Is perfectionism destroying you or your family?
I have several people in my life who are battling anxiety. In a discussion with one of them recently, my friend let me know that she feels “robbed” by the anxiety, as though it actually steals something from her. Another friend’s therapist recently labeled her negative thinking as perfectionism and related it to anxiety.
I thought about that a lot.
I think they’re right.
I remember being perfectionistic in how I home schooled my first born. I was anxious about messing up his education. I sent him to kindergarten because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to teach him to read. When I learned that I hadn’t been doing anything wrong, that his brain just wasn’t ready until half-way through his kindergarten year – and all the light bulbs turned on then for him – that info gave me the confidence to home school my other kids for kindergarten. I was ready to teach my other two how to read, and to be patient while they learned in the timing that was right for them.
But you see how perfectionism robbed me of a cool experience with teaching my first born to read? My lack of info fed that fear, too. Don’t miss the connection.
You know how parenting brings our best faults to light in really obvious ways? When I had a first grader and I was teaching math, I did a few major things wrong. I focused on the results with his papers and tests instead of the effort he put into them. I realized the negative effect I was having one day when I watched him take one of his tests. He didn’t know I was standing behind him. As I watched, I realized he wasn’t even looking at the problems, he was just writing down random answers.
I asked him why he was doing that. He looked at me and said, “It doesn’t matter how I do, it’s not going to be right anyway.” My throat caught. “Why do you say that?” I asked him.
“I don’t always get a star or a chocolate,” he replied.
If he got 95% or better, I gave him a reward. Rewards were supposed to motivate kids, right?
This wasn’t supposed to happen like this.
“So you don’t feel like trying? I don’t understand,” I said, truly confused.
“I don’t know if #2 or #6 is right, so it doesn’t matter how I do on the rest. If I don’t get #2 and #6, the rest don’t matter,” he replied.
I was raising a perfectionist.
Where did he get that?
I knew where he got it. I wasn’t raising one, however – I was creating one.
What we don’t deal with as parents in ourselves, we recreate in our children.
So I did a ton of reading about home schooling. And perfectionism.
And what I discovered shook me up pretty good.
The articles I read at the time were different, but the points were essentially the same.
Perfectionism is essentially the loss of the ability to see what is true. Even God didn’t shoot for perfect, He declared things done when they were “good.”
Perfectionism is over-doing what we refer to as “gap-focused thinking,” or when you live in the past, the future, or the “shoulda-woulda-coulda” instead of “the Now that currently IS.”
Instead of paying attention to the nice bunch of tomatoes you grew in your garden, enjoying each sweet, tart and tangy bite, it’s paying attention to a GAP – “If I had planted them earlier, I’d have more,” “If I only planted cucumbers, I’d also have pickles now,” “I wish they were bigger/better/more flavorful,” etc. It is sin because it denies the gift that God has given, what we DO have, and instead focuses on what we do NOT have – which basically says that what God has given or what the other person has done is not enough.
And focusing on the gap denies us of the possible pleasures, joy, and blessings – I would even go so far as to say it denies us of the very existence of God Himself, because we squelch the Holy Spirit when we complain instead of appreciate.
We are actually doing the enemy’s work for him because he doesn’t have to work that hard to rob, steal, and destroy us or our relationships – we just hand them all over with perfectionism.
It should be no surprise that we destroy our relationships when we focus on the gap, also. No one can live up to the kind of pressure perfectionism creates and most people eventually give up trying.
It shouldn’t be surprising if you are doing the Respect Dare that we’d deal with this. Here’s the verse (my life verse, btw!) that has the power to turn things around for us all:
God has set me from from perfectionism.
I repented, confessing to God that I didn’t want to destroy my child, and begged Him to change me.
I apologized to my child, was completely honest about what I was doing and how it was wrong, and a sin against God. I let my kid know I’d asked God to forgive me and I was also asking him to forgive me.
And guess what? He did.
They both did.
There’s a fine line between being driven and being a perfectionist. It’s okay to have drive, aim high, and do your best. It’s even Biblical (Whatever your hands find to do, do with all your might, Ecclesiastes 9:10).
So yes, aim high, work hard, do GOOD.
Just don’t expect perfection from yourself or others. You’ll know you’re dealing with perfectionism because you have that whole “not enough” thing going on – either you putting it on yourself, or others putting it on you, or worse, you putting it on other people.
And watch out – it will seriously damage your marriage.
What about you? Would love Love LOVE to hear from you on this – especially if you are also a reformed perfectionist! How did the truth in that verse impact you?
For me it was the “whatever is TRUE” part. I’ll elaborate in the comments as we dialogue. Can’t wait to hear from you today!
Love to you,
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Space is limited. Grab your spot while you still can HERE. And remember to use your discount of bringafriend2016 by registering by May 17!