I am a self-diagnosed perfectionist.
There is a constant nudging in my mind reminding me of what I should be doing, what could have been done better, where I am not achieving, areas I am lacking in.
Ironically, I both (1) consistently feel this way and (2) am completely aware that there is no such thing as perfectionism. It does not exist. Especially for a perfectionist. The very idea that there could always be improvement would mean that I have not arrived at perfection.
Yet, I strive. I evaluate. I question. I dwell.
Why? Because in my mind, I'm always falling short somewhere. Every day I am silently grading myself.
Didn't finish my To Do list? Not good enough.
Forgot to have a quiet time before work? Not good enough.
Decided to skip the gym? Not good enough.
Had food delivered instead of cooking? Not good enough.
In my journey of self-discovery and learning more about how I operate, I am learning a few things.
It is absolutely a journey. I say I “am learning” instead of “have learned” because it is a daily battle. I truly believe my desire for perfection goes hand in hand with my anxiety. Even as I write this, I have a lump in my throat and an unfinished To Do list on my iPhone. But, knowing I will have good days and bad days prepares me to give myself grace and positive reminders when I feel less than or like I’m coming up short.
The only person doling out unreasonable expectations for myself is me. I listed out all of my shortcomings to my husband yesterday and he responded with, "You don't have to do anything." And, he's right. Who says that "perfect" means going to the gym 3 days per week? Who says that a "perfect" morning has to involve a quiet time that lasts at least 30 minutes? Who says that a "perfect" wife prepares a home-cooked meal most nights? Me. I'm the one setting those unrealistic expectations. I'm my own worst enemy.
Perfectionism doesn’t always look like overachieving. I feel like a lot of times it looks like underachieving. I read a blog once about how perfectionists are often the worst procrastinators because they let their fear of failure fuel their choice to put something off. Example: "There's no way I'm going to the gym today because I don't even know where I would start. It's not worth it." You wouldn't look at someone like that and think, "Wow, they're perfect!" And yet, deep down it's the very idolization of perfectionism that's holding them back from experiencing true success, true growth, true joy.
It is good to have healthy goals. There is a very big difference between setting healthy goals and constantly setting unrealistic expectations. The process of goal-setting helps motivate and inspire us to better ourselves. The process of setting unrealistic expectations is void of joy, void of grace and void of reality. When we allow our pursuit of perfection to control us, it affects us to our core. We become stuck. We feel lost, purposeless, or perhaps "in a funk."
It takes discipline to give yourself grace. Just as a it takes discipline to set goals and take the necessary steps to achieve them, it takes discipline to remember to give yourself grace. The "default" setting for perfectionists is usually shame. The farthest thing from grace. Surround yourself with people who will remind you to do so in the foggy, unclear moments. "If grace is an ocean, we're all sinking." Jesus freely gives me grace. Why is it so hard for us to do the same for ourselves and others?
If you struggle with idolizing perfectionism and idolizing your achievements/shortcomings, you're not alone. I pray we can encourage one another as we're all on a journey of learning more about who we are and why we're here.