is being IMPERFECT. It's taken me almost 32 years to begin to realize that I'm human....okay, not really, but one thing I've struggled with throughout my life is PERFECTIONISM. Looking back, I can see I've been a perfectionist from the time I was a child. I mean, how many of you as a child cried when you got an A- on your report card? I did! In my little child eyes, it was too close to a B! And how many of you went to school even when you were sick because you wanted to have perfect attendance? I did! And I'm not just talking one year....how about Preschool through my Senior year?! (Don't worry....I've taken plenty of sick days since being in the working world).
Whether these perfectionist tendencies stem from being the oldest child or are just part of my personality or were passed down from parents (I won't mention any names, mom), or whether it's a combination of these, one thing I know is that there is no doubt that it has, and continues to, affect my life. While I used to think that being a perfectionist was the best way to be (after all it's helped me reach some high goals), in the last few years, I've begun to realize that it also has a negative side, that it's actually kept me from reaching some of my goals, and at times, from LIVING LIFE. You see, perfectionism has kept me from participating in many activities over the years because if I'm not confident that I'm good at something, I'd rather not do it at all. I couldn't bear to think that I might....do I dare say.... FAIL?! Or at least that's how I saw it. I couldn't bear to think that others might see that....I'M HUMAN. (Hmmm....my guess is that they already knew that).
Even as an adult, it has affected my life. For instance, after building our house a few years ago, I didn't want to have anyone over until our house was just perfect, so for a couple years, no one really got to see our brand new house! I mean, what would people think if I had a speck of dust on a shelf or if not every area was perfectly decorated? Well, they'd probably think that I'M HUMAN (if they even noticed those things!). I've now come to realize that there is no such thing as a "perfect house" and it will likely always be a WORK IN PROGRESS. And yes, we've had lots of people over in the last couple years.
Perfectionism has affected me in other ways, too. You've heard the saying, "If you can't do something right, don't do it at all," or is that "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all"? Well, either way, I've taken it to a whole new level. If I can't do something perfectly (or what I view to be perfect), I don't do it at all! Makes sense to you, doesn't it? Okay, me neither, when I really stop to think about it. (And, by the way, RIGHT and PERFECT are not the same thing!)
Just to give you a few examples, if I don't have time to perfectly clean a room, I don't even start cleaning it. I guess really dirty is better than only half dirty? Not the most logical thinking! And I bet you'd think that since I'm such a perfectionist that I eat a perfect diet & exercise every day for the perfect amount of time with my heart at the perfect rate. Ha! Wrong! Instead, I tend to go through cycles of trying to do everything just right, but when I "fall off the wagon", I usually think that since I've already missed a workout or eaten something "bad", I've already ruined the day, or more often, the week, so I continue to eat "bad" or not workout until I decide to start over....which is usually either a Sunday or the beginning of a new month (because it has to be the perfect time). Now wouldn't it make more sense to just get back up & keep going so that I don't totally negate all the hard work I've already put in? After all, if you get a flat tire, what do you do? You fix it and keep driving (or at least put a spare on as a temporary fix 'til you can get to the root of the problem and get it taken care of). You don't say , "Well since I have one flat tire, I think I'll just poke holes in all my other tires, too!"
It even carries over to my Bible reading. For the last 3 years, I've wanted to read the Bible through in chronological order (the order in which the events actually happened) in one year. I even bought a one-year chronological Bible with daily readings a couple years ago. So every year I start out in January following my plan, but by February or March, I've usually missed a few days here and there, and because I feel like it's impossible to catch up, I just give up and decide I'll start over next January. Yes, this has happened for about 3 years now! Again, not very logical!
So this year when January rolled around, I did some thinking. I decided that I wanted to do things DIFFERENTLY....after all, you can't keep doing the same things the same way and expect different results. So this year, rather than making the same New Year's resolutions I seem to make every year, I decided that I need to work on changing my MINDSET. I need to change my ALL-OR-NOTHING thinking. I need to not let FEAR....fear of failure....fear of rejection....fear of imperfection...keep me from LIVING LIFE. In the past, my perfectionism has often paralyzed me & actually kept me from making progress. This year PROGRESS, not perfection, is my goal.
Over time, I've learned that perfectionism often comes from the need for APPROVAL and ACCEPTANCE....from myself and from others. While I know that I have a long way to go, my prayer is that this year God will begin to help me see things through His eyes... to see myself through His eyes and to see others through His eyes. If I begin to see myself through God's eyes, maybe, just maybe, I can begin to love & accept myself a little more....imperfections and all. After all, when the Bible speaks of loving your neighbor as yourself, it first assumes that you love yourself. It's virtually impossible to focus your efforts on truly loving & reaching out to others if you're consumed with winning their APPROVAL! Interestingly, as I was thinking about this, I realized that it's my friends who don't put on a "perfect" front, who are transparent, who can laugh at themselves...those are the friends who are the most endearing, who I most enjoy being around, who I can most relate to. Those are the friends who make me feel the most LOVED. Hmmm...could it be that my need to look perfect, my need for approval, actually does the opposite?
Now, don't get me wrong, I think that God very much wants us to always strive to be better, but my idea of better (or perfect) is very different from God's! So this year, my desire and prayer is that I am to God what my house is to me...a WORK IN PROGRESS.
Oh and by the way, in case you're wondering about that Bible reading thing. Well this year, I decided to go at my own pace....even if it takes two or three years. And guess what? I'm finding that I'm learning and growing so much more! Although some days I read a few chapters, other days God has so much to say to me through just a few verses that I don't make it past one chapter! Hmm...actually learning and growing (and PROGRESSING) from my time with God? Now that makes PERFECT sense!
Just a few scriptures that came to mind while I was writing this:
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and PERFECT will.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of you hand.
...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...