Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Problem With Being Perfect

Have you ever read something and had an idea hit you so hard you could almost call it a physical force? That happened to me today. I was reading an ezine article about addiction recovery out of pure boredom and avoidance of work I really needed to be doing. After all, what could addiction recovery possibly have to do with me? I’m not a drunk or a crackhead. I don’t look at pornography or even want to. And yet, there it was… undeniable evidence that I have out-of-control behaviors and attitudes.

There was also an explanation. And I think it’s the explanation that convinced me of the truth that I, too, have addictive behaviors just like every drunk or druggie I’ve looked down my nose at. Two short quotes:

“No one would ever see a drunk, passed out in the gutter, and say, 'There lies a perfectionist!' But that's exactly what I was! If I couldn't do life perfectly, then I wouldn't even bother trying."

“I was bowled over by the way the Spirit (of Truth) likened this man's -- this alcoholic man's -- story to me. I heard the following thought go through my mind, "No one would ever watch a 300 pound woman walk by and think 'There walks a perfectionist,' but that is exactly what they would be seeing -- a perfectionist!" And I knew the thought was for me and I knew that it was true for me. "Humble," self-depreciating, self-loathing me -- I was a perfectionist. How could I tell? Because if I couldn't eat in the strictest, healthiest, most perfect way possible and be the perfect size ASAP, then forget it! I wouldn't even try!" (Link to full article: )
A light bulb went on in my head! How many times have I told myself that it doesn’t matter what I eat because it’s going right to my butt anyway? How many times have I thought carrot sticks, Cheetos… what’s the difference? They’re both orange, finger-shaped snack foods. Suddenly I was squirming uncomfortably in my seat. I don’t think I like this label.

Yet at my core, I know it’s true. And maybe, to overcome it, I must first embrace it. So here goes:

I am a perfectionist. I spend too much time, money and effort on trying to create MY vision of a perfect life. And when I fall short, I get angry and give in to defeatist thoughts. I compare how I look, what I possess and where I live to others and when I come out on top I feel superior. When I come up short, I’m fat, ugly and too stupid to ever make anything work right.

Yikes! That’s an ugly truth to try to hug.

‘They’ say recognizing the problem is the first step toward solving it. And when I look at it in these terms, I can see that perfectionism is a big stumbling block on the road to who I want to become. It undermines an essential trust that God will be willing to forgive my screw ups. It tells me that I will never be enough. It saps my power and effectiveness in sharing His love with all of His children. Trying so hard to be perfect is distracting me from actually doing anything of real or lasting importance. When did I forget that failing and trying again define the learning
process? And when did I forget that the very reason I’m here on Earth is to learn?

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