Confessions of a Perfectionist

January 15, 2012 at 2:11 am 4 comments

I learned something over break.

I’m a perfectionist.

I’ve never really noticed that before. Let’s face it: my darling older sister has always been a bit more classically (neurotically) perfectionistic. And it’s true that I don’t tend to go overkill on school or projects: I know how to do them well while still staying alive and sane. I don’t require things to be perfect.

Just, um, really really really good.

But mostly, I just require myself to be really really really good. Or perfect.

The process of me coming to terms with my fallen, human, distinctly in-perfect self has been rather ugly, and is definitely still continuing. And it’s been going on for way longer than I’ve known I had a perfection issue.

You see, I have standards and ideals for myself, characters that I desperately want to embody. Good Christian Girl. Good Student. Good Friend, Daughter, Sister, Girlfriend, Intern, Bible Study Leader, Dancer, Writer, Blogger, Roommate.

You name it, and I’ve got a list of the exact qualities, specifications and measurements I expect myself to attain.

Problem is that I don’t meet any of them. I skim my Google Reader over lunch, and Good Blogger Girl stands in the shadows and quietly shames me for not commenting, not posting on my own blog, not putting lots of effort into it lately. It is fun, it will build community, it will be good for your career, it’s not that hard, look at all these people who do it well, she whispers. And then, since I’ve clearly been doing such a terrible job lately, she suggests that I have nothing to contribute and I should just give up and hide. Or something like that.

Come to think of it, she’s really rather mean.

All the other Good Girls are like that, too. Good Friend tells me that I would keep up with my emailing and letter-writing, I’d see friends at school more, be very involved with everyone, and never apologize for simply dropping the ball on important people. For a whole semester. Or she would be smart enough to know that she can’t be everything to everyone, and she would find some way to network and connect lots of friends to each other, and still let everyone know how important and special they are to her life.

The Good Intern/Writer would know exactly the details and follow-up questions to ask in an interview, and wouldn’t have to email the person a month (or three) later, asking the questions that she should have been smart enough to ask for clarification and details on from the start.

The Good, um, Normal Person wouldn’t get lost driving in her own hometown. Oh yeah, and she would exercise regularly and probably even like it.

The Good Christian Girl would be able to actually make time with God the priority in real life that it is in her heart. She would do all the disciplines, easily, but wouldn’t be legalistic. She would remember the references of verses, not just the general thought and “It’s somewhere in the last twenty chapters of Isaiah” (or worse, “Somewhere in the New Testament!”).

The Good Roommate would not get ticked at roomies who leave dirty dishes in the sink. She wouldn’t leave her own in the sink, either.

The Good Student would not be struggling to balance school with work, friends, and taking care of herself. Mostly, she’d do everything brilliantly, and in plenty of time (not in the nick of time) and still manage to sleep, eat, and drink water, all in the same day. She would use awkward blocks of time between classes perfectly. Maybe she wouldn’t even have¬† those days where she didn’t have that much to get done…but manage to fail to do any of it, anyway.

You get the idea. This list ran for over six pages in my journal.

Quite frankly, the above list are just the things that I’m currently feeling guilty about.

Can I just say something?

Being a perfectionist is exhausting. And it’s no fun. And I’m sick and tired of not measuring up.

I know in my head that it’s stupid. Because God is the one with the perfect law, and with the serious consequences for not keeping it. And He sent Jesus to keep it for me. And in Christ, He is already pleased with me.

But I’m holding myself to….Megan’s Law.

Sigh.

“I want you to describe in detail this perfect girl,” Dana said, when I tearfully (and much less coherently) dumped some of the above discovery on her. “Every single painful detail. What does she look like, do, say?” Then, after I came up with some fumbling thoughts – “I want you to take her outside and shoot her.”

Ha! But truthfully….she needs to die. Jesus is not holding me to this kind of standard. He asks me if I love Him.

I don’t want to hold myself to it, either. It really only breeds lots of guilt, shame, and exhaustion.

I’m not really sure how to stop. How to live in grace, being able to show it to myself.

Maybe a good start is being able to see how incapable I really am – and to see these unrealistic, ridiculous expectations for what they are. To realize how much I need saving, how little I can even change this in myself.

That is where I am right now. More often asking God to help me, to do something…because as much as I hate to admit it, I can’t do it myself.

Mercifully, He knows. He’s not surprised or mad. And in Christ, He’s already pleased with me!

I’m praying that He teaches me how to live in this truth and grace.

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2011… In Remembrance

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. annie  |  January 16, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    It’s so hard to let go of our perfectionist tendencies and learn to seek the grace He so freely bestows, but it’s so worth it. And I think part of learning it, at least for me, is learning to give more grace, so I learn a little more about what it means to extend it to myself.

    Reply
    • 2. annie  |  January 16, 2012 at 9:50 pm

      to give more grace to others, I mean, so I learn a little more about extending it to myself.

      Reply
  • 3. overlapped  |  January 16, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    I love that thought, Annie. I find that it’s so much easier for me to forgive others and extend grace to them than it is to myself – but I never thought of it as a learning opportunity to see what it looks like to give it to myself, too. And as humbling as it is – it’s beautiful when others give me freedom and grace (and permission to be an imperfect human), too!

    Reply
  • […] Perfect Girl crept up on me, unexpectedly, last night. I wish I could say that I promptly took her behind the […]

    Reply

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