Someone once said, “When you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target.” Unfortunately many of us women have not attained this revelation. Rather than changing our goal, we try in vain to hit the impossible. Every day women mentally berate themselves for not completing their to-do list: feeling guilty over not having enough time to cook meals for their families; increased anxieties over the unfinished loads of laundry and dishes; condemnation over every morsel of food with over 30 percent fat; fears that their parenting will in some way miss the mark and result in irreparable damage to their children’s future; irrational expectations that following the latest diet program will give them the gorgeous body on the magazine cover. Their increasing disappointment in their failed attempts only results in a rise in negative self-talk and a decline of self-esteem.
My fondest memories as a little girl are the times I spent daydreaming about what life would be like as an adult. I can recall the hours spent thinking through every detail. From the height of my husband to the eye color of my children, I painted a perfect mental picture of how my happy life would look. During my teen years, the details became more elaborate as I added in college and career plans. Then as time passed it became increasingly obvious that things were not going to happen as easily as they did in my daydreams. When I became a wife and mother, I found myself continually tweaking my current life to fit my idea of perfection. Apparently God did not get the memo about my perfect life requirements.
Where does this lie come from? How is it so deeply rooted in our beliefs? “Practice makes perfect.” “You are a picture of perfection.” “She has the perfect life.”
These are just a few of the statements that perpetuate the myth that perfection exists on this side of heaven. From early childhood, we all love the books with happy endings where everything falls into place without a hitch. The process builds through the impressionable tween and teen years as we absorb what we see on television and in movies and magazines. Each image adds interlocking links to our picture of the life we desire to live one day. Each link reinforces the bond, making it even harder to freely experience the ebb and flow of life without feeling strained and stressed.
Is a Perfectionist Mindset Preventing You From Living Your Best Life?
“Perfect” and “normal” are both products of the same mutant gene pool and do not exist in the general population. I have learned that perfection only occurs in print and media. It is a vapor of life that the media vainly tries to capture and preserve lest it quickly slip away. The actors whose lives look so perfect on screen are just that—actors playing a part. Someone tells them how they should feel, what they should say, and how they should respond within the confines of their characters. Who wants to live a confined, pre-scripted life?
Unfortunately, many of us women have written scripts for our own lives in our minds, daily striving to live out the “perfect” life. Those scripts are based on our own preconceived expectations of what we feel is required to be successful, fulfilled, and happy. When our striving fails to produce the results we want, we feel confused because life hasn’t followed our scripts. These times of missing the mark lead to disappointment and test our faith—not just our faith in God, but also our faith in our own ability to script our perfect lives.
When you live your life as the lead character in “My Perfect Life,” you set yourself up for frustration because you lose the real you within the role you are portraying. You lose your ability to accept your God-given individuality, preferences, strengths, and weaknesses. You lose your ability to accept your imperfections as a part of your uniqueness. Once you accept the fact that you are not perfect and will never be perfect, you can then develop the confidence to embrace the freedom to live your best life.
Instead of pursuing an evasive level of perfection, we would save ourselves a lot of disappointment and discouragement if we pursued excellence. Excellence goes beyond boundaries and limits. It allows for individualized levels of excelling and calls us to go beyond our past experiences into uncharted territory. Excellence calls us into a new place of freedom by surpassing our prior expectations.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 encourages us to do whatever work we have before us with all of our strength. Excellence will require an effort on your part, but the rewards are multi-factorial. It improves your self-esteem, it builds your self-confidence, it ushers in positive feedback from others, and it leads to success. Excellence is an inward competition with yourself. There are no losers, only winners, since you are the only participant involved. It requires a desire to be better tomorrow as you apply what you have learned today. Excellence is matching your experience with your potential.
Freedom can be scary when you’ve become locked in bonds. Each new bend in life pulls and stretches you to be open to the possibility of happiness outside of your preplanned course. Can you be happy if you never reach your ideal body weight? Can peace replace guilt when you opt for takeout rather than cooking at home? Can expectation replace anxiety when there is an interruption in your daily schedule?
Living free to enjoy your best life is not synonymous with settling for less. It doesn’t mean you should not dream. It is not an excuse to lose your vision or your desires for your future. It is exactly the opposite! It means being open to the possibility that God may have an even better plan than the one you scripted. When you spend your days holding out for everything to be perfect, you may end up with nothing. Let go of that perfectionist mindset and grab hold of the new thing God has for you.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. ~ Isaiah 43:19
BREAKTHROUGH STEPS: What is something you’ve always wanted to begin, but have been holding back due to believing you have to get it perfect before you start? Today’s a great day to spring forth! Make an outline for that book you’ve dreamed of writing. Start planning out that mission trip. Organize and pray through your journal entries to see where God may be leading you for your next adventure with Him.
For more on this topic check out: Set Free to Live Free: Breaking Through the 7 Lies Women Tell Themselves (Revell 2011)