The Life & Confessions of a Perfectionist on the Mend
I’m not sure if it’s in my genetic make-up or simply learned behavior, but for some reason I have always struggled with being a perfectionist. I was never pressured to be perfect, it was just always something I aimed for.
When I was young, I made straight A’s in school. My projects and homework were always neat and organized. As I got older, these behaviors progressed. My house, my kids, my projects, my work…. everything had to be perfect. I was striving constantly to be the perfect everything to everyone. I lived with constant fear of letting others down, especially myself.
I did everything a certain way, checked and re-checked, started over many times until whatever I was doing was acceptable to me, and put unrealistic expectations on myself. Looking back, it was exhausting.
I’ve always known personally that I am not perfect in any way, shape or form and that no matter what, I would never be able to achieve perfection. I have also known that the Bible is clear about our inability to achieve perfection in Romans 3:23: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
So, knowing what I have always known, why did I always strive for perfection? It's hard to explain the feelings. Perhaps my actions were based on fears that I somehow wouldn’t measure up - to whom, I have no idea. I was constantly searching for a way to make everyone see that I had it all together and that I could do anything.
Being a perfectionist has had some negative affects on my life. It wasn’t that everything had to be my way or that I had to control everything, but in my mind, I felt that there was a right way and a wrong way to do things.
Because of this way of thinking, I became critical of others who didn’t see things the way I saw them. There was never any ill-intent in my actions but I’m sure I upset people and hurt some feelings along the way.
I didn’t have some great revelation about how being a perfectionist was literally draining me; I think I somehow grew to deal with my feelings a different way. I won’t sugarcoat it, it has taken me years to get where I am now.
Yes, I still want my house in order and the things I do to meet certain standards that I set for myself, but I no longer worry as much about it. Honestly, getting to this point came with a lot of praying and realizing I can never be perfect. The one and only perfect person is Jesus. Period. No matter what I do, right or wrong, God loves me, my husband loves me, my kids love me and my family and friends love me… for who I am.
The Struggle is Real
If you are a perfectionist, you will know exactly what I am talking about when I say the struggle is real. Here are some examples of how I have felt as a perfectionist. Maybe you can relate:
Starting Things Over
I cannot tell you how many times I have rewritten notes because I didn’t like my handwriting, ripped out sewing stitches because ONE stitch was out of place, ironed the same shirt 3 times because the wrinkles weren’t completely gone, vacuumed the floors over and over because they weren’t clean enough....the list goes on. Seriously, it’s madness!
Taking Things Personally
Yep, always. You work really hard on something and ask for your partner’s opinion and the opinion wasn’t what you were looking for. That cuts very deeply for the perfectionist. It takes a long time to get over the fact that what you presented needed even more work than what you put into it.
This was a tough one for me, and honestly it still is at times. For example, when I ask for help with something from my husband or kids and they don’t do it that way I would do it, how I expect it to be done, or in the time frame I would like, I get upset. This is a work in progress for me constantly.
Beating Yourself Up For Not Doing a “Better” Job
This is the perfectionist’s biggest downfall. We are our own worst critic. I used to do a really good job of beating myself up for things simply because whatever I was doing didn't meet my own standards. I am learning every day that it’s OK to be less than perfect because I will NEVER be perfect.
Always Busy With No Time To Relax
I still have trouble relaxing to a certain extent. I am always busy doing something, but now I do take time to just stop what I am doing for a little bit and do something relaxing. My mind may still be going a mile a minute, but I am improving everyday with this one.
Failure Is NOT An Option
For the perfectionist, success and meeting demanding standards are paramount. However, over the years, I have learned that failure, in fact, IS an option sometimes. I know now that without failures there would be no lessons and nothing to take away.
It has been in my failures that I have made positive changes and learned to look for the lessons with each failure. Sometimes it's hard to admit failure, but it's so important for personal growth.
Over-Thinking And Over-Analyzing Everything
This goes without saying for the perfectionist. Perfectionists believe that there is always a better way to do things, and then spend countless hours trying to figure out what that better way is.
This is also true with certain interactions and situations. The perfectionist ponders whether or not she said the right or wrong thing, all while analyzing the other person's reactions.
It’s hard to accept that things can be just okay. It takes a while for the perfectionist to get to the point where she can accept this fact.
Trust me, this list is just the tip of the iceberg. I could list more traits and feelings of what a perfectionist goes through on a daily basis, but now that I am a “reformed” perfectionist, I am going to leave the list where it is. (Believe me, this is a big step for me!!)
How I Have Reformed My Thinking
I wish I had some fabulous insight on how to snap your fingers and stop the madness called perfectionism; but sadly, I don’t. What I do know is that when you start to realize that no matter what you do, you can NEVER be perfect, your mindset begins to change. The best thing to do is to pray about it.
Yes, it is a conscious choice to change the way you think and act. When I feel the urge to make things as perfect as possible, I ask myself this question: In the grand scheme of things, does this (whatever it is) TRULY matter? Most of the time, whatever it is truly DOESN’T matter.
What I have learned is that I cannot control some situations, but I can control the way I respond to them. What DOES matters is time with my family, having fun, enjoying the little things, appreciating what is right in front of me and being thankful for the blessings that God has given to me.
I won’t lie and say that I am happy with myself every single day because I am not. I am a work in progress. I pray for strength every day to let things go. Remember, perfection is unattainable; however, happiness with what actually exists in your life IS attainable.