Overcoming Perfectionism and Living by Grace
“The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible waste of time.” - Edwin Bliss
In the past my News Years resolutions consisted of a looonnnggg and endless list of goals - spiritual goals, health goals, financial goals, relationship goals, business goals… basically ALL the goals.
Successfully graduate college; find a great job; marry the man of my dreams; have 5 children each 2 years apart; build a beautiful custom home; never miss church; have personal scripture study and family scripture study every day; say personal, family and couple prayers; eat paleo; be skinny (always!); do triathlons; run a successful design business from home; make healthy meals for my family every night; consistently wake up at 5am; take stunning pictures of my family; document my life; travel the world; take my kids on a million adventures; and of course, be happy while doing it all!
For years I based my success on an all-or-nothing approach with a one track road to get there.
It’s like I ignorantly thought that somehow I could make it to this ‘promised land,’ be perfect, and live ALL my goals at once.
I still get emotional thinking about it because it was so innocent. I had tried hard to be prayerful with righteous desires — but Satan had worked me over, twisted the truth, and had made my goals destructive. He had convinced me that there was no room for error or failure and had left me bound to a prison without grace.
You see, God doesn’t expect perfection, nor does He care about a ‘perfect life.’ He cares about growth, about who we are becoming, and about our eternal welfare. My long list of goals wasn’t about what God wanted me to learn personally - it was about what I ‘thought’ I needed to obtain in order to be successful.
“Perfectionism is all or nothing. Growth is little by little. Perfectionism is all about the goal. Growth is more about the journey. Perfectionism is about the outward appearances. Growth is about what happens on the inside. Perfectionism is about what we do. Growth is about who we’re becoming.” -Holley Gerth
Hustling after the ‘perfect life’ has never been, nor will it ever be from God. Instead it’s a false illusion; a trap from the adversary that actually distracts us from what’s really important! Don’t get me wrong, God absolutely 100% cares about our dreams, goals, and desires (even a beautiful home or traveling the world), and he needs us to strive for progress — but relentlessly pursuing perfectionism is not how He works.
For me, perfectionism bound my time, suffocated my spirituality and stole my happiness. Life consisted of an endless checklist, constant failure, and continuous feelings of inadequacy and exhaustion. My anxiety was through the roof and panic attacks were a regular occasion. And…this was how I lived. For years. Until one day…. I crashed.
I crashed HARD.
And God rejoiced.
News Years came and I had zero goals. I was lost, exhausted and broken. And for the first time, in a way I never had, I laid EVERYTHING at God’s feet. And I asked Him what HE wanted me to do.
“Those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit are willing to do anything and everything that God asks of them.”Bruce D. Porter
To my full time design business I had given 3 years of my heart, soul and life too, He said, “shut the doors and walk away.”
To the online shop I had fully built and almost launched (3 different times), He said, “not yet, hold off.”
To the 3 triathlons I had signed up for, He gave me additional health challenges and said, “be still, spend time at my feet.”
And to the greatest desire of my heart, growing our sweet family of 3, He said, “be patient, the timings not right, hang in there.”
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways… For as the heavens are higher than the earth. so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” -Isiah 55: 8-9
God wanted ALL of me. He wanted my time, my thoughts and my heart. Instead of the perfect body, He wanted me to learn self-love, charity and stillness. Instead of a beautiful decorated home, He wanted me to learn gratitude, humility and contentment. Instead of expanding my family, He wanted me to learn faith, trust and patience. And instead of perfection, He wanted me to learn how to grow ‘line upon line, step by step, and grace by grace.’ (Bruce C. Hafen)
But that’s not all.
“Sometimes, in order to experience the best possible life that God has planned, you have to let go of your own ideas of what your life might, could, or should look like. Following Jesus requires surrendering your desires and expectations, and waiting with open hands to accept whatever He wishes to give you…. Faith is not believing God will make our ideas and plans happen if we give them to Him – it is a steadfast trust that what He leads us to and through is better than what we planned. It is choosing to believe that if He doesn’t make our original dreams come to pass, it’s because He has something better.” -Kimmy Miller
No. God’s answers to my life have not been easy. They’ve been painfully hard and have taken all the faith I could muster to follow… But you know what?
I’ve never been happier.
Instead of an endless checklist of unrealistic expectations — my life is full of peace, joy and freedom. Instead of constant feelings of inadequacy and failure — I finally know I’m enough and I’m learning to grow in the grace of my Savior. And instead of the perfect life I thought I wanted — I’m trusting God and letting Him lead me to a life that’s better than anything I could have ever dreamed of.
“Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He can deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, and pour out peace.” -Ezra Taft Benson
For you see, that’s what He does. For He is good. And HIS will and ways are far better than any ‘perfect life’ anyways.
(To read more about my journey of perfectionism and how I’m learning to grow by grace — stay tuned for part II of this post where I’ll give 6 tips that have helped me overcome perfectionism and align my goals/expectations with God’s will.)
ALSO - to all my perfectionist friends out there — I wish I could give you a big hug and tell you how amazing you are! Since I can’t, please enjoy this free printable that I designed to help you remember to grow by the grace of your Savior and not perfection. xoxoxoxo!