Perfectionism Enters Your Life Through Wounds to Your Identity
Rebecca Hawkins, a Senior Business Process Consultant and certified yoga instructor, shares her thoughts on how we can escape the lie of perfectionism and embrace God’s idea of perfect for our lives.
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Where do you think our desire to always be perfect comes from?
What a great and complicated question. I think it comes from many places—some cultural, some situational, and some spiritual. Starting with the spiritual, I’d say that our obsession with perfection is tied to the Fall and to our inherent sin nature and desire to be God. Satan tempted Adam and Eve with the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.’ We’ve been tempted ever since to take His place on the throne of our lives. This lie that we can be perfect— know it all, be it all, do it all —goes right to the heart of our sinful natures. I honestly don’t think we will ever truly conquer that demon until we’re in the presence of Jesus.
I think perfectionism enters our lives through wounds to our identity, usually when we are still children. We use perfectionism as a way to shield ourselves – we think it will garner acceptance or protect us from rejection or the pain of failure. Brene Brown defines perfectionism as the ‘twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen.’ That definition really resonates with me. Somewhere in our lives, we latched onto perfectionism as our solution to being wounded when, in fact, it’s what keeps us from authentic connection.
Have you struggled with wanting to live “the perfect life?”
Oh, of course. I’m afraid to have people over if my house is messy. I want to execute my projects at work at a high level and have all of the answers when I’m in a meeting doing a presentation. I beat myself up over my weight or my hair or my outfit. I’m secretly jealous of moms who get lots of public praise from their kids on Facebook because mine would never do that.
As I said earlier, I suspect ‘perfectionism’ is a thorn in all of our sides that we will never be truly free from. The only thing that has ‘healed’ me of chronic perfectionism is the plain fact that my life hasn’t been perfect (by a LONG shot), and I had to come face to face with the fact that either I accept my ‘imperfect life’ for what it is, or I live with the weight of regret and shame. Here is a link to my blog post that sort of tells this story.
Bottom line: yes, I’ve struggled. We all struggle because we have this ‘idea’ of perfect that is false. The truth is that our lives ARE perfect—as God created them to be—even in all of their mess.
What role does purpose play in the conversation about achievement vs. perfection?
The difference between healthy striving for excellence and striving for a false sense of unachievable perfection is rooted in both purpose and identity. Exodus 9:16 says, ‘But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ THAT is the purpose for which God created us—our ONLY purpose—to be a display of His power and His name. How do we do that? Paul says that God told him, ‘My power is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Cor. 12:9) And Job said that NO purpose of God’s can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)
What are some healthy things we can replace perfectionism with?
Grace is the best place to start. We can only replace perfectionism with the knowledge that we are the beloved of the Most High God. He sees us and delights in us just as we are. Until we know and believe that, we will always be trapped in striving to find our value and our worth somewhere ‘out there’ in the world; in our accomplishments, our appearance, our bank accounts, our possessions, etc. One of my favorite passages in all of Scripture is the prayer Paul prays over us in Ephesians 3:16-18, that we would grasp the expanse of God’s love. His love is the only power that will truly save us for endless striving.
As a practice, I believe we can replace perfectionism with self-compassion and with presence or mindfulness. We have to retrain our minds to accept what IS instead of worrying about what WAS or what MIGHT BE. Now is all we have—this moment, this person, this life, this story. We are living the reality God wrote for us. Being in the moment, accepting what is, and releasing what we can’t control are disciplines that can slowly help us find peace in imperfection and the ability to celebrate progress, even when we know we have a LONG way to go!
Rebecca has lived in Colorado Springs for 11 years and is currently employed by USAA Federal Savings Bank as a Senior Business Process Consultant for Sales and Service Learning and Practices. She supports short- and long-term strategies for front line employee skill development and continuous learning. She is a Certified Project Manager (CPM), a certified SAFe Agilist, Toastmasters Competent Communicator and Competent Leader, and holds a Bachelor’s Degree from University of Massachusetts with a major in English and a minor in French and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from Colorado Christian University. She has a diverse career background including youth ministry, multiple small business start ups, various customer sales and service roles, leadership and employee development and project management. Rebecca has served on several non-profit boards and is currently the President of the Pikes Peak Association for Talent Development.
Her vocational passions are employee development, motivational theory, and human centered design. She is a HYI-200 hr certified yoga instructor and founder of Unforced Rhythms, LLC, a restorative yoga business whose mission is “To create sacred space for women to embrace their stories and enter into rest.”
She has been married to her third husband for 9 years and is the imperfect mom of two grown children, whom she adopted as a single parent when they were 3 and 7.
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