I am a closet perfectionist. (Well…not so much of a closet perfectionist anymore since I just confessed my perfectionism to you!) Growing up, I learned to be very performance and achievement oriented. I was the girl with the straight-A report card and the perfect penmanship. I was the girl whose school uniform always met the dress code. I was the girl who always arrived early for appointments.
As I got older, perfectionism became a dead weight. Perfectionism debilitated me. It led me to second guess my thoughts, my actions, my decisions. Then, to overcompensate all this self- doubt, I became a huge people pleaser. People pleasing was my personal insurance against being imperfect. If I ever messed up, then at least the other person would still like me.This vicious cycle became so bad that I feared taking any action for fear I’d do the wrong action. One day, the Holy Spirit stepped in and shared this verse:
“Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?”
(Galatians 3:3, NIV)
Yes, I was foolish. I was trying to work out in my flesh, in my own humanity, what God had already accomplished in me. I had to learn that God doesn’t demand perfection from me. He’s pleased that I move forward. He’s pleased when I make progress, not when I achieve perfection.
“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 3:13b-14, NIV)
I had to sit down and set a new standard for myself. And so (being the rule maker that I am!) I decided that making progress means:
- Rejoicing in the small steps along the way.
- Taking note of what I’m doing right. (Instead of focusing on my faults.)
- Immersing myself in the Word so I can see myself as He sees me.
- Enjoying the journey and not just blindly pursuing the destination.
To keep these four points in mind, I try to spend daily time prayer journaling and reading the Word, but even my quiet time can be a source of religious perfectionism if I’m not mindful. I now see my quiet time as a time of fellowship between friends. I share with Him what’s on my heart, and He corrects, admonishes, encourages me through His word. Each moment that I choose following His Spirit over striving in my flesh is a small victory. It’s not perfection, but it’s progress.
Let’s chat. Do you struggle with perfectionism or the need to please? How are you working to overcome it?