I’ve never been a “house” perfectionist, so to speak. I usually have piles of mail on my counters and a dish full of to-be-washed dishes. But I’ve been a eating and fitness perfectionist. I’m laughing as I write this because if you saw me or had dinner with me you’d shake your head. I’ve been a perfectionist in that there is something inside me that says if you can’t do it with near perfection, you shouldn’t do it at all.
You can’t get a full hour of cardio in? You shouldn’t even go to the gym. You ate a little too much over breakfast? Well there goes the rest of the day — might as well be a free-for-all.
I know this is wrong. So I admit I’m a secret perfectionist. A perfectionist-on-the-sly. It bleeds over into the way I expect my kids to act in public and what I think my home should look like when friends come to visit.
There is something in this culture that expects, or even demands, perfectionism.
We hover around Pinterest pins and images of perfect people and homes in magazines and we fill our eyes with the way a perfect family looks. We wonder if ours will ever look like that.
Maybe we even look at other bloggers and wonder why we don’t have the eye for style or the ease at conversation like she does.
Why don’t my kids behave like her kids?
Why does there always seem to be a pile of mail on my counter?
Why are there always little tiny legos in each corner of my house?
Why can’t I get my frustration or eating or laundry under control?
When we fail, we often blame ourselves for not being strong enough or wise enough or a hardy-enough Christ follower. Sometimes we think we aren’t a good enough mother, even.
Do you know what perfectionism is in reality?
When the rule becomes more important than the relationship? That’s legalism. When the why of the rule is lost because the keeping of the rule wins out? That’s legalism.
The struggle of the perfectionist isn’t necessarily being “hard on herself.” I think it goes one step beyond that. Perfectionism is a form of self-legalism in which we impose unhealthy and unrealistic rules on our own selves. When we don’t meet up to those standards? We punish ourselves with feelings of not being good enough and feelings of failure.
Perfect is a fallacy. There isn’t such a thing. And when we hold on to that idea of “perfect” we hold on to something that isn’t real and we try to control everything around us to make sure that happens.
Steinbeck wrote in East of Eden, “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
Even Jesus doesn’t expect perfect from us, yet we somehow twist our Christian lives around it to think He does. His whole message is that we can’t be perfect and that He came to help us in our imperfection.
Only in recent months have I been able to wrap my brain around a more healthy view of self-care. Meaning, I’m choosing healthy foods without having to have a perfect food log. I’m exercising even if I only have 20 minutes. I’m still lacing up my Nikes and getting out there.
I’m admitting my humanity, it seems, on a daily basis. And in that, I’m releasing myself more and more into daily grace.
Are you a perfectionist? Do you have trouble with feeling like a failure when you aren’t perfect?
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I'm the mother of two little girls, the wife of an amazing husband who'd rather play the guitar than anything else and I love to write. I spend my weekends watching my daughters ride horses and play...