In the fast-paced and task driven society we live in, the number of people with overwhelming stress and anxiety has increased. There is so much to be done, so little time to do it, and oftentimes we feel like we are the only ones that can do it–and do it correctly. A common saying that I heard growing up is, “if you want something done right, do it yourself!” This statement, to me, implies that if you want something done to your satisfaction (perfection) then you are the one that needs to get it done. Unfortunately, this adage has caused many to fall into the pit of work-a-holic-ism (lol!) and burnout. Perfectionism is a sneaky little devil and will drive you to a very low place if you are not careful.
Many will deny the existence of perfectionism in their lives. This is mainly because they do not have a grasp of the true definition of the word. Perfectionism is an extreme distortion of what we tell her little ones when they are trying to do something: “Do your best!” A person with a distorted view of this statement will take it to mean, “Be Perfect.” This is especially the case if failure, or less than stellar performance, is met with ridicule and other consequences. If the statement is reinforced, one would go on to believe that if they fail and/or make a mistake then they are no longer being their best (perfect) and will come down on themselves in unhealthy ways.
How can you tell if you are a perfectionist:
You rehearse statements in your mind such as:
“It would be terrible if I am embarrassed.”
“If I make a mistake (or am wrong) then I am a failure.”
“It is absolutely necessary that everyone like me and approve of everything I do.”
“I would rather not do a thing then do it incorrectly.”
“I must be competent and do everything perfectly in all things.”
Have you heard yourself make any of these statements about yourself? Have you heard someone that you know say anything like the statements above? If so, I would submit to you that you/they are also highly stressed, afraid to take risks, and procrastinate regularly. Perfectionism undermines ones self-esteem and can be consequential to the development of relationships. The “critic” will lead them down the road to poor performance (because they are too afraid to take risks or fail) and even depression.
So, what do you do?
The next time you begin to experience anxiety or nagging thoughts of criticism jot down your thoughts. Determine which thoughts are irrational. These are the ones that begin with such words as ‘never’ and ‘always.’ Others may include implications of “all or nothing” and words that express hopelessness. This is often regarded as catastrophic thinking. Once you have your list, review the list and determine what is REALLY a never or an always and correct your thinking. Is there some fear involved? Are you exaggerating? Rehearse more positive statements in your mind. Meditate on scripture that provide a positive outlook or ones that remind you of your humanity. Finally…RELAX. Understand that you are perfectly normal if you make mistakes. Allow yourself to make them! It’s okay. Trail and error is a process that everyone goes through and starts as early as just a few months old. Take a breath….and go forward!
Prayer of Transformation:
With that in mind let’s say this prayer together:
Dear Father, thank you for creating me. Thank you for the understanding that I am not perfect and that I will make mistakes and fall short of the mark several times in my lifetime. I rejoice in knowing that you are forgiving God and in that, I am justified in forgiving myself. Help me each day to learn from my mistakes and move forward. In Jesus name, Amen!