I grew up with the subconscious mentality that if you didn’t do something perfectly (or at least bust your tail to get as close as you can), you were slacking. That was it. Black and white. No inbetween.
This drove my decisions, how I managed my time, how I thought, how long I worked, my priorities. And usually, it brought good rewards - good grades, feelings of value, and the appearance of “mature” focus. People’s affirmation or praise of a job “well done” ingrained this mindset even more.
Can we shatter this facade, though? Because the typical perfectionist carries a heavy burden inside. Perfectionists are usually people pleasers. Approval addicts. They fear rejection or failure. They are their own worst critic. Their value is often founded in performance or production.
And the suggestion of “easing up” usually isn’t an option. Because if you’re not extending yourself, you must be slacking.
We live in a world of polarizing opposites and pendulum-style decision making, so it’s easy to not even consider a different choice.
Enter the concept of excellence. Freeing, life-giving, grace-filled excellence.
Excellence looks at a to do list and expresses joy in what has been completed. Perfectionism shames the list maker for uncompleted tasks.
Excellence focuses on God’s strength working through you as you parent your child. It reminds you that you’re learning along the way.
Perfectionism can produce mommy (or daddy) guilt.
Excellence is loving your wife because God loved you, and asking for her forgiveness when you fall short.
Perfection is a list of rules, never admitting you’re wrong, or a twisted fear of failure that produces complacent passivity.
Excellence is an outpouring of the God’s truth in our lives.
Perfectionism is a list of rules and regulations.
Excellence learns from mistakes and mentally notes needed future improvements.
Perfectionism focuses on the mistakes, mentally replays them, and internally beats itself up over them.
Excellence manifests in healthy boundaries.
Perfectionism leads to anxiety or depressive thoughts.
Excellence seeks to embrace our God-given strengths and improve our natural weaknesses.
Perfectionism plays the comparison game.
Excellence recognizes conviction from the Holy Spirit.
Perfectionism ruminates on condemnation from Satan.
One of my favorite client sessions includes charting out the differences between these two paradigms. It looks different for everyone and there may be different applications for various people.
For me, each time reminds me of areas where I still struggle with perfectionism. And this is good, because I can check my heart, thoughts, feelings, and actions. But, I’m also reminded of the joy, relief, and emotional freedom that comes from shaking off my past perfectionism.
So, where are you?
If you are wrestling with the area above, consider meeting with a friend, mentor, counselor, pastor, or other individual who can help you identify your struggles and find God’s intended freedom in this area of your life.
Perfectionism Excellence Attributes Desire to be right Beating up self Rarely good enough Lacking confidence Always lacking Never done Impossible to achieve Acceptance that I’ll be wrong sometimes Doing my best Mistakes are okay Confidence in who God created me to be Peace in current status Joy in accomplishment Possible through God’s grace Identity Changing surrounding circumstances Consistency and character of Christ Mental Focus The Past The Future Driving Factors Fear Insecurity Performance Self-Focused Control Guilt Confidence in God Trust Purpose God and others-focused Fruit of the Spirit Freedom Results Defensive Discontent Burdened Exhausting Lack of trust Lack of seeing the good Own worst critic Feeling controlled/trapped Open to constructive criticism Open for growth Freedom Empowered A consistent foundation A focus on the positive Aware of my strengths and weaknesses Healthy mental boundaries Underlying motivation Pride Humility Purpose Me God and others