A while back, I had a conversation with a beautiful 13-year-old girl in which the name of a popular teenager came up. With starry eyes and her face suddenly aglow, this 13-year-old exclaimed:
“She’s so pretty! She’s so perfect! I want to be her!!!”
But due to my history in chasing perfectionism, how I still struggle with the mindset at times and now understand the damage it does, her comment put a pit in my stomach.
I wanted to reply, “No! Nobody’s perfect! If you believe that about her you’ll only be disappointed, and if you make perfection your goal, you’re in for a lot of grief,” but I didn’t. To be honest, all I could think about were the number of times I’d seen teen and tween girls on Instagram use the word “perfect” in their comments:
Your life is perfect! I’m so jealous!
Your hair looks perfect!
Whoa, perfect body! Can I be you?
OMG! You’re perfect!
Perfect, perfect, perfect. For many girls, perfection is the end-all, be-all. And as a recovering perfectionist, I’m here to tell you that chasing earthly perfection is a waste of time. It’s a form of self-worship where you put yourself before God (often unconsciously) and get distracted from your true purpose – which is to live a life that serves Him and ultimately gets you to heaven.
When you’re a perfectionist, you turn minor disappointments – a ” B” on a test, a few extra pounds on the scale, a fight with a friend that makes you think about flaws you don’t want to admit – into tragedies. You live for those days when all your stars align, and you can fool yourself into believing that you are, indeed, perfect.
Perfect grades? Check.
Bikini-ready body? Check.
Extra-curricular success? Check.
Great boyfriend? Check.
Great girlfriends? Check.
Great family? Check.
You see, the mind of a perfectionist is filled with check lists. And when all the boxes are marked, you’re on top of the world. You’re happy from head to toe.
But what happens when a box isn’t marked? Well, that’s the problem. When a perfectionist falls short in an area…makes a mistake…or faces an issue, insecurities get triggered. In many cases, you turn on yourself. You beat yourself up over anything that may have contributed to your less-than-perfect circumstances.
If this sounds exhausting, that’s because it is. The pay-off, however, is worth it because our world loves perfectionists. Our world praises people with seemingly flawless lives because they give us something to aspire to. And what this attention and praise does is fuel the fire inside a perfectionist. It motivates you to carry on with your impossible quest, because the way people cheer you on, you assume that you must be doing something right.
But there’s a very important ingredient missing from the life of a perfectionist: GRACE. When you fail, there’s no grace. When you miss the mark, there’s no grace. When you feel you have let people down – yourself most of all – there’s no grace. Even if you understand how God wants to lavish you with grace through Jesus, you won’t take it. Your heart isn’t open to receiving it because you’re so self-focused.
And by shutting grace out of your life, you set you up for some deep lows. You take away the safety net meant to catch you when dare to live bravely on the tightrope of life – but accidentally slip. You fail to see how hardships or suffering can help you become spiritually perfect. You have a hard time laughing at yourself over small mistakes that, viewed correctly, really can be amusing.
Sooner or later, a perfectionist will crack. No one keeps up the jig forever. For many women (like me), the crack occurs in motherhood, when you realize you can either 1) continue chasing perfection and live in quiet misery because your kids aren’t living up to your unrealistic standards, or 2) come to terms with your imperfection and discover a new world of joy, freedom, and self-love.
Clearly choice #2 is healthier, but we all come to it our own way. We all decide when and if we’re ready to be honest about our inadequacies and how desperate we are for Jesus to save us from an addiction that flies under the radar because from the outside, everything appears fine.
All this to say, I don’t want perfect daughters. I want godly daughters. I want daughters who view their flaws as opportunities for God to do his best work, because His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I want daughters who strive for excellence, not perfection, and allow room for trial and error as they maximize their talents and leave the results to God.
I want daughters who aim HIGHER than perfectionists because they aren’t scared to fail with their safety net of grace in place. I want them to find beauty in imperfection and worthiness based on their identity in Christ, not mental check lists.
No parent wants their children to repeat their mistakes. And while I can’t save my daughters from perfectionism, I can counter what the world wants them to worship. I can reflect God’s grace and unconditional love and remind them that what often gets praised on Instagram – perfect abs, perfect shoes, the perfect Caribbean vacation – holds no eternal value, so don’t get caught in the frenzy.
Most of all, I can share the good news: When you quit trying to be perfect, you can discover your identity in Christ. You can accept how your imperfect life still fits into God’s perfect plan. You can laugh at your mistakes, own your defects, and feel on-top-of-the-world happy even when your stars aren’t aligned. You can reflect on how you used to be – and pray you never go back.
This isn’t just a better way to live; it’s the only way to live. Because with grace comes the freedom to be real, honest, and authentic so that your inner truth becomes your outer truth, and your life gains a harmony that makes today a great place to be even in less-than-perfect circumstances.
Thanks for reading this article today. If you found the message helpful, please share it through social media.
Also, I’ve written two books for teen & tween girls designed to empower them through faith. The newest one, Liked, is getting a fantastic response as a unique resource for girls of the digital age, and along with the bestselling 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, it’s being used widely across the U.S. for small group studies.
Have a great day, and thanks again for stopping by!
Posted by Kari on October 20, 2014