Dear Fellow Perfectionists: We Need a Transformation of the Heart

Overcoming Perfectionism | Christian Mom ThoughtsI’ve always been baffled by the fact that Kenna, my 4-year-old, gets incredibly frustrated about everything at home, but when she’s at preschool, gymnastics or ballet classes, she has no trouble “keeping it together.” That changed at Friday’s gymnastics class.

She was learning a new skill on the balance beam and kept falling. After one too many falls she screamed, “I can’t do it! I don’t want to do gymnastics ANY MORE!” I was one part embarrassed (“oh my gosh, my kid just flamed out in front of everyone”), one part scared (“she’s going to start getting frustrated in public now like she does at home”) and one part sad (“she’s going to be cursed by perfectionism, like me, for the rest of her life”).

If Kenna can’t do something perfectly, she doesn’t want to do it at all. I’m exactly like that, and I regularly think about stopping blogging because of it – this blog is so far from the “perfect” blog I would like to have. For example:

I don’t write enough blog posts, and my frequency of posting is inconsistent.

Theoretically, I would love to publish the same number of posts every week and on the same days so readers know what to expect. But I have three kids under five (who are not in school during the day) and I work part time. I write during their nap time or after a long day when they are tucked into bed. Sometimes I can post twice in a week, but usually it’s only once, and I can’t even get myself to consistently post on the same day(s)…my blog is terribly imperfect because of it.

There’s no rhyme or reason to what I post about in a given week.

In a perfect world, I would have an editorial calendar where I meticulously plan the sequencing of posts to regularly and methodically hit each category my blog covers – never to have too many posts about one topic (e.g., prayer) or ignore another one altogether (e.g., service). Instead, I end up writing whatever I’m passionate about at a given moment…and my blog is terribly imperfect because of it.

I’ve started series I have yet to come back to.

In the last year, I’ve started four series that I haven’t returned to after the first post. I get goose bumps of embarrassment even typing that because it feels so messy…and my blog is terribly imperfect because of it.

I haven’t replied to every comment.

When someone leaves a comment, I hugely appreciate it. I love to hear your feedback and your own experiences. I want to respond to everything. But, depending on the stresses of a week, there are always some comments that go unanswered. I hate this…and my blog is terribly imperfect because of it.

I take everything too personally.

The second I hit publish on a new post, I get nervous. Will people like it? Will they even read it? Will they decide the blog isn’t worth reading anymore because the post wasn’t perfectly what I had in mind? Will someone leave a mean comment? I’ve received a handful of rather rude emails (from fellow believers!) informing me that I’m not a Christian because they disagree with me on some point or another; I even had one reader say she would pray that I “find my way back to God” because I encouraged parents to go beyond just telling their kids the Bible is “true” to helping them understand what it means when we say the Bible is true. Though these emails have been few, they literally reduce me to tears because I take everything so personally…and I am a terribly imperfect blogger because of it.

Because I loathe this blog’s imperfections, I regularly consider giving up on it.

I don’t lay all this out for the trappings of a pity party. I don’t even have plans to give up on blogging at this moment. Instead, I’m using this to demonstrate the futility of the perfectionist mentality. When we don’t do something because we fear creating a perceived mess of imperfection, we actually take away an opportunity for God to work. 

Do you not study the Bible with your kids because you aren’t sure how to do it the “right” way? Do you not pray out loud with them because you don’t want to say something that won’t be “right”? Do you not go to church because you haven’t found the “perfect” one for your family? Do you not take time to serve others because you haven’t found the “perfect” opportunity? Do you not start faith conversations with your kids because you fear not having the “right” answers?

Dear fellow perfectionists, whatever your form of perfectionism, we need a transformation of the heart.

Perfectionism offers a beautiful vision for what could be, but handicaps us with a disappointment in what actually is. Hold on to the vision, but transform the disappointment into a grace-filled acceptance of where you are right now…then “press on” with joy.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Perfectionism offers motivation, but handicaps us with fear. Hold on to the motivation, but transform fear into the courage that is driven by love…then step out boldly.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

Perfectionism offers strong self-awareness, but handicaps us with a self-centeredness that neglects the sufficiency of Christ’s work in us and through us. Hold on to the self-awareness, but transform self-centeredness into Christ-centeredness…then rest in His sufficiency.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

The perfectionist part of me thinks no one will read this post because it’s way over the 750-word rule (most people won’t read blog posts over that limit). The length of this post is imperfect. But I choose to believe today that God can work through these imperfect 1,102 words to bring value to someone out there in spite of it.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? How does it impact you or your parenting? I’d love to hear your experiences.

15 thoughts on “Dear Fellow Perfectionists: We Need a Transformation of the Heart”

  1. I read the post, all the way to the end, partly because I think I have perfectionist tendencies which would prevent me from stopping half way through, but mostly because I liked what I was reading, all 1,102 words of it.

    I’ve thought about all of these “unofficial blog rules” such as scheduling and consistency and word counts and I’ve tried to keep up with them myself. But as I read the points you feel detract from the success of your blog I realized that those things you reported represent a life well lived. So if living life fully prevents blog perfection then I say down with blog perfection, let’s all live life.

    Jesus Christ invites us to be perfect, but we cannot achieve perfection without him. I like the point you made about not trying taking the power out of God’s hands to make us better. If we don’t try we can’t succeed or fail, and if we can’t fail we can’t learn what we need in order to be successful the next time.

    Here’s to imperfect blogging and living a life of trying to come closer to God!

  2. Oh my goodness, Natasha. I love you, girl! Obviously, you know we skip to the same beat on many of our “imperfections.” Lol! Apparently our children are experiencing similar perfectionist traits. Sunday afternoon we took eggs over to my mother-in-law’s house so she could enjoy watching her granddaughters color easter eggs. My seven year old is at the age where she wants everyone to stay out of her way and let her be creative. She loves art and is very good at it. The kit she had for her Easter eggs was one with paint and sponges to dab the paint on the egg all artsy like. Then the egg dries shiny. Very pretty eggs! Anyway, she desperately wanted a yellow egg with pink splotches. The first time she tried, she accidentally dropped the perfectly finished egg in bright blue paint below. Clearly mad about her mishap, she picked up another egg attempting for the perfect yellow/pink combination. She had it looking beautiful! Until the fingers holding the egg somehow found their way into dark green paint and she touched the egg, not just once, but about three times with green fingers before she realized she had messed up her perfect pink/yellow egg. And the tears started flowing. She was so upset that she messed up two perfect eggs and all she wanted was one egg that was perfectly yellow and pink. What she didn’t realize is how incredibly gorgeous her two messed up eggs actually ended up looking. She’s still mad. But when I saw her tears, I was a little taken back in shock. “Really? You’re crying over this?! You’re supposed to be having fun!” She is filled with character traits from her mommy though. I am exactly the same way with my writing. It will never be good enough in my eyes, even though the words come from God and the end result is beautiful. We are our own worst critics and often times suffocate our own joy as a result. I’m praying for God to transform my perfectionism into seeking His beauty in all things rather than holding all things up to my unrealistic expectations. For the Lord knows, I am far from perfect. But I am beautiful in His sight.

  3. Courage, dear heart… think of those “imperfections” as a way to model grace, epecially in front of your kids. I fall flat on my face in front of my son far more often than I would care to admit… and he sees me ask forgiveness. I wouldn’t have him miss that for all the world.

  4. Thank you for this! I used to be a fellow perfectionist, and for years I wouldn’t try something, because I would look back if I couldn’t do it right or if it didn’t succeed. Now I’ve let go, and it’s SO freeing! So what if I mess up? So what if people think I’m a nut? So what if it’s not the way someone else would’ve done it? I do still have insecurities, but I keep reminding myself that *I* should not be the focus, but Christ. That’s why we need Christ-if we were perfect, we wouldn’t need Christ’s redemption and forgiveness. I just tell myself, I’m not perfect, and it’s OK. I think because of my perfectionist tendencies, I would expect perfection from the people around me, causing me to be critical of a lot of people-hubby and kids included. One day, my (then) 4-year-old son said to me, “I CAN’T be perfect mom! I’m not God!”. I’ve now learned to let things go, to forgive and extend grace when things aren’t done to my ‘expectations’, to not expect perfection from others. After all, if they were perfect, they wouldn’t need Christ either, and we all do need Him!

  5. You just described me perfectly! Which is why my house continues to be cluttered….My thinking: .”if I don’t have time to do the whole task, why bother starting? It has to all be done correctly and I need lots of time for that”. The fear of not doing “the best” method of something like teaching my kids a spiritual truth. Worrying about which devotion book is the Perfect one, so not getting started on any. All of these are examples of my thought processes. I’ve seen it impact my kids also as they start to exhibit some of these tendencies. I am recovering. My husband is such a blessing at helping me break it down and assuring me that it’s ok if something doesn’t get finished right away; the important part is getting started. I”m so thankful for him. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR WRITING ABOUT THIS. I’m comforted in knowing I’m not alone in this battle. IT really does feel like I”m the only one who struggles with this sometimes. Thank you for reminding me why this is so damaging. I especially love the part that reminds us that perfectionism handicaps us with the self-centeredness that neglects the sufficiency of Christ’s work in and through us. ahhhh……my golden nugget. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BLESSING ME WITH THIS. PLEASE DON’T STOP BLOGGING!

  6. You can’t give up writing this it is hugely motivational even if not “perfect”. You ate amazing writer and this blog is very meaningful to lots of peeps… Including me

  7. I hope you keep blogging. You always say something to make me think, even if I disagree with you on certain points. I don’t read to have someone agree with me, I read to learn and be challenged, and to connect with others. 🙂 I have never researched what people will and won’t read, so I had no idea about the word limit. I read all your posts all the way through, lol. I love that Philipians verse; that really touches my heart. A couple weeks ago I was really struggling at church, having the two babies in service with me along with the two big kids. Everyone was cranky, and I thought, “why am I doing this? It’s too hard!” but the verse is true. I need to press on toward my goal (discipling my own children, even at church) even if week by week that doesn’t look perfect. Thank you for pointing that out! 🙂

  8. You are amazing!!! You had me nodding my head and laughing out loud. I saw so much of myself in this! And what is even funnier is I don’t have nearly the following you do and yet I still get myself all twisted up about topic, word count, and what others will think! Thank you for bringing value to me! Because of this I am going to stop procrastinating and finish the post I started 3 weeks ago!! Haha!

  9. Yes! I struggle with imperfection! I blogged the other day about my fear of getting things wrong. I have noticed these tendencies in my son as well. Part of why I started blogging is to model for my son what it means to “step out boldly” as you say above.

  10. Not sure if my problem is striving to be a perfectionist or if it’s just serious OCD but I come to this blog because it’s not perfect I come to this blog because it’s real, it’s true and it’s from your heart. Not many people can so boldly put their imperfections so perfectly on a blog and bless the many of us who read it. I’m here reading your blogs daily because you have stepped out in a boldness to share your heart, unprotected and you model it well. Please keep up the blogging you’ve blessed me in a very ‘perfect’ way.

  11. I love to read your blog dear sister in Christ. Don’t ever give up your passion for what other people might think.

  12. Thanks. This really spoke to me today. I’ll be re-reading and putting these words of advice into practice.

  13. I, too, am a perfectionist. I have 2 boys (6 and 9) and I can already tell that my perfectionistic tendencies are wearing off on them. My oldest son started when he was in preschool at just 3 years old. His teacher had something on the wall all year long, and toward the last month of school, she moved it to a different wall. He was the first one to notice when he walked into the room that morning and immediately said “Mrs. Dollins, that doesn’t go there!”

    I sympathize with your comment on the series, because I also started a series back in January of this year. I made it to week 3 (out of a 10 week series), and haven’t posted since. I work full-time and have two boys (not to mention a husband!) I have little time on the computer for personal matters. I often feel guilty and “imperfect” because I haven’t kept up with my weekly post. I wonder “What will my readers think?” But you know what? It honestly doesn’t matter what they think (no offense). I’m not perfect (no matter how hard I try). Life happens and I have to learn to do what I can, and not focus on what I can’t or didn’t do. Eventually, I will finish my series, and I’m sure you will too. Until then, keep posting when you can, and know that your readers will be here, and we will continue reading your posts as they come through our inbox.

    God bless!

  14. I just wanted you to know that this post blessed me… Even years after you wrote it because I’m just now in the thick of mothering 3 kids 3 and under and struggling with perfectionism. Keep writing. God is using your story to encourage others even now as I sit here nursing my baby and Googling out of desperation. Blessings, friend.

  15. You wrote this 3 years ago, but it is still encouraging others because this is just what I needed today. Be encouraged and thank you for sharing!

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