Allow me to introduce you to Allison. I won’t reveal her age, but she hasn’t looked a minute over 23 in at least a decade. Even by Hollywood’s standards, she’s a knockout. Her nail polish doesn’t chip, her mascara doesn’t run, and her skin doesn’t wrinkle.
Allison is wicked-smart, and she never loses her cool — not even during rush hour. She also knows exactly what to say during life’s most challenging moments. Her words of wisdom come with buttery blueberry muffins and chocolate chip cookies, which she bakes from scratch and personally delivers with a handwritten note.
When she’s alone in her house, Allison remains perfect. She drinks eight glasses of water a day, eats nutritious meals, and never misses a workout. She wakes up at 4:30 every morning and spends an hour reading her Bible and another hour praying for the needs of every person she knows. Cuss words and slanderous speech have never entered her mind, much less come out of her mouth.
In short, Allison is a woman who has it ALL together ALL the time.
She’s also completely made up.
Several years back, armed with a warped understanding of what it meant to be a Proverbs 31 woman, I pursued perfection. Then I had a nervous breakdown. (I didn’t make that part up.)
My twenties looked like this:
When I earned a 99% on a huge college project, I didn’t celebrate. Instead I cried because I didn’t earn 100%.
When the arrow on my scale stopped a few dots above my usual number, I panicked and drastically reduced my caloric intake to a dangerously low level.
I’d walk out of my apartment feeling confident and pretty, only to hate myself minutes later when I saw a woman who looked flawless.
I felt insanely jealous of Gwyneth Paltrow when I read a magazine article deeming her the “It Girl.”
The Gwyneth article also confirmed my suspicion that perfection was possible if I just worked harder.
So I kept working harder. And I kept failing.
My thirties looked like this:
I became a mother, and my drive to have it all accelerated faster than Wonder Woman’s invisible plane.
Even though I had a rare medical condition that made breastfeeding excruciating (even hours after I fed my daughter) and affected my ability to function, I refused to consider formula.
If my kitchen floors and counters didn’t gleam within an hour after I served dinner, I felt like a failure.
I refused to wear shorts — even when I lived in southwest Texas — because I feared someone would notice my dimpled thighs.
I could keep going, but you’re probably exhausted by now.
It took many pain-filled, soul-tiring years for me to understand that my lifestyle was undoing me and my family.
Desperate to live an error-free life so I could feel I was worth something, I unknowingly clawed apart the woman I was meant to be.
After a second baby and another move across the country, my anxiety — and my yearning to be enough — screamed that everyone I loved would be better off if I stopped sucking up oxygen.
To be fair, not every woman who strives to be an “It Girl” entertains dark thoughts. My quest for perfection wasn’t the only demon I fought back then, but it added fuel to the fire that nearly guzzled my spirit barren.
I share this part of my story now because I want you to know that you don’t need to fall into a pit dug by the grandiose lie of perfectionism. And if you’re already in that pit, I’m here to tell you there is a way out.
You don’t need to have it all together.
You don’t need to almost have it all together, either.
In fact, it’s absolutely 100% OK if you’re a wreck some days. Because you weren’t created to have it all together this side of heaven.
I know it’s hard to loosen your grip once you’re convinced something you’ve latched on to is what you need for survival, but here is something that might help. It helped me.
- Find someplace quiet and block out all images, advertisements, and slogans that tell you who you should be.
- Search your heart and ask God to reveal one core lie that you believe about yourself … the lie that birthed your quest for perfection. (Mine was “I am unwanted.”)
- Next, replace that lie with truth. For me, I needed to write: “I am wanted. My heavenly Father wanted me, and He created me to be in relationship with Him and those He places around me.” If you’d like, you can write in the comments the lie that weighs on you — along with the truth you are going to use to replace it.
- Finally, read Psalm 139. Let each word pour over your worn and broken pieces until you believe that you were placed in this world at this time by the One who does have it all together … by the Almighty hand of God who cannot make mistakes.
Ifeoma Samuel says
I love this Angela.
“This is No Perfect Life but only Perfect Lies”.
Thank you so much God’s word says we are complete him who he is the head of all principalities.
God makes us whole. We feel and know our wholeness and completeness is in God alone.
God Bless you Angela.
Angela Nazworth says
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
While going through some boxes in the attic, I came upon an article from my old college newspaper with pictures of the women (myself included) who were up for voting for who would be crowned “Women of the Year” for my college. I read the lengthy list of all the organizations that I held leadership roles in and all the honorary societies I belonged to all listed under a picture of a fresh faced all-American girl. One would think I had it all together, but the truth was more like what you described…inside I was a massive ball of insecurities. I had bought into the lie that in order to be worthy, I had to earn it. By my early thirties I had accumulated such a resume that I literally, like you, came apart at the seams. Like you shared, learning to insert the TRUTH where lies had held sway for so long, became the truth that set me free. Perfectionism is a nasty, legalistic game. Thank you so much for sharing your story in hopes that others will see themselves and be convicted by the truth that lies in Psalm 139 and that fact that God loves us just as we are!
Angela Nazworth says
Oh Bev, we definitely share a path on our journey. Thank you for being so faithful in sharing your beautiful heart with us in the comment section. You encourage so many.
Melanie Vanlaningham says
Perfectionism tore me up and broke me down many years ago throwing me into severe depression after having my second child. It was a very hard time. Years later I experienced healing from my depression while participating in a worship conference. I’d like to say I’m living a “happily ever after” story but a change in my work environment had me back in my perfectionist need and it led me right back to the depression. I do have a few more tools in my life to fight back the lies but I can say it’s more than exhausting. I don’t know which lie has been the catalyst but am ready to pray about it and listen for God’s voice to wash it away. Praying for all who have fought and are currently fighting this battle. The enemy likes to keep us running in circles and I would really like to get off this merry-go-round of insecurity. Thanks for sharing and for the action plan. I’m ready to get started.
Powerful truth and honesty and writing here Angela. Thank you for letting us into part of your journey and sharing a peek at the dangers and lies that we women sometimes believe – and the powerful reminder that there is freedom in Christ. This is so so good.
I too Angela am a recovering perfectionist. Ann Voskamp wrote just yesterday about the paralysis of perfectionism. I thank God today that I can rest in knowing in my imperfection, His grace abounds. And when I am tempted to be overly critical of myself with the perfectionist monster rearing its head, I turn my eyes to Jesus.
Tina Joy Cochran says
Thank you this excellent post. I too have lived this life and know how deadly it can be to your soul. I am still amazed at the power of God’s love that saved me and still carries me through the battle. Thank you for sharing what others will never tell. You are a blessing.
As a twentysomething, I totally understand how you described that season of your life, and even some aspects of your thirties. I am used to being one of those people who looks like they have it all together. Thankful for the authenticity I find here every day.
Last night I was thinking of my identity in Christ and the scripture “you are fearfully and wonderfully made” popped to mind. Then this morning I click on this story and there’s the same scripture to greet my day!!
It’s crazy the lies that we come to believe about ourselves and the roles we must play, isn’t it? Lord knows I’ve been a victim of my own idea of perfection before. But there is freedom to be found in Christ, and I pray that we all may come to know that freedom in indescribable ways in order to be the women of God He designed us to be.
I think this is something every woman struggles with. It is comforting to know that we are enough through Him. Now to just convince myself that I am enough and let those perfectionist tendencies go.
Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says
Yes, yes, yes! (And thank you, thank you, thank you!) I think most women struggle with this at some level. I certainly do. I’m not sure which is worse – comparing myself to some made-up woman who has my face but does everything right, or to people I actually know and assume are “better” than they truly are. Either way, it’s dangerous and foolish – and I’m thankful for your reminder to JUST QUIT IT. I’m not nearly as susceptible to this as I used to be, but I have actually been beating myself up quite a bit the past few days, so this was perfect timing. Thank you, friend.
If you were to say this was me months ago, I’d (sincerely) say “no, I’m not trying to be perfect. Why would you say that? Is there something I’m not doing right? I’m doing the best I can!?” It’s only been in recent months, through “being still” that I’ve asked God to search me, that I’ve heard the words “selfish” and “controlling”… I thought, what, me?! I genuinely and humbly (so I thought) wanted God’s will for my life. I thought I knew in which areas I needed to work on, and that I was trying my best. I was active in trying to change my life! What more could I do?! & there it was! I truly started to see that I wasn’t “letting” God do anything.. I was “trying” to be perfect, control, and selfishly believing that I just needed to do everything the right way. I repeat to myself often “my thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways Lord!” He never fails & when we truly let go, it’s beyond amazing what he will do in our lives!! Thank you for sharing your story!!
After years of my father telling me I was worthless, I believed it fully. I spent many years tring to make myself worthwhile and working for perfection – especially in my spiritual life. If my earthly father deemed me worthless, didn’t my heavenly father think so too? I am not in my 20s or 30s – I am way beyond those now. Finally, a bout with cancer helped me turn it all over – I had no choice (I don’t recommend this method – but God uses what he needs to!). Now I hurt inside with you to read stories like this. I now realize how many years I wasted what God made me to be to try and be what I THOUGHT I should be (like I know better!). How many opportunities did I miss because I was looking down and not up? The evil one does a nice job of paralyzing us with whatever it takes – and for women, it is to strive after some impossible version of perfectionism while we knock each down. In Christ is peace and love and acceptance. That’s all we need and I pray this peace for each of you.
I felt same way like you did. At twelve I was 5 ft 8 in. Very tall compared to my peers I just felt never fit in at school, parties and socially. My self esteem just was very low As I grew to a young teen I was told by my father to research and see what could be physically done to acheive a better feminine figure. My mom size double D and my grandma an A-. Well I turned out an A- just like my dad’s mom! Was that not ok? I felt worthless not accepted.
It sure was when I met Jesus my true DAD 🙂 He is the light and my inspiration.
Wish I would have known this to stop ahead with plastic surgery and not try to continue to be perfect physically because we were made perfect my dears just as God intending us to be but unfortunate some folks never got that. I now am free and liberated to be just me as God originally made me and am fine with that. Because God made us beautiful no matter what. Its been a long journey but have found peace and joy.
Thank you for your bravery in sharing your personal struggles with perfection. I’m 30, and I see me in this post. I believe that this struggle, like most, is something that won’t ever go away this side of heaven. Not to sound pessimistic, because I do believe in the power of God to free us from our burdens, BUT we live in a cursed world. These issues won’t ever completely go away. We are not yet perfected & glorified as we WILL be in heaven. That is where I lay my hope. I don’t anticipate this battle ever leaving. But what I can hold on to is that one day I will be with my heavenly Father and I can rest and not strive to “be enough” anymore. There will be no more sin in heaven and I praise God for that.
Thank you. I was encouraged by this today. Currently struggling with how I don’t measure up, especially after surviving a dark season in my life. Thankfully, there is freedom in Christ. God bless you.
Angela, this is beautiful and true. There is perfection in the imperfect. You are an amazing woman. Thank you for sharing.
Nancy Ruegg says
From the number of comments already affirming the commonality of perfectionism, I’d say you’ve hit an important nerve! I greatly appreciate your “Steps to Recovery” at the end, and plan to journal them. Thank you, Angela, for your honesty and the important reminder that our God does not make mistakes!
Thank you for your words.
And you ARE beautiful, you know that, right?
What a wonderful post on something I’m sure all of us struggle with at some point during our life. We all know we need to extend grace to others, maybe we need to extend it to ourselves too…. Thanks
Mabel kirkes says
Wonderful hit home for me today.
Thank yu for shareing.
Jeanne Takenaka says
Angela, what a story of hope yours is! And your steps at the end? Perfect. Thanks for sharing so vulnerably. And I agree with the commenter above. You are beautiful–inside and out.
I, too, strived for perfect because I thought that then, I would finally be worthy of notice, of acceptance. I dealt with peer rejection as a girl. Mean words, being spit upon all led me to believe I wasn’t worth hanging out with. I still struggle with this lie sometimes. Thinking that, if people really got to know me, they’d think I was less than who they thought I was and stop being my friend.
Psalm 139 is one of my favorites. I’ll be meditating on this post, and that psalm today.
Wowwwwww, this has truly encouraged me today! This article the comments, I am in in awe of how God can take the light of one person sharing their struggle and use that to illuminate the dark places in others. It’s like finally hearing the truth when the enemy has been in your ear the whole time telling you, you’re the one only one. No one else feels that way. There’s something wrong with you. If you tell, the people will really think you’re crazy, and you’ll be even more alone. LIES!!! Thank God for you today and for sharing your truth!
My lie was that no one wanted to keep me. As a child, as a friend, in a relationship. Oh I could stick around if I made myself useful. And that set me in a 30 year course of never being who God called me to be, just being what I thought was expected of me so that someone, anyone, would WANT to keep me. But the devil is a liar. My truth is Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. So anytime I have a thought or feeling that matches up with the lie, and not the truth? I know exactly where it came from.
And I return it to the sender!
When I sat down this evening to respond one by one to all of these heartfelt comments, my computer “snapped” …it is humming, but the screen is dead … And sadly I am unable to reply to comments individually via my iPhone, so I do hope my blanket response will suffice. You
First, hugs to everyone who can relate. I wish I could hug you for real. Because we all are each other’s keepers. So many of our feelings mirror those of other women because we all hear the same lies by the same liar.
Priscilla – you know what … I finally can look at you, smile and say with a humble heart ” I do know I am beautiful. Thank you so much for seeing that beauty in me and taking the time to tell me. And you know you’re bea too, right? Because you are a gorgeous masterpiece ” 🙂
Sharon- I am praying for you. So thankful God has restored your heart, praying There will be healing in your body.
Melanie, Jeanne and Emiko … Ladies … Your stories … They are so much like mine that I cried when I read them. I cried with sadness for the little girls who were mistreated and I cried happy tears over the beauty that sprung from those ashes.
So so thankful for the Bringer of truth. Love to you are. And please forgive me if I didn’t mention you by name … I prayed over each of you who left a comment.
And please forgive those typos brought to you by autocorrect. I almost deleted the comment above so I could try again and post an error-free version, but I felt that would be disingenuous given the subject matter of this post.
If we are to be “like” Christ, we must remember just that. We are not the perfection He was and is and evermore shall be until He comes again and brings us home to the mansions He has prepared for us. I say this as a recovering perfectionist myself and want to let you know that every word of what you originally typed was “Perfectly” understood in its imperfection by God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. GOD makes perfect what is imperfect. Funny how that works!
Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30.
When the yoke is hard and our burden is overwhelming, this truth shines like a neon light to destroy the darkness put in our minds by satan. “Jesus is gonna fix it…after awhile” (a song we sing often at our worship services)!
As Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:8: “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.”
Replacing a life of perfection-seeking here on earth with the pursuit of living a life “like” Christ by loving God completely, loving yourself as a work in progress and loving others in the same way is the embodiment of the greatest commandments we are Commanded (not asked or suggested) to do, BY Christ.
Jesus said to one of the Pharisees who asked: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
That is enough for us to put our faith and hope in to accomplish by the grace of God.
I hope this has been helpful to you and other readers here as a fellow journeyer to that destination where the prize IS Perfection from God in His Heavenly Eternity and the ONLY Way to get it!
Beautiful truth! Christ is our “It Guy” and the only perfection we need. Thank you for your vulnerability and courage to share how the Father worked to draw you to Him…to rest. All my illusions and dreams for motherhood and marriage were shattered as well…and praise Him that He allows us to fall into His arms as we realize WE are not enough, but He is. Jesus covers us with His perfection– and we will never have it all together. What rest that brings to my soul.
Kathy @ In Quiet Places says
This is a beautiful post that I know God is using to encourage others. I wanted to say this yesterday but had an emergency with our cat (thankfully turned out ok) and wanted to come back today and say your words on this subject are so needed. I personally haven’t walked the road of perfectionism, but like every female on the planet I have struggled with not feeling good enough. It always comes back to seeing ourselves as God sees us and knowing He loves us and that changes everything. For the better!
The core lie that Satan has fed me for years is that my worth is based on my outward appearance; the way I look, the friends I have, the clothes I wear. I am constantly looking at other girls and thinking, “Their hair is nicer than mine, their clothes are more stylish, their eyelashes are so much longer and fuller”…you name it, I’ve thought it! I struggle with low self esteem and anxiety because I am not living up to what my definition of “worth” is. I am replacing this lie with the truth- My worth is NOT based on anything material. it is NOT based on how perfect I can make myself look. It is NOT based on how many people like me. My worth is priceless because I am fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator of the Universe. He doesn’t make mistakes, therefore anything I perceive about myself to be a mistake is an insult to the One who formed me in my mother’s womb. My worth was determined when Jesus died for me. Thank you for this reminder!
Beth Williams says
Thank you for listening to God and opening up a very private part of your life to us. God bless you for saying what so many have felt!!!
My lie has always been “not pretty, good enough, smart enough”. I was born with a perforated tympanic membrane (hole in the ear drum) thus making it hard to hear good. My right ear got corrected quickly after surgery, but the left one did not. This plus a speech problem had me very shy in HS. I didn’t join clubs, go to dances or hardly speak to anyone. It wasn’t till years later that I broke out of the mold and became more talkative. Now many years later my left ear has healed.
I still have days when I feel not good enough, smart enough, etc. I know better and am constantly told by my hubby and others that I am beautiful, smart and loving.
I pray all of you will listen to God and not the lies of the enemy. He loved you enough to form you and most importantly Leave Heaven and die on a cross for you!
Jennifer Kostick says
This is exactly what so many women need to hear, including myself. It’s beautiful truth and powerful encouragement. Thanks for this, Angela!
Kelly Balarie says
Great words. Perfection totally steals the identity that God gave us. I relate.
Awesome post…..it spoke truth and I can relate.
Adessa John says
Wonderful article. Just what I needed.
#1 Gram says
Years ago God gave me Psalm 139, had me stand in front of the mirror looking at each part of my body and noticing how awesome He had woven me together. God bless you!
Belinda Van Rensburg says
Thanks so much loved it.May God Bless us all.:))
Belinda Van Rensburg says
Blessings to all remain true to God.
Boy, did I really need this today! Sometimes I freak out because I don’t have it ALL together! I love the “search your heart” part toward the end. This is something I DEFINITELY need to do. Thank you for writing this!
Thank you for your honesty and the freeing words you have spoken to me. How sad that most women have that feeling of inferiority deep within. To renew our minds with the Word sounds so simple however, putting into practise is much more difficult.
Bless you for sharing, thank you.
Many thanks for this inspiring article. I enjoyed reading it and am praying that my daughter can get to read it also!
God bless you!
Asheritah @ OneThingAlone.com says
This is beautiful, Angela. How important it is to pause and reflect on the lies that fuel our drive to me someone other than who God has called us to be. Thank you for sharing your story so vulnerably.
Kim Fitzsimons says
I love this and need this also. My lie is “I am fat because I didn’t do what I should have to keep the weight off so it is all my fault that I look deplorable.
Mary Emerson says
Angela this is beyond amazing and indeed a daily remainder espcially on the importance of spending time daily with God- worship- to be made whole and complete daily. I really appreciate you sharing and look forward to reading more. 🙂
I need this right now because I feel so worthless. Your story is an answer to my prayers. Thank you.
Mary white says
I read this after writing in my journal, “I didn’t go to they gym, but I’m still righteous.” That is a HUGE breakthrough for me. Your blog confirms what the lover of my soul is confirming to me. Regardless of doing or not doing, “I’m still loved.”
Raquel Silva says
Thanks for your words Angela. I totally identified myself with it. I’m not a perfectionist but I do feel so many times the burden of having it all together for everybody. And I guess when you have kids that feeling intensifies. I also feel that the internet and the media in general tend to show only the flawless details of people. And we build this fake image of what life is supposed to be. Plus, if you are a Christian, you almost feel guilty when you are a mess. Because after all, you believe in an almighty God, so where on earth is your faith? But we all are entitled to moments of weakness, only to discover later that, by the grace of God, we can stand up again. And even stronger. God bless you!
I believe the Lord meant me to read this today. I have struggled with about a year with depression because I cannot keep up my house, my family and my job in the way I think it should be. I do not want to just give up, but I also am exhausted. So right now I am going back to my bedroom and taking my Bible and a notebook and just spending some time with Him. Thank you for your honest posting. It amazes me still how the Lord can use us to help each other if we only let Him.
God bless you i feel that way right now. So awesome that God gives us just what we need when we need it. That you could share just about all that i am going thru…HOW GREAT IS OUR GOOD. Thank you for your willingness to share and be used by our Lord…
Trying to keep it together says
Thank you from the bottom of my heart….
God intended for me to read this today. Thank you for allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you in sharing. It created a great sense of relief when I was reminded that God is sovereign & that He loves me regardless of the flaws I find in myself.
Audrey Hackett says
I too felt I was unwanted growing up and strove for perfection, encouraged by a belief that being a christian meant you couldn’t do anything wrong and if you did you were in trouble.
Lie: I’m not good enough.
Truth: I am fearfully, wonderfully & intentionally made by the Creator of all, who has prepared in advance food works for me to do.
Barbara Fortin says
In my 20’s I was too busy trying to be what others expected of me. My dad said in 9th grade I had to know my destiny and career!and walk towards it! In the 30’s to 40’s i choose my destination and sprinted in the race. to Mine Abba! Now in my 60’s I am slowing down to see how well I accomplished those goals. My prayers are for others now and I reach out to fewer people., but those I choose are blessed as i am! I have found my worship choice and am living it! Before I wouldn’t see the forest through the trees if you will, now I allow myself to stop and smell the flowers and share my vision with others! God go with you in your walk!
This is just what I needed to read today.
I am in overload trying to keep everything together while I seem to be falling apart.
I feel somewhat light headed so I am in bed trying to relax & feel better, yet feeling guilty because I need to be up finishing things I’ve left undone because I just didn’t feel like doing it at the time
Thanks for the article!
Thanks for sharing, I needed this!!
Thank you so much for the blessing of your honesty and these words. I struggle with feelings of not bring good enough almost daily, that is my lie. I am a beloved child of God and that makes me good enough without having to do more and more to prove my worth and goodness.
Debbie Lewellen Bryan Lewellen says
I am a frustrated perfectionist. I have never been able to accomplish any of the things that you listed. I never feel like I can measure up … Meal preparation, housecleaning, decorating, how I look, as a wife, as a mom… I began desensitizing and distancing myself from people so that I don’t have to hurt or feel like I am not capable enough! Even as a believer, it doesn’t seem to help me feel better about myself and my inabilities!