I’ve been a perfectionist since the day I was born. I remember when I was three years old I set a goal for myself not to do anything “bad” for a whole day. Of course this was completely unrealistic, and day after day I’d be angry at myself for messing up.
I’ve always been scared of failing, and even more scared of other people seeing my failures. Everything that I do is all-or-nothing. If I can’t do something “perfectly,” I’d rather not try at all. I’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities, relationships, and experiences because of the perfectionism trap. Perfectionism paralyzes you, inhibits creativity, and leads to depression and self-condemnation.
Of course we should always strive for excellence, but things get out of hand when excellence becomes an idol and our identity and self-worth are based on how perfectly we achieve our goals.
The Bible has quite a bit to say on this subject…
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
“Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-9)
We aren’t supposed to hide our imperfections from the world and avoid situations that might expose our flaws! Paul says to boast in weakness because that is how we give glory to God—by showing that on our own we are nothing, and it is only the power of God that holds us together.
The truth is that nothing I do will ever be perfect. The truth is that I am extremely flawed, and it’s okay to let people see my mistakes and imperfections. The truth is that I don’t have to be perfect because Jesus was perfect in my place. Everything that I do is for an audience of ONE—an audience that sees all of my flaws but loves me in spite of them.
Day by day I’m learning to surrender my unrealistic expectations for myself. I’m trying new things and stepping out of my comfort zone. I’m learning to stop inhibiting my creativity because I’m afraid to fail or look bad. And I’m so excited to experience life that come with freedom from perfectionism.
Are you being paralyzed by perfectionism? What steps can you take to let go of unrealistic standards and give yourself grace?
“Perfectionism is the prison that will bar you from unfolding into the wide open full life and release.” –Ann Voskamp