When did perfection become the highest honor? And our goal in life to strive to achieve it, despite the costs it requires, and the bitter end it always brings? How did an unattainable state become the standard? The requirement? The minimum?
I fight the urge, almost daily, to answer these questions with a realistic, honest response. I struggle with allowing my need to feel perfect or have everything come together perfectly to triumph over getting things done in a good enough fashion. But shouldn’t that be the original goal? All the time and energy I spend on fruitlessly chasing perfection could be invested in a new project, passion, or pursuit.
How many times I use the excuse “I don’t have the time, the energy, the ______.” Mostly what I don’t have, though, is the ability to do everything perfectly; so instead of acknowledging this proven fact, I decide if I limit my scope of activities or hobbies or roles in life, I can somehow appear to have it more together, becoming closer to the perfection I crave.
The most recent example of this phenomenon in my life is with my career. I feel as though everything should fall into place perfectly while miraculously guiding me to the next best career move. If things don’t seem or feel “perfect,” or if there are some barriers along the way – I immediately become anxious and doubtful about my performance, my abilities, even my original career choice.
I see this in my hobbies as well. Writing is a very enjoyable activity to me; however, I make excuses in place of doing it because it is not a perfected art for me (nor will it every truly be). With that perfectionistic viewpoint, where is the learning, the striving, the invigorating experience with its ups and downs, victories and defeats?
As a wife, daughter, friend, sister, and co-worker – I struggle as well. My people- pleasing nature adds another layer to this already debilitating thought process. Logically, perfection is unattainable; yet why do I feel I need to be the “perfect” wife, friend, sister, or co-worker? What does perfect even look like? Having it all together? Another impossible feat.
When I mull these thoughts over and over in my head – they often feel paralyzing – impeding my next steps, imperfect as they may be. Perfectionism is a lonely state of being, isolating in its remote disillusionment. Yet vulnerability – uttering the dreaded “I’m not fine” – seems like a unattainable feat lingering teasingly just beyond the perfectionist’s grasp.
I’d like to say that I have conquered this, realizing that I am only impeding my own success, freedom, and happiness – but the former would be a lie. The latter I realize, but the practice is harder still. But I’m trying. Trying to be vulnerable, be real, be honest in the struggles, embracing my fears, faults, and failures. Realizing life has so much more to offer than the overwhelming anxiety of not being able to “do it all.”
We are all striving, giving the best of ourselves to others, saving some energy and time for ourself, to recharge, refresh, and refocus — perfectionism has no place here in a world that has so many possibilities to live, learn, experience, grow, fall and get back up again. To be imperfect reveals a need for a Savior, for grace, for healing, for strength in our weakness, for others, for community, for friends and family who love you through it all.
When my thoughts turn toward this futile pursuit, I remember that being good enough is enough. In perfectionism, there are no good days – only days where you just aren’t enough, you’re always less than, always not achieving enough, not succeeding enough, not wife enough, not friend enough, not career oriented enough, not Christian enough…but perfectionism is a liar. There’s no truth there, there’s no freedom. The pursuit of an impossible-to-achieve goal always brings disillusionment and disappointment. That is perfectionism.
Truth says – you are enough.
Truth says – you are good, excellent, and a hard worker.
Truth says – your family and friends love YOU, not a pseudo-perfect idealation.
Truth says – a life lived giving kindness, encouraging freedom, and radiating joy is a life well lived.
Truth says – you are loved, you are more than your accomplishments.
Truth says – you are significant – not because you’re perfect, but because you are you. You have unique talents and gifts you bring to the world, but mainly you bring you.
Because you are enough.
Have you ever struggled with perfectionism? What helps you fight the need to “be perfect”?