Do you find yourself being overly critical of everything you do, say or even think? Do you tend to set standards that are so hard to meet that even Jesus would give you the side-eye?
You, my friend, my be suffering from perfectionism, and as a recovering perfectionist myself, I should know.
In this episode, I’m getting personal and talking about my struggles with perfectionism and what to do when your entire self-worth is based on achievements, appearances and other peoples’ perception of you.
Full Transcript Below
Today guys, I really want to talk to you about perfectionism. The goal that almost all of us have is to be seen at our very best, to do or very best, and to basically be seen as flawless, almost God-like slabs of perfection, whatever you want to call it.
I’m betting that practically everyone listening to this has a part of them, even if it’s a small, tiny part that wants to or greatly desires to be seen as perfect, and I don’t blame you. I really don’t blame you because sometimes, if I’m being really honest, I want that too.
I want to be perfect just like some people are perfect.
When you look at the most successful people- Actors, Speakers, Coaches, YouTubers, Influencers, they all kind of seem to possess this almost unattainable level of perfection that so many of us would sell an arm, a leg or souls to achieve.
But you have to be careful with this one because selling your soul is something that you cannot undo. Trust me, I’ve watched the movies, I’ve seen it. You cannot get your soul back.
Today I want to talk about that dreaded 10-letter word that we honestly don’t like to talk about that much because it kind of makes us uncomfortable at least in my experience. It’s kind of funny when you think about it because we all know it’s there.
We all know it affects our daily lives. Yet we kind of tiptoe around the topic because I guess if we do admit it or if we kind of pretend that it’s not there, then we think that it might not affect us as much. But that’s simply not true.
I have seen so many girls, women and people over-exercising and under-eating in a vain attempt to look perfect, to look like a supermodel, and I just can’t ignore this topic any longer because I have seen it do too much damage for far too long.
I think it’s time to face perfectionism head-on and really open up about the impact it’s had on me as a woman, had on my friends and so many other females I’ve had the pleasure or displeasure of meeting throughout my lifetime.
Most of you who are listening right now might not know this about me, but I am a Christian. I love me some Jesus. I love Him with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, and I really work hard at building a personal relationship with Him every day because honestly, if I think about it, I don’t know where I would be without Jesus.
I don’t know what my life would look like and I don’t think that I would be alive today if it were not for the grace and I say the grace of God. But when I became a Christian, I made the big terrifyingly scary decision to become a Christian at a very young age of 13.
I didn’t really do it to fit in with anyone or to be seen in any sort of way, shape, or form.
I accepted Jesus Christ because a friend of mine, who was also my Sunday school teacher, died in a very tragic car accident and his death hit me like a ton of bricks and steel. I mean, I went from denial to absolutely devastated in a matter of minutes.
This guy to me was the best person on earth. So why did he have to die? Like why did he have to go now? Why not later? Why not in old age? Why not after he had lived a full life?
And in the days and weeks following, I really had a lot of time to think about him and I realized something really scary. If I died at any given moment, I’d be going on a one-way ticket straight to hell. And not only that, I would never be able to see him again. And that broke my heart. That scared me because again, he was the best person I knew.
So I hiked up my big girl pants, took one too many deep breaths, marched to my parents and said, “Hey mom and dad, I want to change my life”. And this is where my journey with Jesus began. Before I made this decision though, no one ever warned me that the Christian road wasn’t an easy one.
Not one soul told me just how much pressure I’d be under and how perfect or seemingly perfect I needed to become. After all, I was now a Kingdom Representative and just like a Cover Girl, I needed to know, I needed to look, I needed to act just as perfect as every other Kingdom Rep needed to act.
Everywhere I went, I felt like people were almost yelling at me, telling me to “be perfect for I am perfect”. And for a minute or two, if I’m being honest, I actually thought I was losing my mind because even in my sleep I was hearing those words “be perfect for I am perfect. Be perfect. Remember, don’t stumble. Don’t fall”.
And I was just so concerned because I felt like I needed to stick as close to the mark of perfectionism as possible.
People will tell you not to wear pants, as a good Christian girl that never wore pants. They also told me, don’t wear skirts because they’re too tight, too revealing and show too many curves. Like what was I even supposed to wear?
What was I supposed to do with all the clothing I had? Just throw them away? I wasn’t rich. I didn’t have money to waste like that. So what was I supposed to do?
It was such a stressful, confusing time for me and I was feeling even more miserable. I was a huge failure because nothing was going right and I felt like I was losing before I even tried, before I even began. And to be honest, I wasn’t feeling the least bit holy. Suddenly, this wonderfully innocent decision I’d made started feeling like an unbelievably long prison sentence.
Every day I was missing the mark and if I really thought about it, in my past, I had been a massive liar. I had been introduced to porn at a very young age. Would all of those things be used against me? Would I slip down and fall into that rabbit hole of porn again?
And when it came to other parts of my life, I felt this huge, invisible pressure to have the perfect grades, perfect appearance, and the perfect life. And this was way before the introduction of social media. Now with social media like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, we’re faced with a whole new wave of pressure.
Most of the time this pressure comes from absolute strangers who kind of portray this idealistic life online. I mean everywhere you look, everything you use, you see these ridiculously gorgeous people, living their best lives, and you sort of feel like an absolutely mediocre person in comparison.
They have a great house, an unbelievably hot spouse. They travel the world and document their amazing lives for everyone to see.
But how does all this perfection that’s being literally shoved down our throats on a daily basis affect us? How does seeing all this “amazingness” affect our mental, emotional, and physical health?
I don’t know about you, but for a very long time, being on social media made me feel really, really sad. In fact, there were times when I was even depressed, to be honest. I’d lie down in my room and scroll through Instagram and see these people having the kind of life that I wanted so desperately to have.
Then I’d hop over to Facebook and see posts about people starting great jobs, paying them boatloads of cash and it just made me feel like I wasn’t doing anything productive with my life. I had too much crap to deal with on a daily basis.
I didn’t have my entire life put together and I sure as heck felt like I didn’t have anything good to post about, so why even bother?
Why would I want to show people my life that was falling apart at the seams? Why would I show people the fact that my house looked like a tornado had just passed through it?
It just didn’t make sense as far as I was concerned. I had failed as a human being because I hadn’t attained the level of awesomeness as my friends and family had. I’m sure that you can relate to this in some way, shape or form.
You probably started a blog and initially, it was just for fun and just to serve as a way to pass the time, but soon you realize that blogging was serious business. And before you could even put out your first blog post, you realize that what you’ve written just isn’t as good as all the other blogger girls out there.
And the pictures you took weren’t taken using the right lighting kit. You couldn’t afford a preset. And so it’s just better if no one sees just how flawed your work is.
It’s better to just give up right now and save yourself the embarrassment of people seeing your work.
Or maybe you started a business in an industry that you’re super passionate about. You see yourself changing lives and making strides.
But then when you look at everyone else in your industry, you realize that even though you’ve read all the books, you’ve taken all the courses, you work your butt off every single day to make things as perfect as possible, you take the best pictures you can, you hustle three times as hard, four times as hard even, but at the end of the day, the people who made it weren’t like you at all.
Based on their social media they did not make the mistakes you did. They had the money. They had the coaches. They had the perfect look so they made it. I mean, perfect people always make it. Am I right?
So what is it going to take for you to get to their level of awesomeness?
You want to take the perfect pictures so that everyone can see how amazing your life is. But to do that, you kind of also need the perfect house, the perfect family, the perfect car, and the perfect kids.
I know that’s what I wanted because for so long I was desperately trying to achieve that life that I shovelled out money I didn’t have, took courses I wasn’t ready for, and got stuck in a vicious cycle, but I didn’t know how to claw my way out of this.
I didn’t know how to get out and to be free. So if no one else is going to raise their hands, I am going to raise two because I completely understand what it’s like to struggle with this every single day.
But the more I think about it, what if perfection just isn’t possible? What if perfection isn’t attainable for us? What if no matter what you did, how many filters you used, how much plastic surgery you got or how much you worked and you went down on your knees begging God every single day?
What if in spite of every single thing, even having an all-powerful genie give you the best life or give you the best body, what if that genie couldn’t make you perfect? What if your life, your body, your business, your marriage, your entire existence just wasn’t supposed to be perfect? Scary thoughts, nightmarish even, but as much as you don’t want to admit it, what if what I’m saying is true?
What if all of us as human beings weren’t necessarily built to be perfect? To never make mistakes, to have no flaws or to never mess up? What if a great part about being human, even one of the best parts arguably, isn’t striving to be perfect all the time, but to consistently grow and progress as your life goes on?
To fall down, to make mistakes, to fail, and then to learn from those temporary setbacks or failures so that we can grow, we can learn and become better than a person we were yesterday?
What if, and this is a very big what if, God knew beforehand that when you are born, before we’re even conceived, that we wouldn’t necessarily be able to meet the mark of perfection while we live in this fleshly body? Or what if we might even have the wrong idea of what perfect actually is?
Maybe ultimately we are supposed to live the greatest, most uplifting, impactful life we can while having our flaws while not allowing those flaws to control or overwhelm us. So at the end of the day, we can be welcomed with open arms and God can say, “well done, good and faithful servants”.
I have to admit though that letting go of that desire to be the perfect Christian, perfect woman, perfect person has been one of the biggest struggles in my life because it’s like an addiction. In the same way that a drug addict will do just about anything for a fix, the same way a perfectionist will do just about anything to maintain that title; to maintain that level of perfection.
There are plenty of days when I have to tell myself “Dee, no, let’s walk away from this. Let’s walk away from this situation”.
Because for years I stood on my high horse looking down at everyone who messed up and subconsciously I saw them as being less than because they weren’t as perfect as me.
I’d make snide remarks or shake my head in mock disappointment because how dare they see, act and do whatever and then call themselves people of God.
How dare they not have their lives together? How dare they come out of the house in sweatpants or yoga pants or leggings? How dare they? Like who did they think they were?
But like I said, the desire for perfection is almost like a drug. It can cause you to do and say things you wouldn’t otherwise do or say, while at the same time neglecting the work you were put here on earth to do.
Well, I for one am tired of it and I don’t want to live in a world where I feel like I can never mess up or can never fail because that means I will never try. That means I will never want to do anything because I’d be too embarrassed and too afraid to not meet that mark.
And I’m also tired of living in a world where the mark of success is how much better you are or how much more flawless you are in comparison to other people. Like why? Why do we do this to ourselves?
You might be sitting at home right now, you might be riding in a cab, or in a car or the bus. You might even be sitting on a park bench listening to this podcast or lying awake at 3:00 AM trying to figure out what to do.
You’re probably thinking that it doesn’t really matter what I say because no matter what, you can never be perfect even though you want to be perfect, so you might as well settle for mediocre. You might as well settle for being just okay.
But I already told you I am here to help you rise above that. I am here to help you rethink those thoughts you’re having right now because contrary to what you might believe, it is not the people who are perfect, it is not the people who are flawless that end up changing the world.
It’s not the people who’ve never messed up, who are those flawless slobs of perfection that end up impacting lives.
It’s the people like you and me- the people who were liars, the misfits, the broken, the outcast, the people who have been written off by society, by their parents, by their friends that God uses. It’s the people who don’t believe they’re worth anything at all that go on to do fantastic things on this earth.
It’s the little girl who is sitting in her bed or on the ground right now crying in a corner because she believes that she is too messed up, too broken, too stupid, too far, too far gone that God can never pick her up. God can never do anything with her.
She is the one that He is going to pick up, brush off and send out into the world to do fantastic things. Trust me, I know, from one person who has been flawed and messed up and has been a total mess to another, God is going to use you.
Because you are never ever too far gone. You are never ever to anything for God to use to do something with your life. I don’t believe that perfection should ever be our goal. Our goal should be growth and progress.
Our goal should be to strive to always learn, to challenge ourselves, to grow and to touch as many lives as we can while we, can where we can, however we can. You might not be perfect, but you are the perfect person for the work you are called to do.
You might have messed up, but your message is the story that’s going to change somebody else’s story. No matter who you are, have hope.
Let go of this perfection-seeking. Then go out there and make the impact you were meant to make, because even if you are imperfect, you still have an impact to make.
You still have a purpose to fulfil.
This is Dee and you have been listening to She Is A Mess.