Do you find yourself in a place where you are struggling to be perfect? You want to change, and yet you just can’t seem to stop the vicious cycle. You start out striving for excellence, after all – doing your best is a worthy and noble attribute, but somehow you end up on the other side, trying for perfection. Of course, we know perfection never happens, so we are left disappointed, exhausted, and missing what God had in mind. Join us as we look at how to stop striving for perfection.
The writing was on the wall, the people around me knew I struggled with perfectionism, but I refused to recognize it. God kept nudging me with experiences like those I mentioned in the prior two blogs. He got my attention when I was introduced to Martha in the Bible through a book called – Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World – By Joanna Weaver
Like Martha my heart and mind were in the right place, I sincerely wanted to please God, but somewhere along the way my excellence was always turning into a striving for perfection.
After reading the book and meeting some amazing women who I allowed to speak into my life, I began recognizing my tendency towards perfectionism. Sure, I made some small changes, but nothing significant until I felt the rug pulled right out from under me as we entered the world of mental illness.
Mental health challenges are not neat and tidy nor do the symptoms work on a schedule that fits one’s timetable.
With my children diagnosed with mental illness, it quickly became evident I would need to let go of perfection to survive. I would not only need to learn to accept my situation, but I would need to accept my imperfections. The need to do things the “right way” would need to be replaced with letting things be good enough.
It was a matter of survival, not just for my sake but for my children, my marriage, my friendships and the places that I served. I needed to preserve my strength for what was most important.
I had no problem making my kids my priority; they always had been. The problem came with the fact that I could no longer keep up with striving for things to appear perfect.
Of course at first, I felt overwhelmed. How did I honor my commitments? How would I keep things to the standard everyone had grown accustomed to seeing?
The grief, worry, sadness, struggle, skill learning, and caregiving consumed my time. My child was my priority! I no longer had the time nor cared whether I had carved the watermelon into a perfect fruit bowl for a party.
Why is that sometimes it takes a real shake up to see where we are broken?
It is now clear that people matter more than getting things just right.
You may not know the challenges of mental illness, but we all find ourselves in overwhelming circumstances at some point in life. When that happens, the way you used to do things may no longer be possible, and a new way of life emerges. I love what Lisa shares in her post, “Show up Imperfect.”
Circumstances sometimes force us into recognizing the things that we thought were our strengths are really our weaknesses.
When this happens, it will call for a new way to embrace the unexpected in life. One can’t go back and capture all the moments you missed while striving for something that was never attainable but we can start right now letting go of perfectionism.
Perfectionism robs you of the life God intended. For me, it took unexpected circumstances to see that letting go of “perfect” was a better way to live. Oh don’t get me wrong – I will always struggle with perfection to some degree. But when I see the warning signs, I know I have a choice. I admit sometimes I spend endless hours trying to find just the right picture for a blog post. I will always be a work in progress.
As you begin to let go of the need to be perfect – life will become more beautiful, sweeter, contain more freedom, and less stress. My guess is you will begin to like yourself better and so will those around you.
Remember, you don’t have to let go of who you are and what makes you – You. I do still love to carve my food for special occasions into cute little shapes. However, once I learned how to stop striving for perfection, I realized other ways to entertain. When time is short, you will find me serving store bought ordinary items and feeling great about it.
“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,” 2 Corinthians 3:5 (ESV)
How do you stop yourself from striving for perfection?
Blog Series on Perfectionism:
- “Are You Exhausted Trying to Reach For Perfection?”
- “10 Clues You’re Striving For Perfection, Not Excellence”
- “Dispelling The Myths About Perfectionists”
- “How To Stop Striving For Perfection”
- “Will You Expose Your Imperfections?”
- Monthly Favorites