“There is no way to genuinely, powerfully, truly love yourself while crafting a mask of perfection.” – Vironika Tugaleva
“In order to go on living one must try to escape the death involved in perfectionism.” – Hannah Arendt
“He who is not satisfied with a little is satisfied with nothing.” – Epicurus
“Perfection is the willingness to be imperfect.” – Lao Tzu
I’ve been called many things in this life 😊 “Perfectionist” is one label I’ve been given that unfortunately is well deserved.
I guess it’s why I’m detail-oriented, good with numbers, and live in a fairly clean house. You might think there’s nothing wrong with any of those traits, but like most things in this world; the desire for perfection has its darker side.
In many respects, I have become my own worst enemy. My perfectionistic tendencies are often channeled directly at myself. I struggle in relationships because I never feel quite good enough. My self-esteem bottoms out when I often over-analyze my words, nitpick my behaviors, feel overly self-conscious about how I look, and fail to measure up when it comes to what most consider an accomplished life. So much of what it means to be a perfectionist is driven by my insecurities – trying desperately to avoid the judgement from others and the inevitable shame that results.
I’ve often written about how this world is so opposed and counter to our true spiritual nature. When you think about our society and culture, it is dripping wet with the desire to have and to be everything to everyone, drenched in the idea of greatness, and submerged in a pool of all that is faultless, flawless, and impeccably picture-perfect.
We are constantly filled with messages that show us what perfection means. Society tells us what our bodies should look like, what cloths to wear, what age group is highly preferred, what kind of car to drive, and what job titles are more suitable than others.
Lately, it seems hellbent on setting a standard around what it means to think perfectly – cancelling out everyone who doesn’t agree with the standard they have set. They are telling us what the perfect skin color is and is not – what is a lie and what is perfectly true in their mind, and who we need to perfectly accept regardless of whether we personally agree or disagree with their behavior.
As a result, we want the perfect house, with the perfect mate and perfectly behaved children, along with the perfect job that pays a perfect salary – yet isn’t too demanding of our time so we can perfectly pursue our passions 😊 We want to be seen as someone who thinks and acts in a way that meets the cultural standard precisely!
That may sound hilarious, but sadly it’s true.
Divorces are skyrocketing because we don’t have the perfect mate any longer. The job isn’t perfectly fulfilling, so their MUST be a better one out there! We may have what we need, but not what we perfectly deserve or desire.
Our ego plays a part in the pursue of perfectionism. It wants what it wants, and it doesn’t want to wait. It knows its time is short. It desires the “ego boast” that comes with the perfect appearance, the picture-perfect mate, the prestigious job, the overflowing bank account, and the unspoiled, flawless life.
But what tends to play out when we want the perfect life in an imperfect world? Hannah Arendt describes it perfectly (no pun intended) when she depicts a type of death that accompanies perfection. She implores us that if we want to keep on living it is something we must escape. As Epicurus states, we desire to have it all, unsatisfied with a little, and thus satisfied with nothing. This is no way to live my friend….Trust me as I know!
I have personally fallen into this trap right now in my own life – disappointed in the way my life has turned out. I have always envisioned a “perfect life” and it is so far away from that in this moment – so distant from my dreams and desires of who I wanted to be and what I wanted to accomplish. My ego is telling me my time is short – so much of it wasted. As a result, it has made the little bit I have unsatisfying, and that dissatisfaction is getting in the way of truly living.
How about you? Can you relate to the desire for perfection? What can be done to remedy such a dilemma as this?
“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” – Romans 8:6 ESV
I have found great relief and a settling peace when I make a point to separate and distinguish my spiritual being with my human nature – seeing myself not only as a finite human being with one body and one life but making a point to view myself in the light of my infinite soul – a spiritual being that is eternal – made whole and perfectly complete, lacking for nothing.
How does this mindful, purposeful distinction help?
When I spend time contemplating who I truly am, I begin to see the real me – “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) – created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and one of His children (1 John 3:1). Can our outward, physical appearance that is temporary even hold a candle to the inner eternal light that shines within us? One day, this earthly, imperfect body will be transformed into a glorious one! (Philippians 3:21)
By focusing on the distinction, I also begin to see my imperfections in a perfect way 😊 As Lao Tzu states, this willingness to SEE imperfection is the beginning of leading us toward it – a perfect God who has a PERFECT PURPOSE for our imperfect life. We are learning precise lessons that are a part of our eternal destiny. An imperfect life is a prerequisite to gain this wisdom and knowledge. When we separate the two, we begin to see perfect meaning in the imperfection.
As we embrace the imperfection, we humbly see the importance behind our connection with God here in this imperfect world. We realize that His “perfect love” for us “casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). We begin to understand that we can only become perfected by His grace – being made “right in His sight” through Christ (Romans 3:24 NLT).
We humbly understand that “our times are in His Hands” (Psalm 31:15)– relinquishing our needs and desires to His perfect, divine timing (Proverbs 16:9 and Psalm 18:30) and His perfect plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11).
Can you see how our desire for perfection in this life leads us down a road of unrest and dissatisfaction? Can you see how embracing all the imperfection leads us closer to our God and our ultimate purposes here in this imperfect world?
I hope when you begin to feel the pressure of perfection and the discontentment that naturally surfaces as a result, you learn the importance (as I am learning now) of disconnecting your physical, earthly life from your spiritual, eternal being – making a distinction between them.
When you focus more on the REAL YOU, the strain for perfection in this world lightens. You start to see the imperfection perfectly as it moves you closer to a perfect God – a God who has a PERFECT purpose for you in this fallen, fallible world. In the end, we are all made perfect through Him 😊
“Do not conform 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.” – Romans 12:2 NIV