Being a slave to achieving something that is impossible to achieve is exhausting and discouraging. I have always tried to achieve perfection in everything I do. In school, I would cry if I received any grade lower than an A because I wanted to be excellent and considered intelligent. In my relationships, I wouldn’t allowed myself to truly be myself because I was more concerned with making sure I never said or did anything even slightly “wrong” that might cause discomfort or conflict.
In life, though it is wise to carefully consider our words and actions, the desire to be perfect can actually cause us to become foolish.
When we allow our desire for perfection to rule our lives, we become a slave to it. It tells us who to be and how to act. And it also tells us lies like we’re never going to be good enough, smart enough, or kind enough.
In order to break free from the bondage of perfection, we must understand and accept these truths:
Perfection is impossible.
The perfect illusion: perfection is impossible, so we are really just trying to create a perfect illusion and convince ourselves and others of it. In reality, we are just creating a false representation of who we are. For me, I know I am not perfect, but I don’t want others to see my mistakes, and I don’t want to see them either because I don’t like them. However, striving for perfectionism has caused me to cover who I really am as I try to be someone and something impossible to be. This has caused feelings of anxiety in my relationships, as I work to never make a mistake or say one wrong word or hurt people’s feelings or mess up. This has caused shame and depression when I don’t (can’t) live up to my unrealistic expectations for myself. If you’re anything like me, I promise you there is so much freedom on the other side of perfection. Perfect is impossible. And we have to realize that’s O.K.
Real people aren’t perfect.
People appreciate realness and vulnerability. People like to be able to relate to someone – someone who, just like them, has made mistakes, took a wrong turn, said or done something out of line. Even more, people like to be able to see how someone has moved past their mistakes.
One of our greatest sources of authentic encouragement is being real and vulnerable with people – connecting with them through real life situations and experiences.
Nobody wants to hear about your “perfect” life where nothing goes wrong (on the surface) or your “perfect” relationship that is all rainbows and butterflies (on social media). People want to hear about how despite not being perfect you are still able to move forward with strength and faith and live abundantly.
Perfectionism causes pride.
When someone is prideful, they are unable to accept their shortcomings, which means they are unable to grow from and move past them. When you strive to be perfect, it’s harder to accept mistakes because you don’t want to have made them. This makes it harder to move past your mistakes – because the first step to moving past anything is accepting it is there in the first place. If you don’t accept and move past your mistakes, you will have a much harder time growing your character and making wise decisions next time. Those who are able to accept their mistakes with grace and learn from them are less likely to make them again in the future.
Mistakes do not define you.
In order to break free from the bondage of perfectionism, we have to understand and choose to believe that a mistake is not the end. God can and will use anything and everything for your good and his glory. Even when you make a mistake, or purposefully do something you know is wrong and it doesn’t end well, God can turn it around. Without God, there is no light in the darkness of failure. With God, however, a mistake, a shortcoming, a failure are simply areas in your life for him to cause his glory and goodness to shine even brighter.
God calls us to humble our imperfect selves under his good, mighty, and perfect hand. When we do this – when we choose to break free from the lies of perfectionism – we will actually be lifted even higher than we could have ever gone on our own. I want to encourage you, then, to humble yourself before God and allow him to exchange your desire for perfect with a greater understanding of his grace and unconditional love.