You Don’t Have to be Perfect.
Did you read that title? Chances are you did because that’s what caused you to click on this post. But what was it in those six words “You Don’t Have to be Perfect” that made you think this was something worth reading? Is it because like me, you struggle with perfectionism? Or are you one of those people who just doesn’t get perfectionism, you don’t know why so many people have this mindset so you’re hoping that I explain it here? Whatever it was in that title that attracted you to this post, thank you. I’m glad it got your attention and you chose to click on it because I’ve found this to be an extremely important topic to talk about.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m a perfectionist. Like majorly. If you’ve spent any amount of time with me, I’m sure you’ve figured that out because it’s pretty obvious. I consider perfectionism to be one of my biggest strengths while simultaneously being one of my biggest weaknesses. I know that sounds contradictory but think about it. Perfectionism causes you to strive after everything with all your heart because you want it to be done well and done right. You want it to be perfect.
Take sewing for example. I love to sew and I’ve won many competitions with my sewing (I’m not saying that to brag, I’m making a point here). It was my perfectionism that set me apart as the winner because I always took special care and time to make sure that my sewing did not have mistakes. That’s what made me so good. See how it can be a strength? It can help us to excel at whatever we set our minds to and can push us to constantly improve.
But it can also be a weakness. Perfectionism is debilitating. It can be discouraging and frustrating and make you just want to quit because perfection is something that can never be reached. No matter how much time and effort you put into something, it will NEVER BE PERFECT! That sentence alone can be a killer for a perfectionist.
So do you see the dilemma?
And our culture does nothing to help this. Culture tells us that we have to be perfect and have it all together. Speaking from a girl’s perspective (guys, I’m sure things are similar for you to but I’m not a guy so I can’t exactly speak into that as much), you have to have the perfect boyfriend who will lead to the perfect husband and it all comes together in this gorgeous rustic wedding with sunflowers and cowboy boots, just like you see in the magazines. You also have to find the perfect job that’s exactly what you and your family always dreamed of. Then start this perfect little family. ALL WHILE LOOKING PERFECT! Even just writing that sounds stressful because that’s exactly what a perfectionist, like myself, wants! But in reality, life is not Pinterest. Life is not perfect. And when we strive for it all the time, it almost makes it worse.
Now don’t get me wrong, being a perfectionist is a gift. It’s a blessing for that exact reason I mentioned. It pushes us and motivates us and encourages us to do our best, so we need to embrace it! Don’t try to shut down your desire for perfection because God gave it to you for a reason. He knew exactly what He was doing when He mixed together all your different traits to create you. THAT WAS NOT A MISTAKE. But you need to use that perfectionism for Him and His glory. Remember that Jesus was the only person who ever was and ever will be perfect. He knows what it’s like to be perfect all the time and He modeled that for us. He showed us what true perfectionism is. So if you want to be perfect, be like Jesus. Don’t strive after having a perfect appearance, perfect job, perfect house, etc. because perfection in material things is arbitrary. It changes and isn’t truly important. (Just look at the 80’s! They all thought they had perfect hair!) So instead, strive to be like Jesus, living in perfect love, perfect joy, perfect harmony with the Father. That’s the perfection we should be striving for. And when you strive for that perfection, you will be rewarded with a place in heaven, where things are really, truly perfect. The perfectionist side of me wants to go there now!
Don’t forget though, there is a flip side to this. Even when we’re striving for the perfection of Jesus, we can still become incredibly disheartened when we never reach it, which is why we need grace.
We first need to remember that it is “by grace you have been saved.” (Eph. 2:8–9)Not by your perfect works. If you believe in faith, that’s what saves you. God is not looking for you to get it all right and do everything perfectly. He wants you to try, but He’s certainly not going to stop loving you or kick you out of heaven when you mess up. That’s not who He is.
Not only do we need to understand God’s grace for us, but we also need to have grace with ourselves. Go ahead and strive for perfection, try to be the best, but don’t expect it. It’s when we start expecting perfection from ourselves and pile on all that pressure, that this becomes a bad thing. Trust me. Been there, done that, and it isn’t fun.
I’ve even been putting off writing this because I wanted to have it all figured out first. I wanted to be able to tell you that I’ve conquered this and perfectionism no longer rules my life. I wanted to be perfect in managing my perfectionism. Do you see the irony in that? I wanted to be perfect before I told you that you don’t have to be perfect. And there’s a word for that. It’s hypocrisy! In other words “do what I say, not what I do.” Hello!? That’s a bad way to live your life! So once I realized that’s what I was doing, I paused everything and wrote this because it may be exactly what you needed to hear.
So here’s a few things I’ve learned in my 22 years of life as a perfectionist:
You need to acknowledge it and be thankful for the gift that it is. Don’t resent this part of you just because it makes things harder. Embrace it because it is a gift from God that sets you apart.
Don’t expect perfection, either from yourself or others because guess what? WE AREN’T PERFECT! And we never will be! Get rid of that expectation and take the pressure off! God certainly doesn’t put it there, others shouldn’t be putting it there, so why are you putting it there?! Give yourself some grace!
Imperfection does not equal failure. Read that again and really let it sink in because this is a biggie! IMPERFECTION DOES NOT EQUAL FAILURE! Guys, this is something I’ve struggled with so much (and still do). Just because something doesn’t follow perfectly according to your plan does not mean you failed! Imperfection is a chance to learn and grow. Life is a process built on imperfection and growth. So stop telling yourself that you failed just because you need to grow! That is complete BS and you need to call it out for what it is.
So now you’re finished reading this and about to go back to doing whatever it is you were doing before you clicked on it, but I want to remind you one last time:
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT!
Those are the biggest things I’ve learned in my life as a perfectionist and I hope that my sharing them with you will help you to learn those lessons as well. There is a woman by the name of Jordan Lee Dooley who helped me immensely in learning these. Maybe you’ve heard of her, maybe you haven’t. I’ve mentioned her before in some posts, but she recently wrote a book called Own Your Everyday: Overcome the Pressure to Prove and Show Up for What You Were Made to Do. I’ll be honest, I haven’t finished it yet but so far it has been so good and helpful and she talks about this issue A LOT! So I highly recommend you check it out if this is something you struggle with. She also has a podcast called She where she discusses things like this as well, so go ahead and look her up!