This topic can be sensitive for some, but worth addressing. I, Bryanna, have struggled with perfectionism nearly my whole life.
It began as a young child and intensified in my teenage years. It fueled my ambition to have perfect grades, straight A’s, academic scholarships, admittance into higher ranked schools, fast track programs, graduating college in three years, with honors, instead of four, and then finishing my Master’s while working full time and eventually having our first child. I thought I just had to be perfect, and when I messed up just a little, or got my first B+ in college it wrecked me. And ultimately only made me push harder. Because what would people think…
It was because of this misconception of having to perform at a high level in everything I did in order to obtain the unobtainable: perfection, that my life went spiraling out of control. I had to live up to everyone’s expectations. I couldn’t fail. Maybe it was being a middle child, I felt I had to prove myself. My life had to be perfect, but once I was married I realized quite quickly “perfection” was not going to happen. And then comes children, and you realize this continual push to have everything go “perfectly” only causes bitterness, anger, disappointment and ultimately mental health issues. Let’s face it there is no perfect with children, instead it’s a joyful mess most of the time.
Unfortunately perfectionism took hold. Having children definitely changed me. My uptight, planned, rigid life was interrupted and I found myself loosening a little bit. Thank God. I found myself less irritated when my plans were interrupted or life wasn’t perfect. Or the house not spit spotless and the laundry all put away. Less irritated when a child made me late because they just pooped through their diaper and all over right before we left the house. I had this sense of joy and peace after having my second child. I gave it all to Jesus and knew that “perfect” wasn’t realistic and who cares if the dishes didn’t get down before bed. I could chose to do everything I did with excellence, which meant some days the laundry wouldn’t get done or a healthy meal wouldn’t be made. Excellence provided the freedom I needed.
Fast forward a few more years and two more kids, now totally four kids, and I found myself stressed, depressed, battling mental health and those little demons that I had tried to hide for years. Those little demons bringing the lies I just wasn’t good enough. Those little triggers.
I realized I hadn’t really released it all to God. There were some things I just couldn’t let go of. My fear of man. Fear of failure. Fear of not performing high enough. Not doing enough. It fueled my perfectionism again. And expectations couldn’t be met, thus my mental health suffered and depression was inevitable. Was I really enough…….
I thought that my value and worth as a daughter, wife, mother, friend and sister was dependent on how I performed. “Did I do enough today? Was I doing enough? Maybe I need to do more tomorrow? If I say no they might be disappointed with me. They might think less of me. They might think I can’t do it all. That I am failing and not being the wife or mother I should be. I have to keep 10 jobs. I can’t ask for help or they’ll think I’m not capable. Maybe if I just did a few more chores before bed. Maybe if I added another side job. Maybe if I worked a little longer. Maybe if I ran a little faster. Maybe if I won this race………”
You can see how easily it spirals and how negative life becomes. How easily joy is robbed and guilt takes over. How comparison starts. How perfectionism begins. Having a spirit of perfectionism depletes you, tears you down and ruins you. You can never quite live up to the expectations. You can never quite reach it. You’re just never quite good enough. Maybe this is why Paul wrote, “Each time He said (speaking of God) ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. We need HIM!! Our weaknesses are reasons to boast – it reminds us how much we do need HIM!
I challenge you to ditch perfectionism and try excellence. Living a life of excellence produces room to fail and mess up, and have God pick up the pieces. It allows room for Him to move in our lives, us to grow and feel empowered. It allows Him to work it all out for good. We live with purpose, kingdom purpose. We stop trying to prove ourselves and out perform the next person. We stop striving for man’s approval, and start living for Him. Doing it not unto man but unto Him.
We realize we have flaws and weaknesses but we are still triumphant because we are created in His image. We feel a freedom, because we know we don’t have to be perfect and He’ll love us anyway. We were fearfully and wonderfully made and we didn’t have to “do” anything. We are chosen by Him. It’s nothing about “do” but all about “be.” We are already chosen, already loved and already fearfully and wonderfully made. All He wants us to do is “BE.” Be with Him, be His, be in His presence, be chosen, be loved.
We each have a purpose, it says so in 1 Peter 2:9. We are each noticed by Him, it says so in Psalms 139. We are so loved – it says this repeatedly in scripture. There is nothing we can do to earn His love. He already loved us, from the foundations of the earth. This truth brings healing and freedom.
I know that with His excellence working through me, I can do great things. I can overcome all. I will persevere to the end. To excel means you are proficient in a skill. It doesn’t say many skills or all skills. Excellence in Hebrew is “metzuyan” and means “marked, noted, exceptional, wonderful.” God has marked us. He has noted us. He has created us wonderfully. Excellence is at our very core.
He never said we were perfectly made, because excellence is so much better. Perfect seems to be the counterfeit to excellence, a lie the enemy has created and a lie so many of us believe. The lie that this “do more” mentality is where we find our inner peace, our value, our worth and our perfection. This is so far from the truth. Colossians 3:23 provides the truth we need “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Excellence gives us peace, because it becomes about our hearts posture. Do we do it unto Him? Did we do it with a cheerful heart? Did we focus entirely on Him and not man? Changing diapers is much more fulfilling when your hearts posture changes about it. And when you know God says “I see you changing diapers. I see you caring for your kids. You are worthy. I chose you for them. Look at how amazing you are.”
Remember our weaknesses become strength through Him. He sees our struggles and He equips us for them. He says “come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” – Matthew 11:28. Thank goodness we are not created to do this life alone and we don’t have to. He sees those silent tears and hears the silent cries and prayers. He will equip you for all He’s called you to do. He will provide the grace needed.
Find peace and hope today that He made you in excellence and knows you. That whatever it is you do, even if it’s wiping butts and folding endless piles of laundry, is noticed by Him and He sees your hearts posture. We don’t do it for the applause of our spouses or children or family or friends, but for Him. And He says “Well done!” He says just “be” not “do.” Be mine. Strive for excellence and ditch perfectionism – your mental health will thank you!
Until Next Time Be Whole and Be fit