Monday, December 31, 2012

Letter to a Perfectionist

One of my greatest regrets in life is being a perfectionist. Maybe "perfectionist" is a nice way of putting it. If you've ever been called
  • nit-picky
  • bossy 
  • a "good girl"
  • a control freak
  • or a micro-manager
you might be in this boat with me. Whatever this malady is, it's kept me from living a life of joy, freedom, and abandon to God. I've been fearful, stressed, anxious—never rising up to my own expectations or letting anyone else get there either. I've set goals for myself that bring me nothing but grief and disappointment.

As 2012 dies a quiet death I've decided to pitch out a bunch of miscellaneous papers that have lingered around my room for months. I came across this letter to myself, written one night after a soul-wrenching conversation with Mom that probably had something to do with me freaking out over college studies. It was probably past midnight, I was crying, and these are the words I scrawled down, raw with pain and regret.

Stop taking everything so seriously. You don't have to be perfect at everything. You're too hard on people—good people who you think could try harder and be better—and on you. You're not a joy to be around when you're kicking yourself. God's not happy with you—He's given you all of this and you're not happy with it? That's pride.  
How good will you have to get before you're happy? When other people do things well, often that is their thing. We all have different circumstances, it all comes at a price.  
You can reinvent yourself. You're known as the critical perfectionist, but you can change your habits without losing your identity. Emphasize those other parts of yourself.  
It's OK to quit something and move on. You don't have to finish everything or maintain it indefinitely. Learn something and move on. Life is not a bullet list or a fightit's a story. It's not a question of how well you scored, but who you are.  
Are your goals shaping you into the kind of person you long to be? If not, change them. There are so many things you can and will do, but not all right now. You probably have years and years ahead of you. Don't borrow trouble from tomorrow or next week. Set your highest priority—1 or 2 great things—and pursue that instead of overloading your buffet plate.  
God gave you something special to give the world. Don't envy others' gifts, thank God for them. Thank God for your strengths and work in them. Remember that most "carefree" people seem to do the most amazing things and are beloved. 

Does your soul need freedom from the clutches of perfectionism and blind achievement? 
Is 2013 the year you throw out the baggage and discover grace?


  1. Very sensible! Good luck with your project and a very happy new year.

    1. Thank you very much, Betty! Happy New Year to you as well :)

  2. Abby, you're ahead of the game. You realize that perfectionism is a problem. A lot of perfectionists are proud of it, which makes as much sense as being proud of an addiction. I was quite a bit older than you before I came to that realization. It can seem to "work" for you for a time, but one day it will catch up with you! God does not expect perfection from imperfect people. We are not instructed to seek perfection. As a recovered/recovering perfectionist, I can tell you: The sooner you get over it, the happier you'll be!

    1. Thank you so much, Jean! It's great to hear from someone who has struggled and overcome the same thing. Here's to a more adventurous, less perfect, happier 2013!


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