Perfectionists strive for flawlessness. They have a very high standard for themselves. As a perfectionist, any mistakes are considered failures or weakness. The perfectionist is never satisfied. The perfectionist measures their worth in terms of achievement and productivity.
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Perfectionism comes from a heart that believes it has to be perfect at all times. In other words, pride fuels a perfectionist heart to view their sense of self through their efforts. It’s a destination that God never intended for us. It is downright exhausting.
Overcoming perfectionism can seem impossible without God. In your struggle with perfectionism, you must ask yourself, do you trust God’s perfect design over your life?
What Causes Perfectionism?
It’s tempting to judge ourselves by human standards of perfection. We want so bad to believe that our accomplishments can get us closer to God’s kingdom. While excellence, quality, and hard work are of value to God (Colossians 3:23-24), perfectionism does not honor God but instead puts ourselves first.
Brene Brown says it best: “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence. Perfection is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us, when in fact, it is the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen and taking flight.”
In the midst of tears, I confessed to my husband that it was time for me to go to therapy again. I felt that I had lost control and needed to learn how to let go of the shield of perfectionism. I needed a reminder again and again that it’s not my job to be perfect. God picks up the pieces of my broken life and carefully crafts them back together.
Biblical Definition of Perfectionism
Most often the reminder that we do not have to be perfect comes from spending time reading the Bible. So let’s turn to the Word and see the biblical definition of perfectionism.
For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. Hebrews 10:14.
God alone is perfect and His perfection is manifested in Jesus Christ. The good news is that Jesus became the perfect sacrifice for us, the imperfect. He came to perfectly fulfill on our behalf of God’s demand for holiness. He has already purchased our perfection. Therefore, we have been perfected by being joined to Christ. God wants us to live in this freedom.
How To Overcome Perfectionism
If you are at all like me, perfectionism causes you to stall and procrastinate in fear that whatever the task is at hand may not turn out perfectly. But is perfection even attainable? When we’re honest with ourselves we know it isn’t, so why do we strive so hard to achieve it?
It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. Psalm 18:32.
Freedom from Perfectionism
God’s Word gives us great hope on how to experience freedom from perfectionism. By giving that single offering, Jesus did everything that needed to be done for everyone who believes in Him. He has freed us from the burden of trying to win His or other’s approval. Praise God for that!
This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. 2 Samuel 22:31.
The truth is that when we seek perfectionism, we are turning away from the One who deserves our attention, our work, and our time. Jesus is the author and perfecter of all things. By His grace, we have freedom from perfectionism because we are deemed good enough. It is upon His grace that we can be ourselves and by His power, our hearts become more like Christ.
Grace Not Perfection
We all come to a point in our lives when we realize that we cannot do it all. We often hold ourselves to a standard of perfection when God is really calling us to step into His grace. We try so hard to be everything to everyone. But God generously pours grace on us and in response we can give ourselves a dose of grace, not perfection.
Grace is freely given to the unworthy and imperfect, like you and me. There is nothing that we could have done to receive it. Having received grace, we are called to live by it, be gracious towards others, and walk in it confidently.
After years of striving to be the best friend, best daughter, best sister, best wife, best everything, I cracked under the pressure. I looked at my failures as proof that I was unworthy of love. I was definitely uncomfortable with the thought of embracing imperfection. However, if I don’t expect others to be perfect, then why would I carry the burden of perfectionism on my own shoulders? Read more about Trying to be Superwoman.
With Christ, we are free to embrace our imperfections. It’s okay not to be perfect. In fact, our imperfections remind us that while we were made in the image of God, we are NOT God. Jesus is the only who has lived here on earth that can claim perfection. He was perfect so that we don’t have to be. When pressed against our human limitations and imperfections, we must seek Jesus. He calls us to stop relying on ourselves and learn of his humility and grace.
God wants us to live free from the traps of perfectionism. We are invited to rest in Jesus, the perfecter of our faith. When we do, real-life joy will find its way into this beautiful mess called life.