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.