the art of perfectionism


“The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic and a terrible waste of time.”

– Edwin Bliss

I remember clearly, it was the summer after freshman year of high school and I was happily doodling in my moon journal a short ten years ago and I promised myself one thing, “I was going to be perfect.”

I was going to have the perfect body (ya, thirteen year old self, good luck on that), perfect group of friends (channeling Cher) and perfect grades.

From that moment on, I pushed myself to be the “best” that I could be which included spending ridiculous amounts of time on things that didn’t really matter. Being the perfectionist that I was, I didn’t really take the time to work on relationships or projects if they didn’t seem perfect the first time around.

I would skip workout routines and instead starve myself (especially in college) to get quick results. Perfectionism demanded things to be perfect right here and now and there was no such thing as delayed gratification. I have to be perfect today — not a minute early, or a minute too late.

Soon enough, I was dreaming of switching from one job to another, thinking that I was defeated because I could never have things just magically fall into place. I could hardly say no to people or bosses or my parents simply because I didn’t want to fall short of being perfect. I just wanted to control everything and broke down whenever things didn’t go my way.

All of these things going against the gift of grace from Jesus, also at the same time, it was making everyday barely bearable because I felt like I always needed to look perfect, speak perfectly and be close to a size zero. Potential mates were instantly shoved out of the door simply because they were nothing like Jake Ryan.

But thank God, all things, including my neurotic need to be perfect.

Coming across this book at work just opened my eyes and made me say “yes” to every single item about perfectionists, including the perfectionist’s drug of choice “drug of choice– caffeine”. What stuck was this, “healthy, well-rested, chemical-free people feel better, look better and perform better.”

I have never realized that addiction to caffeine was damaging both physically and psychologically. I was in love with the idea of java simply because it was the only time I was able to sit and actually relish something. It wasn’t nicotine, but it was sure pretty darn close.

Perfectionists also struggle in other areas such as depression and eating disorders sometimes all of things together simply because they expect life to be perfect. Now, I’m not saying that one shouldn’t take responsibility for one’s life and shouldn’t think positive at all times– in fact thinking positively would definitely get you through just about anything life throws your way because sheer joy is from God (see Nehemiah 8:10).

However, as Hugh Grant put it in my favorite movie of all time, Two Weeks Notice, opposite neurotic Sandra Bullock, “nobody wants a saint,” it simply means there is no purpose in being perfect simply because perfection is a lie and nobody could ever live up to it.

I’m grateful that God has redeemed me from my deep seated insecurities and has allowed me to let go, albeit it be a slow, sometimes painful process but I know that if ever I do bump into my thirteen year old self I would most definitely smack her in the head and tell her that her ultimate goal in life is quite stupid and that she should simply relish in being who she is– messy handwriting and really bad math grades.

It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to fail and it’s okay to not be a size zero.

All of these things cripple you from having the best life that God has intended you to have. Step out in fear, take the risk and you will find yourself more fully aware of who you are and how great our God is. Simply be who you are and God will take care of the rest.

Remember, you don’t have to be anyone else in order for God to bless you. He made you with a purpose in mind and this doesn’t include constantly checking your weight or running after the “next big thing.” Perfectionists are also the biggest worry warts, always wanting to be sure that the next moments of their life would be perfect as well.

Relax, God loves you as you are. Enjoy life, messy parts, muddy playdates and broken hearts.

Wanting to be perfect also makes you miss out on the fun things that life has to offer like dancing in the rain, staying up all night eating chocolate while with friends and all the other magical things. Let. Go. God’s got your back.

Everything works out in the end.