Going to Seminary | Perfectionism

by Elouise

perfectionism quote

Perfectionism is cowardly, not brave.

  • It avoids looking at mistakes
  • Seeks growth without painful truth
  • Wants progress without failures
  • Breeds insanity, not humanity
  • Drains energy without mercy
  • Gets stuck working harder
  • Is strategic, not forthcoming
  • Would rather hide than be wrong
  • Fears failure and success
  • Kills joy and compassion

I learned to survive by  trying to be Perfect, not Brave.

  • If I want to be courageous, perfectionism has to go.
  • It isn’t about me; it’s about the goal.
  • It isn’t about self-worth; it’s about becoming human, not trying to be God.
  • It isn’t about winning a battle; it’s about learning from mistakes.
  • It isn’t about being a hero; it’s about getting there together, with you.

Perfectionism stalked our marriage, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It threatened joy, spontaneity, a relaxed approach to life, truth-telling and kindness.

Recently, one of my blogging friends told me about a TED Talk. It gives a clear if troubling perspective on life as a female, beginning with childhood. The speaker says girls have been taught to be perfect; boys have been taught to be brave. Perfect girls hold back, fearful lest they make mistakes and be punished. Brave boys aren’t afraid to make mistakes; it’s how they figure out what to try next.

Perhaps that isn’t true of every girl and every boy. It does, however, ring true for me and for many women and men I’ve worked with in academic settings.

I’m not perfect, and I haven’t always been brave. Writing is an opportunity to tell the truth about myself, whether I intend to or not. Sins against me as a child, teenager and beyond still haunt me. So do sins against myself and neighbors near and far. Including D as my nearest neighbor.

At first, perfectionism was my way of getting by, staying out of trouble. Then it became my way of life, even though it isn’t a healthy choice for followers of Jesus. Jesus wants me to follow him just the way I am.

Yet change is part of the agenda. Am I brave enough to accept my mistakes and failures for what they are, and learn from them? How did I get into this predicament in the first place, and what will it take to change?

My failures invite me to get interested in my spiritual formation, to discern what I can do to break old habits rooted in perfectionism. Am I courageous enough to look into the mirror God holds before me daily, and acknowledge the truth about what I see or don’t see?

I find this easier to do on a personal basis than in my marriage to D. I never guessed bravery was a skill I needed for marriage. Ironically, it makes me smile to think about it.

I thought I just needed to marry Mr. Right, and then Get It Right or better yet, Get Him Right. Mr. and Mrs. Perfection! Of course there will be a little learning here and there, but on the whole, I’m Perfectly ready! To be your teacher, that is.

No, I don’t need to learn anything from that little stumble back there. I already know Exactly what I need to do next. So thanks, but no thanks!  I don’t need your comments. And other such balderdash….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 March 2016
Quotation found at pinterest.com