perfection = the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.
I've always had a mild desire to attain perfection. It's probably rooted from my childhood circumstances; first born daughter to teen parents, I had to mature at a young age, and I was praised all the time for being so successful. This desire exploded in high school when, for the first time, I actually put effort into my grades. I got a 4.0. I realized, wow, I can do anything if I just put in the effort. Before this time most of my efforts were put into my appearance, losing weight, dying my hair, buying clothes, like a typical pre-teen trying to fit in. Of course I never felt like I had truly 'made it'. I never truly reached my weight goals or looked as good as I thought I needed to.
But during high school something shifted. I now wanted, needed, to get perfect grades and do better than everyone else. It's like I was proving to myself that I was the hardest worker out there; therefore I was somehow superior to others. I only felt good about myself if I knew at least I wasn't like that girl over there. It is a sad way to think about myself.
I started to feel a lot of anxiety about my body image, saving money for college, being successful in college, being a good friend, doing the right thing. All of those feelings exploded in college. I only put more pressure on myself to achieve perfect grades, be friendly, get involved, stay in shape, etc. To this day I have no idea how I survived college without a mental breakdown. I cannot believe the pressure I put on myself to be perfect. It was a constant, daily, minute-by-minute struggle.
So how do we get over this need for perfectionism? For me it took reaching bottom to realize my need for perfection was completely out of control. I could go on and on about how I still struggle with my need for perfection but I am truly learning to find beauty in the mess of life. I will spare all the details, but I did come up with a few reasons NOT to strive for perfection.
- It's boring. Take a minute and imagine everyone being perfect. We would live in a robot world. Imagine your significant other or best friend being perfect. Would you even like them? Would you have anything in common? What unites us as humanity is our quirks, our differences, our weirdness, our passions. Perfection is just plain boring!
- It means you're not human. Humans, from the beginning of time, are flawed. We make mistakes and then we learn from them. We hurt those we love and then we learn the beauty of forgiveness and grace. Striving for absolute perfection is striving something we were never created for. We were created for complete dependence on God to make up for all of our imperfections.
- God does great things when we are weak. It's not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick (Mark 2:17). We need God. We absolutely need him. It was not until I was so weak I didn't think there was any purpose to my existence that I realized the importance of relying on God. When we take ourselves out of the equation, he works.
- It's not healthy. Striving for perfection only leads to stress, and pressure, and disappointment. We already live in a high-pressure world. Don't put more pressure on yourself than society is already putting on you.
- You'll never reach perfection, anyways. Let's be honest here. No matter how hard we work, how much weight we lose, how great of a wife we think we need to be, the human condition tells us not to be satisfied. We want more more more. It's never enough. We need to realize perfection will never come. So let's just learn to live here and now and enjoy all of our flaws together.