Perfection — we can’t run away from it.
Most days, after a long day at work, I pat myself on the back and whisper, “You did good girl,” still the voice in my head says, “You could have done better.” Where did this deadly trait of perfectionism come from? Why when I acknowledge my successes, another voice stronger than my own discredits it?
I believe this voice of doubt and criticism stemmed from our parents. After all they were the first influence who shaped and affected our self esteem, self worth and self image. With their encouraging words such as “You can always do better” or “Work harder, you will do better,” our parents unknowingly nurtured the spirit of perfection into our psyche, with the intention of simple motivation. Do good intentions lead to hell? Maybe. And is anything ever simple these days? Few.
Perfection, it is a double edged sword — on one edge we strive to achieve a lot and on the other edge we are never happy with what we achieve.
How many of us have worked our hardest at our jobs, went the extra miles to attain our goals, executed new projects to save our families, friends and communities, only to be faced with dissatisfaction? If you are anything like me you have berated yourself mercilessly for an unmet unrealistic standard. And how many of us have sacrificed our relationships to be a ‘better person’? How many of us despite our many achievements still feel like we have not achieved enough? And what IS enough (that’s another post).
Perfection. No one truly believes that they can be perfect but most of us subtly try to achieve it, despite the known truth. Dr. Steve Stephens says, “Perfectionists strive for the unattainable. They need to be first or best and try never to make a mistake, which they see as a sign of failure and unworthiness. Because of this, perfectionists are rarely happy. They frequently slip into depression and are often disappointed. Sometimes they’re so worn out by their own expectations that they fail to do anything at all.”(p. 48) “At the heart of perfectionism is fear – fear of making a mistake and being judged, fear of failure and rejection….At an even deeper level, perfectionism reveals a lack of faith. In a sense, perfectionism is really a way of playing God with our own lives. Instead of trusting God to keep His promise to redeem us and mature us, instead of walking in obedience, we try to preempt His work and get is right without His help.” (p.49) When the blows of perfection sting I turn to 2 Corinthians 12:9 which states, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” That scripture reminds me that God delights to make us strong in our weakness and secure in His grace. Sometimes we have to allow ourselves to fail so that we can be free from the bondage of fear and be led upon a new path with God to discover a more content, redeemed person within.
If you want to be free from the fear of failure and free from depression, dissatisfaction and the deadly spirit of perfection, why not say this prayer, “Dear Father, I come before you humbly asking you for forgiveness. Lord, in an effort to live my best life NOW, I work so hard to “get it right”. I focus on my power, my efforts, and my strength and disregard Yours. Please restore me and increase my faith in Your wisdom and power. I ask that your redemptive power transform my perfectionist-focused heart to an obedient, humble and faithful heart. Hear my humble prayer if it is your will. Amen.”
(c) 2013, Dentrecia Blanchette