Perfectionism is something I hard core struggle with on the daily. It’s my mode of operating. I want to do everything right. All the time. No matter what. This desire stems from not wanting to disappoint or fail or get on bad terms with God. And it’s been something God has tenderly and kindly been speaking freedom to me about.
Maybe this is a struggle area for you too. If so, my friend Melinda has some wonderful truth to speak over your try-hard soul. I know her words encouraged me, and I hope they do the same for you.
“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” Brene Brown
Hi, I’m Melinda, and I am a recovering perfectionist.
And by recovering, I mean I still struggle with this.
And by perfectionist, I mean I have ego and self-confidence issues that need divine intervention.
Your ego and self-confidence can be a tricky thing. A lot of perfectionists want to be on Team, “I Am Awesome,” but more often than not, we end up being big hitters on Team, “I Just Want You to Like Me and Think I Am Doing a Good Job.”
You see, more often than not, and definitely more often than we’d like to admit, perfection is tied to our endless hunger for approval. Confirmation that you are doing a good job, that you are pretty enough, smart enough, talented enough… Perfectionists often feel inadequate, and what better way to compensate than to make everything around us flawless.
The constant strive for excellence in all things can leave you exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally. I know because I have strived for it my whole life. But as I mature as a Christian, I am learning that there is absolutely no reason you should be exhausting yourself living center stage under constant pressure. I am learning that when you allow God to take the spotlight in your life, you are breaking free from the weight, and the chains, of perfection. And trust me when I say, the peace and rest you experience on the other side is not of this world.
I want to share with you 5 verses that can help you break free from the bondage of perfectionism.
1.“For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” (James 3:2, English Standard Version)
So, let’s just go ahead and cut to the chase…no one is perfect. Not only is no one perfect, here is the Bible telling you that you are going to stumble and fall along the way. And while Jesus calls us to be “perfect,” many scholars believe this word is meant to represent “completeness” or “integration.” In other words, your actions and your heart matching…practicing what you preach. Not a call to have the biggest house, cleanest kitchen, kids who make only A’s or are the star players in every sport, the thinnest, the richest…you get my point.
I encourage you to release yourself from that expectation. I know I missed the memo on this one and so glad (even though I am almost 40 and just figuring this out) I have learned to let.this.go.
I truly believe Jesus wants us to have peace in our hearts and extend that peace to others. Love and kindness in our hearts and extend that love and kindness to others. Gratitude in our hearts and show gratitude to others. THAT is perfection.
2. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, English Standard Version)
Who hasn’t used this verse as their personal mantra before? But does this mean we CAN do ALL things? I’ll be honest, I don’t think this verse has anything to do with being perfect and perfectly able to accomplish everything you want to or set out to do. Example being, I am by no means an athlete…never have been, never will be. That doesn’t mean I can’t work hard and exercise and meet some pretty awesome personal goals. But do I think I can use this verse to get me to the Olympics? Um no.
I do believe that no matter what obstacles come my way in life, God will give me the strength to work through them.
There are a lot of things I have had to step into that I didn’t sign up for. But God has seen me through all of them with the end result sometimes in my favor and sometimes not, but always working for me in some way. No matter what cards life has dealt me, God has given me strength, not perfection, to overcome those situations.
You must learn to let go of the mindset that you must handle every situation with an unobtainable flawlessness. You will find your self paralyzed with fear instead of empowered with strength!
3. “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.’” (Mark 10:27, English Standard Version)
I know I often watch as my responsibilities stack up and each day it seems like it’s just one more thing, and think, “God, you do remember that I have kids, right?” “God, you do know that I am trying to run a business over here!?” “God, you do remember I am a perfectionist and can not function knowing that there is all of this “noise” in my background preventing me from being PERFECT!?”
Ever had that feeling? Well guess what? You were never perfect before despite what you might have thought and if you “were” you most likely were killing yourself to be that version of yourself. It is true that God does not give you more than you can handle…unless you are a perfectionist who can’t fall into the amazing peace of trust and faith in God.
Next time you are crippled with the thoughts of how you will work through and ace everything, rest in knowing that your help comes, not from man or yourself, but the One who made the Heavens and Earth.
Stop yourself and ask God for wisdom to understand and recognize what He wants you to focus on and ask Him to take over everything. Then LET Him take over.
4. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” (2 Corinthians 2:9, English Standard Version)
Have you ever heard of the Chinese proverb about the cracked pot? Long story short, there was an elderly Chinese woman who had 2 pots she carried every day to and from her home from a small stream close to her house. One was perfect with no cracks or flaws, and the other had a crack in it.
By the end of the trip, she was only bringing back one and a half pots of water each day. This went on for a long time until, according to the proverb, the pot spoke to her and asked why she kept him around. She replied by asking if the pot noticed that flowers were only growing on his side. She explained that she knew he had a flaw, or a crack, and that she planted flowers on that side so that while she walked the path each day, they would get watered. The woman explained that she uses those same flowers to decorate her table.
This story makes me think so much of the 2 Corinthians verse. How awesome is that God KNOWS we have flaws, loves us anyway, then uses our imperfections for something beautiful.
Stop trying to fix every little thing you “think” may be “wrong” with you. God has big plans for you, flaws and all.
5. “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man?” (Galatians 1:10, English Standard Version)
How’s that for a reality check? Whose approval are you looking for? When striving for perfection, who are you hoping will see you and all your faultless ways?
God’s approval is the only approval we should be motivated by. Seems pretty simple, right? This one is actually the hardest to put into action. We care so much about what other people think and base our definition of what perfection is around the opinion of man, so that God is often pushed to the back-burner.
The problem with that is, you will never be good enough for man. You will never have enough. You will always find yourself on the pendulum swinging between feeling adequate to constantly second guessing whether you are good enough. Why not jump off that hamster wheel and into the arms of the One that wants and loves you, imperfections and all?
I hope these verses help shift your mindset and allow you to stop the self-abuse that is perfectionism.
Live in his love!
Melinda Bowens is the owner and creative behind the storytelling apparel brand, When Life. When Life provides a platform for ordinary people to share their extraordinary stories and creates products that make it fashionable to wear your feelings.
You can find out more about Melinda here: