Mar 14, 2009

Confessions of a perfectionist...

Jill Briscoe, in her book 8 Choices That Will Change a Woman's Life, refers to what she calls "The Perfectionism Trap". How often I have wondered how much of life I have missed by being firmly caught up in perfectionsim. I've even considered a theory I've created, that perfectionism is somehow related to birth order. Specifically speaking, to first-borns. I'm a first-born, the daughter of a first-born. I'm married to a first-born, and I think I've passed the disease to my own first-born.

Unlike my more carefree friends and family, I can't leave the house until my face is made up and my hair is fixed. I can't begin a cooking project until the kitchen is perfectly cleaned up before I start. I hate going on a road trip if the car isn't cleaned and everything in an organized and readily accessible place. A few years ago, my then new daughter-in-law, while observing me, asked "do you iron everything?" I'm the only sibling of the six of us who didn't complete a college degree. Why? Because I dropped out when I got my first 'B'. And that was almost 2 years into it. There's a whole lot more I could confess, but you get the idea. It's torturous to think of how many opportunities I have passed up, or how many of God's gifts I have wasted, by giving up instead of persevering through the tough times and allowing stumbles and falls to sideline me.

The sad thing is, while I'm busy trying to present myself as something "perfect", without a doubt it's all too obvious to even the casual observer that I am anything "but"! And it's really quite lonely to be in this trap because to keep up the game, one must constantly try to hide part of oneself and only present the "put together" parts.

Enter God! While it is taking a lifetime to really "get it", it is so freeing to know that He has me covered. God came to earth in Jesus to live the perfect life I could never live. It's mind-boggling to think that when He looks on me, it is through the lens of the cross, and in spite of myself, He alone sees me as perfect. Not because of any of the goofy perfectionistic things I do, but only because of what He has done in the perfect work of Christ.

Easter and the cross are particularly meaningful to the "perfectionist". A good Lenten meditation, I think.


Andy said...


Very, very good post. I am not sure that I'm a perfectionist. Or, if I am, the disease presents itself in different ways with me.

It really is something to be caught dead in our tracks in this matter. Embarrassing, to be sure. But embarrassment yields to grace.

Wanda said...

Oh, I relate...I put makeup on and fix my hair every morning...makes me feel better and ready for anything...first thing I do before cooking a meal is run a sink of soapy clean up as I go...makes me feel better...those care free people may not feel as content as you think...maybe the reason you dropped out of college wasn't the "B" but because it wasn't meant to "Be"...I think trying to present the best you is's not's shows that other people are as important to you as you are to yourself. I feel trying to be perfect to others is impossible, since everyone perceives "perfect" differently. You come across to me as someone to be admired...your son's comment affirms that. Enjoyed your post!