Perfectionism has always been a distinct part of my personality.
It’s the part of me that spends days (ok… weeks) editing a blog post only to delete it because I can’t see past the endless areas for improvement.
It’s the part of me that hides from stuff God calls me to do because I’m not confident in my own abilities and I’m terrified of failure.
It also makes me strive to make life look put-together and organized (or at least as close as it can get).
But lately I’ve had to face a difficult fact: perfectionism masquerades as a friend, but in reality it’s a tool of the Enemy.Watch out! Perfectionism masquerades as a friend, but in reality it's a tool of the Enemy Click To Tweet
To be painfully open, my recent battle against perfectionism is the main reason I have been silent for a while on my blog and social media.
I thought that the things I wrote needed to be perfect (or at least be pretty darn close) in order for God to use them. And since I couldn’t achieve perfection, I just stopped writing altogether. Instead, I convinced myself I wasn’t good enough.
Maybe you can relate.
Maybe you’ve poured hours into something but only feel more insecure in your ability to finish it instead of happy with your work. Maybe you’ve felt perfectionism hold you back from fully submitting to God’s best. Maybe, you’ve even used the line “Well, I’m just a perfectionist” as a sort of “subtle” bragging right. If so, I want to show you something God has been teaching me.
There is a difference between excellence and perfectionism, and I think this is where we get mixed up.
The desire to pour into something and make it beautiful and valuable is admirable. In fact, it honors and obeys God since we should be doing everything with excellence “as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). But that desire left unchecked becomes perfectionism, and in my experience it is the opposite of pleasing to God.
True excellence is God-driven, and goes hand-in-hand with words like diligence and persistence. The desire for and pursuit of excellence is key to living for the glory of God. But the thing is, excellence is only possible with the assistance of God.
Perfectionism on the other hand has to do with covering up insecurities and focusing on outward appearances. It quickly becomes all about “me”. It’s about making sure My stuff looks good. It’s about making sure that I’m good enough (which, hello, I’m clearly not!).
I love this way of putting it: “Perfectionism is our desire for acceptance and fear of rejection – fear of what people will think of us. Excellence is being confident in the skills God has given you and giving it your best shot, without fear of failure. Excellence is fueled from having confidence in who God says you are. Perfectionism is fueled by insecurity.” (Ashley Hodges, liveoriginal.com)
With all of that said, I’m going to be blunt. There are many elements to this post which (to me at least) aren’t good enough. But even though I have poured into this post, doing my best with the skills God has given me, there is a certain point where I have to let it go. I have to put it out there and trust God to use it in a way that I can’t understand right now.
I have to abandon the fear that people will judge me or not like it.
I have to accept that there is always room for improvement.
I have to be okay with the fact that there are (and always will be) many writers much more talented than I.
Most of all, I have to stop making this about me and what I’m doing.
Instead, I have to make it a partnership of excellence with God. I will do what I can, praying that God will guide what I write. Then, when God tells me it’s time, I have to let go and let Him take this post from there, humbly giving Him the freedom to do whatever He wants with it.
This is something that goes against every natural desire of my perfectionistic self, but it’s something I’m making the decision to start practicing.
This is what I’m learning about myself:
“Perfectionist” is an identity I have claimed for too long, but it doesn’t belong to me! And it doesn’t belong to you either! We are daughters of the King. We are not defined by the work we do, but rather by the redeeming work of the one Who saved us.
And even though it will take time and the help of God to break this lifelong habit, let’s put the pursuit of perfection behind us!
(Photo by Krystal Craven Photography, edited with permission by Lydia Fookes)