Written by: Amy Dalke
I read an article yesterday, that listed 14 “signs” that one might be a perfectionist.
I was not surprised when I nodded my head with familiarity on numbers 1, 3-7, 9-11, and 13. It doesn’t take a math major to figure out that I struggle fairly big time with perfectionism. The following signs had flashing red lights around them for me: “You might be a perfectionist if….”
- You ever cried when you got 2nd place. (Yes. Just last year.)
- You are a big procrastinator. (Of course I am. What if I start it – but then fail?)
- You know your drive to perfection is actually hurting you, but you consider it the price you pay for success. OUCH.
Wikipedia defines perfectionism as “…a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.”
Who I am I trying to impress? If I have this gut-deep need to be “perfect”, who is keeping my score? Do I allow certain people to go to the polls and cast their vote for my “worthiness”? Who do I ask to approve my acceptability?
Wow. When I think about the areas in which I work so hard to be accepted…that list gets long quickly. I don’t like that.
You may think this is nuts, but sometimes, I get overwhelmed when I go into Pier One, or Crate & Barrel or Anthropologie. The reason? Because my “less-than” button gets pushed, and I start to feel like my home doesn’t quite measure up to the expected perfection. Seriously, people. It’s not like I have been contacted to have my home be the set location of a new show on HGTV. Five out of seven days in a week, there are, on average, only three to four non-family members who walk within the walls of our home at any given time. So whose approval am I seeking?
Not sure I even want to talk publicly about the perfectionism issues I have in my business/work-life. Suffice it to say (for now) that work tends to draw out the psycho-drive-for-perfect in me. That reference to crying in #2 (above)? Oh, indeed. That was me. Not an easy thing for a 36-year old to admit, because who likes a crybaby?
In my line of work, we are hyper-focused on revenue generation. How much did you bill this month? How much for the year? What have you done for me lately? This is all great…until it starts to define who you are. Competition is not evil; and striving to do your best is an excellent value. The issue is when being the best becomes an obsession. You might quickly find that when you aren’t setting records, you start to believe you aren’t good enough.
Our physical appearance is also affected by the monster of perfectionism, isn’t it? (Oh boy. Story of My Life. I could write a novel on this issue.) Have you ever had a bad day, just because you didn’t like your hair? Or your outfit? I plan to talk about this perfect outward appearance issue in more detail in a future post, so stick around for that one.
Perfectionism is lonely. It doesn’t really make a lot of room for friends…because perfectionism is a JOB. Of course, people who strive for “perfect” do have friends…but many of us miss out on real friendship, because we don’t allow people to see our imperfect pieces. If I show you who I really am (way imperfect), then you may not love me. And I want you to love me.
Don’t you want to be real, and laugh, and have fun and just “be”…without the facade or the mask?
I long to remove all the pretentious props I set up around myself (for your approval…for their approval!!) and to be loved just as I am, with no additional enhancements. Don’t you?
Sigh. I hope that you read this and have no idea what I am talking about.
What would it be like to live free from care, to be completely me…without that plastic outer layer of perfection? Wouldn’t my life be full of joy, absent the mad rush to sustain the appearance of “perfectly-put-together”? How free would the days be, if the stress of keeping up with The Perfect Mom and The Perfect Employee and The Perfect Christian was swept away?
So….do we just keep on, keeping on with our crazy-making, all-or-nothing, go-big-or-go-home mind sets? Nope. Here’s why. God’s Word tells us all over the place that we can’t perfect ourselves. We are utterly helpless and hapless without grace. All of our own “good” is actually filth…and we cannot work or wiggle our way into an eternity in heaven by “being good enough”. More than that- life is no fun when we try so hard to earn something we can only receive by grace alone.
The Apostle Paul is my favorite. He gets me. He understood the drive to cite a perfect resume when qualifications could be perceived as important. He had an achievement mentality, yet over and over, he talked about GRACE.
Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians that Christ has set us free, so that we could live a free life! Seems a bit obvious, does it not? If he came to set us free, then why would we allow ourselves to live with a yoke of slavery? Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
He also asks the Galatians (in chapter 1, verse 10) if they were trying to win the favor (approval) of God or of men. If they were trying to win a popularity contest, then they are not servants of Christ…because they are enslaved by the opinions of other people. Double Ouch.
I know that I want to live free from that awkward perfectionistic chokehold.
Do you struggle with perfectionism? How is that working for you?
(Hint: it’s probably not- and that’s okay. You and I can be good friends.)
Your Monday Mess,