Is the pursuit of perfection making you exhausted?

Are you moving along the continuum in the right direction towards achievement and contentment with your work or are you crushed under the weight of never measuring up in your pursuit of perfectionism?

Listen in to this two-part series that Jodi posted to her podcast this past month on a pretty raw and honest dialogue through perfectionism. Thankful for her!

Click here to listen – the notes I used for my outline to share from are listed below:

Intro: When on my own in college, I thought I made headway from perfectionism, and I knew something was up. God used Jodi in marriage to catapult me to freedom. Management consultant for FNBO Ken Wright gave word to this in a broad way and a path to make further headway.

I am still growing today and here are some things that I have learned and helped me fight for joy in my work and life. This is how perfectionism hinders our fight for Joy and what to do about it.

OUTLINE overview of the three points: the WHAT, WHY, HOW.

I. WHAT is perfectionism?

  1. According to Google, telltale signs you are somewhere on the spectrum of perfectionism:
    • You have an all-or-nothing approach. You either do it well or not at all.
    • It’s all about the results. …
    • Mistakes are for the weak. …
    • You’re your worst critique. …
    • Success isn’t good enough. …
    • You procrastinate. …
    • You avoid things. …
    • You sacrifice yourself for perfection.
    • All or nothing. …
    • Too high standards. …
    • The perfectionist is overly critical. …
    • Confuses perfection and quality. …
    • The perfectionist only focusses on the results. …
    • Discouraged when not achieving goals. …
    • The perfectionist is driven by fear. …
  1. A perfectionist MUST have this completed or MUST win to be someone; for you is it good to win or do I HAVE to win says the perfectionist to have meaning.
  2. You are stuck in the “try harder give up cycle” – there are larger periods of time not able to function at a normal level.
  3. You believe you must do more to be more. Can’t relax and do nothing.
  4. You never get through you to-do or task list, maybe not even half of it!
  5. The scoreboard is all that matters not the process or the journey or the final shot – pressure to be someone vs. Michael Jordan’s “just another shot” at the buzzer – Ken Wright story.
  6. I believe: If I don’t push for perfection, then I will be complacent.
  7. I believe: Though I never arrive at perfectionism, I will get further than I would have otherwise.
  8. I believe its all or nothing: a job worth doing is a job worth doing well— OR not at all. A job worth doing is a job worth doing perfectly – this is a tie to procrastination as perfectionists are paralyzed to not even get started.
  9. You don’t believe the freedom in “done is better than perfect”.
  10. Perfectionists live with their own inner critic, and it is loud and most all the time harsh (and as I have learned false, crushing, and not helpful).
  1. Summary: So what is Perfectionism? Perfectionism as a continuum
    1. Perfectionism, in psychology, is a broad personality style characterized by a person’s concern with striving for flawlessness and perfection and is accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.[1][2] …Perfectionism drives people to be concerned with achieving unattainable ideals or unrealistic goals that often lead to many forms of adjustment problems such as depression, anxiety, OCD, OCPD and low self-esteem
    2. Perfectionism has an opposite:
      1. WHAT the opposite of perfectionism? Mediocre work? Ironically: the opposite is NOT shoddy work, the opposite is achievement.
      2. You have to think about perfectionism as a continuum and we move from left to right not from perfectionism to bad work but perfectionism to ACCOMPLISHMENT. These are Opposites on a continuum and are not one leading to the other;
    3. Helpful note: don’t think that you have to score HIGH on all 15+ characteristics of a perfectionist above. You may be like me “not off the charts” in every one but WAY to far on the wrong side of this continuum and actually can achieve more at a much happier level if you find yourself somewhere on here and move to the right – to achievement.

II. WHY do I need to break it?

  1. Misery with a self critique – AND never measure up. Try harder / give up cycle. It is not sustainable.
  2. You often give up what you love – WHY am I dreading this? Is it my own pressure to accomplish something extraordinary. Thing you love find less joy. You are your own worst enemy.
  3. You live in a facade that keeps the truth from others; you are not genuine; you are not transparent; you are NOT AUTHENTIC. And that’s exhausting; I feel better about myself if you believe I am disciplined and successful and am careful to protect that image even though I am miserable inside because when honest I know I am not what I portray.
  4. Miserable for those around you – they feel in constant critique of you; you judge others; you see yourself always on the right side of the bell curve.
    1. The bell curve is a way of saying you are mostly better than the average person in key areas. Most people know if from school where you can get an A+ with a 71% grade because the median in the class got 35% out of 100%. It shows relative value to others not to the standard of getting all 100 problems on the test right.
    2. And others feel that; if they know you will only love them if OR WHEN they are functioning on right of the curve too. It is conditional like over them. I like you when you perform and are not a failure like everyone else.
    3. That is pride. I am better than you by relying on my being better.

III. HOW do I make headway?

  1. Embrace being human; human means limits; finitude;
    • That is where Ken Wright started with me and it blew my mind; there is value in being human;
    • What does it mean to be human? in the garden before sin dependent on God, others, and earth; Jesus became human – today we believe he was God but its harder for us to think he was 100% human;
    • We don’t have to repent of our limits. Getting tired is not a sin. Not getting a superhuman list done everyday is not falling short and sinning, it is being human – BEFORE THE fall we had limit and our main limit is that we are NOT self-sufficient, we are built to be dependent on God who is other than us, dependent on others, and dependent on the earth for food and life and sustenance materially.
    • This is the power of ordinary, instead of everything, having to be extra ordinary every time.
  1. The key: Move away from the functional savior to a real Savior.
    • You have to see perfectionism as a self-salvation project. Saved from weightlessness, not mattering, life has no purpose. WHAT GIVES your life purpose?
    • I find my meaning in who Christ says I am to him. How I am valued NOW not some future perfect version of me. How I am adopted into his family. How I am forgiven and do not carry a crushing backpack of guilt and shame and never measuring up anymore, feeling the father’s delight over me.
    • Saved from “the work under the work”: instead of my work being about making a name for me so I can be someone, it is about the work itself.
    • This ties back to HOW you know you are a perfectionist quote in section 1 – a perfectionist HAS to win and HAS to have this perfect in order to feel better about themselves or that their life is worthwhile.
    • Isaiah 56:1-5 and the Everlasting name story at Jackson’s graveside while we waited for the graveside service to start; I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters, I will give them an everlasting name that shall NOT BE CUT OFF.” We get our name from him. We are his. We are loved. We are valued by him.
    • Sometimes you find a perfectionist because you know God has forgiven you somehow but you have never forgiven yourself. That is a functional savior to get meaning through being perfect or without that mistake you just made and Jesus is nice but I need more.
    • Does God like you? Or do you just think he loves you? Kelly Kapic helpful here in his book YOU’RE ONLY HUMAN; He does not plug his nose because you irk him and he only likes you because he can’t see you but only sees his son’s righteousness over you if you are a follower of him. He loves YOU. As a follower of Jesus, he has accepted you forever AND by his Spirit’s faithful work in you is transforming how you act and think and feel so that how ERIC was wired and meant to be can be freed to find that reflection in his way that resembles how Jesus moves in this world. He is not pleased only with some future version of me and putting up with me now in disgust. He LOVES me now unconditionally. And likes me.
  1. Learn the connection to the sabbath rhythm – that is how I made headway; practice WEEKLY a major remembrance;
    • What am I remembering? All in point 1 and 2 above.
    • What am I rehearsing?
    • Doing OTHER work than I do 6 days a week. Fiction is great because it is not “putting a man on the moon” to DO / ACCOMPLISH something! It is art and beauty.
    • Not built for workaholism neither are we built to vacation 7 days a week: Maybe I have not worked hard enough for six days to get tired out for Sunday’s pinnacle of the week? More than likely, I have worked too hard and want to work Sunday to accomplish 3 more things to be more BECAUSE I have DONE more. Instead, rest, remember, rehearse that you are His as a follower of Christ and valued.
  1. Live OUT OF instead of TO GET
    • Saving private Ryan, did I do enough? That is how get over survivor’s guilt, maybe as a 95 year old today who can hardly walk on – he was living TO GET one day a verdict of he was worthy of the lives of those who lost theirs to save him. AND he never new if he had it and he was 95! That is crushing.
    • What if the verdict is in NOW instead of one day I might be enough? That IS what we have in Jesus now.
    • I do not need success in this one area to then be okay. Rather, I am okay and loved by God and the verdict over me is ENOUGH, now. SO THEN, I can overflow and live out of this instead of suffer to try to get something maybe later, some verdict over me that I am okay.
  1. Realize you have more than one emotion and diagnose by asking why?
    • Ask WHY am I dreading going to work today? WHY do I not want to do this activity? Why do I not want to be with this person? WHY am I not wanting to start writing these next notes? Is it because I came off a GREAT day and I can’t repeat that? I am tired? My expectations are way too high and I AM taking the joy out of this job. Achievement allows me to feel more feelings not just stuff them and keep my eyes focused ONLY on winning or success or perfection. Is it that I need a name, I need others to like me more here on this item or activity or I need to feel better about myself by doing something. Uncover where you are talking to yourself things that are not true or realistic or human; Perfectionists have their own inner critic and it is loud.
    • We have more than ONE emotion: seems funny but sometime the general feeling of not measuring up is a black cloud. It might be you are just exhausted, tired. Experience the rumble of panic underneath everything. And it might be normal reasons to fear. That we can bring to him and explain and uncover the lie and find refuge and rest in Him who is higher and better and also in control. What IF I totally bomb speaking in-front of 1,000 people? Normal fear but left uncheck will go to anxiety. Bring it to him. Philippians 4:7 says are we humble enough to be care free.
  1. Set realistic expectations based on PRE & POST Fall realities
    • Success breeds success
    • One day I will have a slower triathlon – does that mean I stop training and die?
    • Ecclesiastes – any headway we make is God. He gives us ALL things to ENJOY. Exhale in job well done.
    • Beware of overcommitment even to good things: Kapic’s when did you see me sick and in need; body of Christ not me signing up on every clipboard; that is savior complex – ironically even the savior did not have a complex and we see him resting and sleeping in the front of the boat.
    • One pager for branch managers: you will NEVER have 3 hours to write in silence and think; three ten minute session over 2 weeks; move it ahead in pieces; get started; INCH BY INCH it is a cinch yard by yard its hard;
    • Find the joy in saying – this time it was ordinary. Find joy in the ordinary instead of the crushing pressure to make everything epic.
  1. Love GRACE and extend forgiveness;
    • HOW do you divide humanity? Bell curve or vertically? Perfectionists normally accomplish some things in life, I am arguing they could have DONE WAY more in achievement; but that always puts us on the right of the bell curve; that is racisms root too; instead, we are ALL the same sinners made in God’s image before a holy God that we will NEVER reach.
      • We divide the world from right and left. But God divides vertically from top to bottom – God divides the world from those who are holy and those who are not and we all humans according to Paul in Romans 3:10-18 are the same unworthy sinners to have a relationship with the God who made us.
    • Romans 5: into this grace in which we stand – this is not wages but grace, be astounded by the mercy we receive that we do not deserve.
    • You are the wicked servant that has been forgiven more; Matthew 18; so forgive;
    • Be strong in grace; overflow in grace to others not making THEM feel they do not measure up;
  1. Build your hope that the MATERIAL world will be restored – there is a restoration coming;
    • Your outer self is wasting away, is your inner self being renewed and growing in hope?
    • There is reason for the rumble of panic beneath everything but this is not all there is. There is a restoration of the material world coming.
  1. Grow in faith that you are BOTH KNOWN and LOVED. How do you quiet the inner critic? Can you be BOTH loved and known? Or are you only loved because you are NOT known (this is the authenticity conversation above)? OR are you NOT loved because you are fully known?
    • The inner critic has a point – you are NOT perfect. We have sinned. We sin. We do wrong. You know who you are even if others do not. What our sin shows us is that we are more sinful than we give ourselves credit.
    • Holly Hoffman made it to the final 3 in Survivor 22 and came and spoke at the bank. She told a haunting story. She always thought of herself as a nice person and had most everyone believing that around her. What is she known for on the show? Cameras, the all seeing eye, was literally on them 24 hours a day. She is known for taking the guy’s $3,000 shoes when he was not looking and burying them in the surf because she did not like him. OUCH. That is what people saw. And remembered by. HOW can you be seen for that and loved? She talked about her despair and regret that that is how she is know. But what if someone filmed us 24 hours a day and millions watched?
    • On a cosmic scale and in contrast, the all seeing eye of God gives the Psalmist hope not despair.
      • Read psalm 139:1-6, 23-24.
      • HOW can God see and fully know us AND love us? Unlike what Holly experienced?
    • When you take a sewing needle, you look at it and it is smooth and able to easily go through fabric. But put that same needle under the microscope and it pock marked on every part of that surface. That is where the inner critic knows what is true: I AM pock marked. But Christ comes and fills that in – perfectly. He transforms us and we are covered with his righteousness and perfect resume of a life perfectly lived that counts for me.
    • When you see that Christ was destroyed and lost everything on the cross so that I can be made whole and filled in, that will melt your heart with transforming love.
    • Your inner critic will only shut up when you know the real love of God in Jesus that BOTH KNOWS ALL OF YOU AND LOVES YOU. That love transforms us.
    • It also transforms us in a way where we are freed to achieve for his glory and my joy. We can longer be be stuck in a perfectionistic, miserable self-salvation project for more meaning through more doing. We are enough. And our Father smiles over us in pleasure.

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