The Joy of Beating Perfectionism

Perfection is paralyzing. It can keep us from contributing to the lives of people around us and serving the Lord as He calls. Our aim for perfectionism can keep us hung up on particulars that are far from critical. Like this one:

“I’d like to introduce you to my family who is a vital part of my life.”

I’m part of a team that manages social media for clients, one of which is my husband. I typed the above sentence into Facebook as an introduction to a short video I produced for him.

More than 24 hours have passed and I’m still agonizing over that sentence.

Should it be my family who “are” a vital part? Family is a singular word, but the elements of that family are plural. So is the sentence correct with “is” or “are”? I found myself awake in the middle of the night contemplating that 16-word statement.

UGH!!  I need to move on already!

Effects of Perfectionism

It makes us lose sight of the big picture and fixate on minuscule details that won’t matter a year (or even a day) from now.

The trap of perfection can keep us from pushing “publish” on our blog posts, or from providing a meal for a sick friend. It paralyzes us from introducing ourselves to a new mom at school who could use a friend. It prevents us from stepping into the call that God places on our lives. Instead of readily blessing others, we find ourselves stuck in the analysis of every detail and flaw we perceive in ourselves.

It can permeate every part of our lives and minds if we let it. We must beat perfection and the hold it has on us.

It has influenced the way I learn, teach, see myself, and perceive others. For example, when I read the account of John 5:5-9, I imagined myself in the shoes of the lame man. Envisioning Jesus saying to me personally, “Take up your mat and walk,” I felt fear set it.

Instead of saying, “Yes, Lord,” I imagined myself replying, “But I haven’t practiced! I’ll look silly! I might fall! Please just carry me home and I’ll practice there. When I’m good enough I’ll come show the world how I can walk.”

If the lame man in that story had any apprehension or bend toward perfectionism, it didn’t show. He did what Jesus said and got up and walked. Can you even imagine the joy and blessing he felt while taking those first steps?

How Perfectionism Inhibits Serving

Now take the perfectionist mindset into opportunities to serve at church. When they made the call for help in Children’s ministry, did the Lord nudge your heart? Instead of saying, “Yes, Lord, I’ll serve where you call”, did you let perfectionism hold you from action? Maybe you inwardly thought, “I can’t. I’m not ready. I don’t know the Bible. What if I fail? What if I look silly?”  Rather than signing up to serve, you walked out, ignoring God’s prompt and denying the blessings that might have come.

Beating Perfectionism

Here’s a hard truth:

Perfectionism is one of the most obvious forms of self-centeredness. It keeps our focus on ourselves rather than on God and others.

I don’t want to live in self-centeredness. I’ll venture to guess that you don’t either. So how do we find the joy and freedom of beating perfectionism?  Here are 10 suggestions:

 

  1. Consider the unrealistic nature of perfection. Since only God is perfect, neither you nor I can ever achieve it.
  2. Learn to celebrate mistakes and all that you learn from them.
  3. Don’t confuse perfection with a job well done.
  4. Stop comparing yourself to others.
  5. Consider whether today’s perfection will matter a year from now.
  6. Remember that “good” and “useful” can bless others now. “Perfect” delays their blessing.
  7. Break the habit of asking “is it perfect” or “am I perfect.” Ask instead, “Can God use it/me as I am right now?”
  8. Give yourself the grace that Jesus gives.
  9. Practice failing. Eventually, you’ll become a little more comfortable with it.
  10. Learn to laugh at yourself instead of taking yourself so seriously

The Joy that Comes

I taught myself to crochet years ago because I like using crochet dishcloths. I jumped on YouTube and watched a few tutorials then got to work. My first dishcloth was a triangle rather than a square. I couldn’t figure out how I dropped a stitch with each row. I felt rather embarrassed, but as I worked to overcome perfectionism, I used that triangle in my kitchen until it wore out. Each time I’d giggle inside a bit, celebrating all that I learned and the progress I’d achieved since that first try.

I encourage you to resolve—today—to beat perfectionism and walk in freedom. Move forward toward all that God calls you to and relish in the joy and blessing that comes as you walk in step with Him. He can use you, your flaws, your mistakes, and your good work for His glory. Give yourself a chance to see how, and embrace the joy that comes.

Blessings,

 

 

 

the joy of beating perfectionism

 

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Valerie

    Hi Cathy,
    The Joy of Beating Perfectionism really nailed it for me today! The message was exactly what I needed to read. Thank you! I consider it an answer to my prayers in my struggle against my pride and self. I appreciate your wisdom very much.

    Reply
    • Cathy McIntosh

      It’s such a delight to hear from you Valerie! Thanks for visiting the blog and commenting. I’m thrilled that the Lord used this post to bless you!

      Reply
  2. Julie Meketuk

    Thank you Cathy, these were much needed reads for me. I am always worried about being perfect. I also catch myself not wanting to go to things and missing out. I just love your writing. I feel very blessed to have met you and can not wait until you put out another email. Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Tessa

    Thank you for posting this. Perfectionism is something I struggle with greatly, and the part you wrote about it preventing us from serving because we think we might fail is SO me. After reading this I feel more freedom. Freedom to live in God’s prace and freedom from the trap of perfectionism. 🙂

    Reply

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