel inside
I also know what it’s like to look at my beautiful, God-designed, God-planned, God-created life and feel overjoyed because of how truly blessed I am to be a daughter of God
I also know what it feels like to completely let go of all expectations, restrictions, and ideals I’ve set for myself and instead just enjoy being me for a bit
The irony of perfectionism is that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow doesn’t exist. Or maybe a more accurate metaphor would be that the pot of gold at the end of an exhausting, frightening, painful trek up a steep mountain...doesn’t exist.
When you strive to make cookies that spread while baking, you can achieve that! When you strive to get an A in one of your classes, you can do that! But when you strive for perfection, you’re climbing that treacherous mountain that leads nowhere. Perfection does not exist among humans. We are undeniably incapable of perfection.
So, if I were to tell you that the goal of perfection will never come, would you still spend time obsessing over it? Would you lose sleep over it? Would you chase after it with your heart, mind, and soul?
I hope not! Because that iswhat I’m telling you.
In James 3:2 it says, “Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.”
If we didn’t make mistakes, we would be perfect. We would be able to completely control ourselves.
To assume that we could reach any level of perfection would be to put ourselves on the same level as God, which we (hopefully) know is not possible.
It seems senseless when we put it in these simple terms. Of course, we can’t achieve perfection. Of course, we aren’t on the same level as God.
But why then are we obsessed with the idea of it? Why do we anxiously strive for it each day?
The only answer I have for this is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18). Although we may have the desire to do what is right --- the calling of every Christian– we are incapable of carrying it out.
When we obsess over ourselves, how we’re perceived by others, and how seemingly close to perfection we *think* we are…we aren’t serving God, we’re serving ourselves and the world around us.
The frightening thing about the sins of perfectionism is that they’re easy to cover up within society. It’s easy to make excuses and these excuses can come in many different forms. “I’m just a hard worker,” “I want to have a successful life,” “I just like things a certain way,” instead of “I work hard to serve the Lord,” “I want to live a life that glorifies God,” and “I do things God’s way…not my way.”
To work hard and to achieve goals, if done for the right reasons, is not where the issue lies. Key phrase: “if done for the right reasons.” Our intention, our “why” behind everything we do is the root of all sin. Every sinful action we take is the result of a sinful thought, a sinful belief, a sinful habit, a sinful “why.” So, if you’re reading this and you think that I mean to stop working hard at your job and to try as little as possible in life, you’ve missed the point completely.
Our faith produces works (James 2:17-18, James 2:24, James 2:26, Matthew 5:16, Titus 1:16). Faith without works is dead. But when we do those works, we must be aware, and above all else pray, so that we may work for God, for His glory, and for His Kingdom…not for the dying world we live in.
The very sin I’ve written about today is one that I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. And if you’re reading this, you’ve probably felt as though your perfectionism is concrete and there’s nothing that can change it.
But if you’re thinking this, you’re forgetting (or maybe you don’t know) that our God is able to do more than we could ever imagine.
"Now to Him who is ABLE to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen" (Eph. 3:20-21).
ALL glory to our powerful God!
So, let me leave you with some hope and encouragement. God is loving, kind, and just. His ways are perfect and it’s HIS plans that are concrete…not our own. We can rely on God because He is faithful. We can rely on God because He is the same today, tomorrow, and for eternity. We can, and should, rely on God in everything we do for He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit wrapped up in one; King of kings, Lord of lords, Prince of Peace, the one and only Almighty God. He deserves all praise and all of our love.
If you consider yourself a perfectionist, I empathize with how you’re feeling, and I’ll be praying for each person who reads this blog and struggles with this sin. You are not alone in your battle.
You are loved.
The Next Steps:
God calls us to be intentional with our actions and aware of the temptations around us because our flesh is weak, but the spirit is willing. He then commands us to pray:
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”Matthew 26:41
God calls us to prayin all circumstances and walk humbly with Him:
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24 “The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” Proverbs 15:29
God calls us to confess our sins to Him and to other followers of Christ. We are to walk with other believers, continually pointing them to the Lord, and prayingfor them always. The prayer of a righteous person is powerfuland effective:
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
“Cast all anxiety on him because he cares for you” Peter 5:7
“Am I trying to win the approval of men or God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” Galatians 1:10
“Do not be anxious in anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:6-7
“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” Psalm 18:32
“For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.
Work for the Lord and not men.
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ."Colossians 3:23-24
"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."Galatians 6:9
Ask the Lord to establish the work of your hands.
"Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establishh the work of our hands!" Psalm 90:17
Be fervent in spirit!
"Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord." Romans 12:11
Commit your work to the Lord.
"Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established."Proverbs 16:3
Do not refuse to labor.
"The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor."Proverbs 21:25
1 Timothy 5:8