Posted: June 25, 2019 by Erica Sandeno
Hi, I’m Erica, and I am a recovering perfectionist! Can you relate? Since my earliest memories, I have been drawn to perfection. As a kid, I despised the idea of a toy box! All of those random toys just tossed in one big box in such a haphazard way! What a terrible idea! When my oldest was a toddler I started a system with shoebox-sized totes for each of his toys. I labeled them with clip art of the toy it contained; legos, potato head, etc. I was the living example of a place for everything and everything in its place. A clean house, a clean refrigerator, and clean sheets make me happy. I love clean lines and hate clutter.
I didn’t realize how rigid and structured my life was until I started having kids. Nothing throws “the plan” for your life into a fiery tailspin faster than those tiny, sticky, boogery, clumsy, inquisitive, adorable, little humans you created. Your standards must be lowered whether you want them to be or not. Your very sanity depends on it.
Hitting A Low Being A Perfectionist
I hit a low one morning when my twins were about a year old and my oldest was four. The kitchen floor was so sticky that I put slippers on so that I wouldn’t have to suffer through the sensation of the unidentifiable goo that was holding my barefoot to the floor! My one-year-old son was crawling around eating goldfish crackers off the dining room floor from the day before. My blood pressure went up and I wanted to scoop him up and start sweeping and mopping the floor, but I was tired, and I knew it would be hard work that would be undone in an instant when the next full bowl of cereal went crashing to the floor. Instead, I let him do it.
Not my best moment; I’m not bragging here, but I had this thought, “It won’t kill him! He’s not crying, and he’s actually cleaning up the floor, and I drank my coffee.” That day was the beginning of a revelation for me that is still growing. My desire for everything to be balanced, efficient, clean, and perfect was an impossible and unrealistic goal. I could not ever achieve what my mind craved. It left me feeling defeated, frustrated and irritated. It constantly distracted me from the good things that were happening on the sticky floors of my home.
Why Am I Like This?
After my oldest child was diagnosed with cancer, this truth hit me even harder. The to-do list, the freshly mowed grass, the flowers actually getting watered after they were planted, the checkbook balanced to the penny and the meal plan actually being executed didn’t matter anymore. Being a perfectionist didn’t matter anymore. People and time were what mattered.
However, I swung too far the other way. I got into an “all or nothing” mode of thinking. I knew that I could not perform tasks to the level that I wanted to, so I was paralyzed into not starting things at all. That was hard on my mind as well. I still had perfectionist thoughts and desires, but now I was feeling guilty for them. I started to dislike myself and be upset by my own personality. Self-critical, another trait I have since learned belongs to a true perfectionist. I would think “Why am I like this?!”
He Is A Perfector Of Your Faith
God gently showed me one day that loving things that are perfect is not a bad thing. He is perfect in all His ways. He designed me (and you) with purpose and intention.
My grace is sufficient for you; for My strength and power are made PERFECT in your weakness.
– 2 Corinthians 12:9
My love for perfection was placed in me by God so that I would be drawn to Him; not a spotless, Pinterest worthy kitchen. In the past I would seek fulfillment in things like a clean car, and then it would rain, or the kids would spill a drink and that achievement was gone. I was seeking contentment in things that wouldn’t last, and was always left feeling empty.
When I discovered God was THE ONLY PERFECT THING in my life, and directed my desire and disappointment toward Him, everything changed. I found true contentment in all of the messy, imperfect things around me. I still struggle. I’m not claiming that all is easy. I just have balance now, and when I feel myself being pulled toward my old tendencies, I now know how to redirect those toward God. Honestly, it’s Him I’m actually craving! It’s the peace, that only He can provide, that passes all understanding.
He is the Rock, His work is PERFECT, for all His ways are law and justice.
– Deuteronomy 32:4
I’m not advising you to let your children eat off the floor, but I am advising you to put your desires on the only PERFECT one, God himself.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
– Romans 12:2