Is it difficult for you to leave a project unfinished if you have to change activities? Are you unable to delegate work because you think that nobody can do it better than you? Do you have to wake up an hour early every morning to try on a thousand shirts before deciding which one is perfect for that day? Do you believe that you could always have done better? That you could be a better mother, a better boss, a better assistant, better, better, better… Nothing is ever good enough, not your children, not your husband, not your friends, and much less society.
Your life is constant suffering because your expectations are always too high and out of reach.
I know many perfectionists, and they are extraordinary people: always trying to give their best; passionate in their work, always presenting themselves well, punctual,… All this by itself is not bad, but for a perfectionist life is unbearable when their goals are unreached. There are many causes, and we could find an endless list of them: a demanding childhood, a personality which shoulders every responsibility, but perhaps the greatest cause of perfectionism is the impossible demands today´s world places on us.
This gallery is based on the book: “When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough” by Martin M. Anthony Ph.D. and Richard P. Swinson, M.D. It is for perfectionists and those who wish to share it with friends who live frustrated because they could always have done better.
1. God is perfect not a perfectionist.
© Ingo Vogelmann/Flickr
Perfectionism can present itself in various aspects of our life: in school or at work, in physical appearances, in organization and order, in writing and the pronunciation of words. Imagine a perfectionist texting! Horrible! Perfectionism can even affect our Christian life and our relationship with God (this is serious). Always seeking to be perfect, we focus on the strict completion of rituals, prayers, and the activities which a Christian “ought to do”; we forget about love for God and neighbor.
2. Perfectionism does not allow us to see that we are loved.
Perfectionists are always dissatisfied with themselves and others. Anger is a constant in their lives, they may suffer from anxiety and even depression. Life becomes sad and solitary. Happiness is brief when their work is recognized, but ends when their thoughts say: “You could have done better.” In Christian life perfectionism separates us for the joy of loving God and the security of feeling loved as we are. We become obsessed with activity and begin to judge the Christian life of others.
3. Accept yourself. You are not perfect.
© Malena T Persson/Flickr
God created us in his image and likeness. His creation does not have errors because God does not make mistakes; not because he is a perfectionist, but because he loves. He does not expect us to do everything well, without mistakes. In fact, he sent us his Son to forgive all our errors and sins. God is perfect, and this perfection has to do with his unconditional, infinite love. It is good that we strive to be better, to become saints, but this ought to be a path full of joy, not suffering. God knows that we are full of errors and encourages us to improve with joy, not by tormenting ourselves with unrealistic and unattainable goals.
4. Love is lived in community. Ask for help.
Love lives in encounters. We are not alone. We have family, friends, the Church. Be bold and speak with others about these things. Tell them what you are experiencing and what you feel; Ask for help, advice. Accepting that your attitude makes your life painful is already a great start. Overcoming perfectionism requires a personal effort that will take time, but it is easier with company. Even in the most severe cases, which require professional help, it is important to rely on the support of others in the process.
5. Don’t try to control everything.
Not wanting to make even the smallest mistake signifies the desire to have things under control all the time. It is exhausting to undertake the useless task of desiring to control everything, so relax and let go! The idea of wanting to commit zero errors is as absurd as wishing to fit the ocean into a bucket. When you have these thoughts: be realistic, ask yourself sincerely if this is possible, and don’t take things so seriously that you become obsessed. Do your children’s toys strewn around the kitchen annoy you? This disorder signifies life, signifies childhood. Sit down with them and play. Later, put things away, together. Do you want them to remember their mom as busy and irritated all the time? Or do you want them to remember you telling them fantastic stories? Do you want a child who fears your bad moods or one who confides in you?
As a Christian, do you want to be an apostle who serves God joyfully? Or do you want to be bitter and frustrated whenever things are not flawless? Which of the two do you think will be more attractive for evangelization?
6. Take risks even if you might make a mistake.
God made us free. Free yourself of the chains which cause you bitterness. Choose your thoughts, your actions. You will fail a thousand times in the attempt, but that’s the point. What about choosing an activity which you were postponing for fear of failing and set a deadline? What if you clean up later? What if you don’t correct a mispronounced word but laugh at the way it sounds? What if you put on the first shirt you grab? Decide for yourself and learn to make mistakes.
7. Work as if things depend on you but knowing that in reality they depend on God.
There are many truly brilliant people that do nothing for fear of doing something poorly. They give up because their standards are unreachable. Doing the best that YOU can, does not mean that you do them perfectly. Someone might tell me that Jesus told us: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:38-48). True, Jesus said it, but he was referring to the perfection which is the love and the grace of God who calls us to be Saints. Alone, despite all his efforts, man fails. He needs God. Therefore, give your best, trusting in the grace of God. If it does not turn out as you would like, be at peace, offer your suffering to God and remember that He has a plan in everything.
Translated by: Jacob Nistler