I’m a perfectionist by nature. Unlike the portrayal of perfectionism that is often depicted in our media and entertainment, perfectionism does not always mean that everything is perfectly in order. For me – and for many perfectionists I know personally – it is more that there is a sense of constant tension because it’s not perfect. My desk is a mess. Why? Because right now I just can’t seem to keep everything in its place. And, even if I do, there’s just a lot of stuff that stays on my desk, so it doesn’t necessarily look tidy even when it is. That’s a conflict. So, it is almost better to have chaos than to have something shy of perfection.
I know. I’m weird. But, you probably are not just now figuring that out!
Over the years, I have learned to repeat a phrase in my head when perfection eludes me. So, pretty much continuously. What is that phrase? Let it go.
Yes, princess moms, you can now all start singing the song in your head. All. Day. Long. I’ll be joining you, I’m sure. You’re welcome.
Back on point.
One of the tendencies of perfectionism is emotional and mental self-abuse. I suppose every personality suffers from a form of that. It just manifests itself differently in each of us. For my perfectionist mind, the self-abuse comes in the form of beating myself up over every past mistake and imperfection. Just ask my husband. I will readily forgive my children when they spill something. (Unless it was an “accident” caused by blatant disobedience. Then we have to deal with it first.) But, my own spill? I mentally enumerate all of the ways I messed up leading up to the spill. All of the ways I could have prevented it.
It’s just a spill. But in my mind, it’s an utter failure.
So, once again, I have to repeat in my head over and over again, “Just let it go, Ann. It’s okay. It really is just spilled milk.”
It gets even better. The topic for this post came to mind for the most bizarre reason. I had a marriage post ready to go on Monday. Just this morning, I realized I never actually published it. It’s such a silly thing. Some people would have just published it today. But, in my perfectionist mind, that post belonged to Monday, my day for marriage posts. I missed the window. I didn’t get it published. Grrrr. I messed up. Beat. Beat. Beat.
Or take a deep breath, let it go, and publish it next Monday. (Because, it really does belong to Monday. I can hang on to at least a small portion of my craziness, can’t I?)
The great challenge here is learning how to separate mistakes and accidents from my sin, just as I do with my children. Mistakes happen. Accidents are plentiful for a socially and physically uncoordinated person like myself. But sin? That’s another story entirely. The problem comes when I beat myself up more over the mistakes and accidents – the things that just happen – than I do over my willful sin. I’m often much more quick to justify those actions.
So, what works? A thriving and active relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
You see, the Holy Spirit is the only one who can truly help me separate conviction from perfectionism. He knows best how I am made. He knows what damages my relationship with a holy God. And He knows that my heart craves the perfection I was created for.
When I’m listening to the voice of my Lord, I know best when to confess and when to just let it go.
Oh, and once it’s confessed? Yeah, I have to learn to let that go, too.
What do you need to let go of this week?