Perfectionism has always been a struggle for me. I used to think perfectionism and striving for excellence were the same thing. Over the years, I’ve learned to see the difference.
Perfectionism involves putting unrealistic expectations on ourselves. We usually don’t put these expectations on other people, but it is so easy to put them on ourselves.
Why are we putting this pressure on ourselves? The first step to freedom is being aware of what drives our own perfectionism.
Where are you finding your worth?
When I strive to earn my worth from accomplishments, from the applause of others, or acceptance/approval from others, I easily get caught up in the hamster wheel of perfectionism. I also find myself driven by perfectionism when trying to avoid shame and criticism from others. It is so easy to get caught in this cycle without realizing it, especially if you have a tendency to “people please.”
Seeking our worth from outside sources will always leave us unsatisfied and constantly striving. We will always disappoint someone, we will always fall short somewhere, and we will never feel like we can do enough.
When I reflect on how much we are unconditionally LOVED by the Father, and rest in what Christ did for us, setting us free from having to earn our approval or worth, it frees me from having to live up to a standard I could never attain. When I stay focused on who He has called me to be, and what He has called me to do, it helps me stay focused on what my true purpose is, instead of living by others’ perceived expectations.
Are you living by the truth?
When I get caught up in perfectionism, I find myself believing a lie that I shouldn’t have limitations. This lie is often fueled by comparing myself to others. When I believe this lie, it is easy to overexert myself, then burn out.
When I think realistically, I know I don’t put these unreasonable demands on those I love, so why do I put them on myself?
The truth is, we were created with different strengths, different gifts, different personalities, and different passions. It’s a beautiful thing when we all work together, using our own unique gifts, instead of constantly comparing ourselves to others. We were not meant to be the same. We have different talents, and with these talents come strengths and limitations. It is important to give ourselves grace for our limitations rather than putting unreasonable pressure on ourselves.
To avoid getting caught up in perfectionism, it is important to continually renew our minds with truth. (Romans 12:2) Truth helps us recognize and reject the lies that may be driving our thoughts and behaviors.
Are you focusing on your work, or who you are serving?
I’ve always been a stubbornly determined person. God has also given me a heart to love others. When I get too caught up in what I am doing, instead of who I am serving, I know I’m getting caught up in perfectionism. Perfectionism causes me to be more concerned with how I appear to the world than being driven by God’s purpose for my work.
It is easy, in our quest to serve our fellow humans, to get caught up in doing everything “just right” or delay sharing something we have created until it is “perfect.” When do we arrive at perfect, or good enough? For a perfectionist—never!
When we focus too much on making everything perfect, it can paralyze us from taking those steps of faith and action, because we never arrive at perfect. When we focus on who we are serving, and tune in to God leading us moment by moment with His peace, it releases us to take action when the time is right.
Letting go of perfectionism does not mean doing a sloppy job or neglecting quality in our work. But, there is a difference in being a perfectionist, and doing your work wholeheartedly for God’s glory. (Colossians 3:17) The difference lies in intention.
To avoid getting caught up in perfectionism, it is important to recognize where you are finding your worth, renew your mind continually with truth, focus on who you are serving, and tune in to God’s leading and what His purpose is for your work.Follow me on social media: