I’m not exactly sure when it started, but I definitely remember when I finally realized I couldn’t keep on living with my self-imposed impossible expectations.
It was Motherhood.
Shortly after the birth of our first daughter, my mom gave me these words of wisdom when she saw me trying to maintain all-the-things like I had done prior to pregnancy, “Tiffany, it’s okay to let some things go. The house doesn’t need to be perfect.”
I started to take the hint but really didn’t get it to the level I needed to until two and a half years later, when our second daughter was almost six months old.
I had been having severe neck pains and finally couldn’t deal with it on my own. I loaded up the diaper bag and double stroller. With our toddler and infant in tow, I headed to my doctor.
I don’t remember much from the appointment, but I do remember him asking me this one question, “Tiffany, are you stressed?”
I was taken aback a little. I wasn’t there for a counseling session. I was there to get the pain in my neck fixed.
After considering what this line of questioning might uncover, I answered quickly, “I don’t think so.”
He responded, “I think you have shingles, and they may be stress-induced.”
Talk about a wake-up call.
I had been trying to do all the “right” things: taking care of the house, volunteering at church, cooking meals, breastfeeding, getting groceries, reading to our girls, being a good wife, and on and on from morning to night. And it wasn’t just about doing these things, but it was about doing them perfectly and maintaining my superwoman status.
And now I was being told that this level of performance was affecting my health and well-being. After ignoring minor red flags, my body was now screaming at me to stop while, all along, I thought what I was doing was normal, the way life was supposed to be.
Has your quality of life been affected by performancism and perfectionism too? Imagine being okay with things just being okay-being present in the moment without a to-do list running through your head-or joining in on or, heaven forbid, starting the fun family food fight.
I wish I could say the process of overcoming perfectionism was quick and easy. It wasn’t. But I can tell you that I have been a recovered perfectionist for a while now, and there are three things that are game-changers for finding freedom from perfectionism.
The first is understanding and accepting the unconditional love of God. You can’t do anything bigger, better, different, or enough to have God love you any more than He does right now. Now stop, take a breath, and read that sentence again. This very truth should lower your blood pressure, relax your shoulders, and unclench your jaw. The God of the universe loves you fully and no matter what you do or don’t do. Once we can rest in this, we can move on to the next key.
For the logical side of your brain, the second is learning the difference between excellence and perfectionism. Perfectionism is a hard-driving, unattainable, never good enough standard. Excellence is doing the best with what you have as you grow and get better. So, if I have one hour to clean my house before company rings my doorbell, we set the timer and give it a go, starting with the most important areas. When that bell rings, I am content with what we did, while letting go of what didn’t get done, so I can enjoy the rest of the evening. Friend, not being perfect doesn't mean you don't do a great job. It just means it isn't the highest priority.
Now that your heart and brain have something to grasp, the final thing and the cherry on top is experiencing real peace and never wanting to let it go. If you are like me and have lived seasons in your life with peace and without it, there is no question what you would choose. Perfectionism robs people of peace. A person walking in perfectionism never seems to have peace because things are rarely ever good enough. They are continually striving for more, better, different and not able to rest in what they have or what they have done. This can lead to stress, worry and anxiety.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
Friend, Jesus already paid the price for your eternal salvation in heaven and your abundant life here on earth. It’s not earned. It’s a free gift and God so wants you to receive it, open it, and use it every single day as you walk with Him.
May your heart rest in God’s unconditional love, may your mind find relief in a life of excellence, and may you hold onto His peace so that you can live free from perfectionism and walk in the abundant life He has for you.
Cheering you on,
P.S. If your soul could use a powerful pause to help you refresh and refocus in just 5 minutes a day in this season, check out this 31 day devotional. Perfect for the car while you wait in the school pick-up line, a pick-me-up before your daily zoom meetings start, or with your first cup of caffeine in the mornings.