“Society tells us we’re killing it when we’re grinding it out, working out, studying hard, & being incessantly busy & productive. Jesus tells us we’re killing it when we are kind, grateful, & loving. Go out & kill it for the kingdom.” –sheiscaptivating
Perfection is defined as, “the action or process of improving something until it is faultless or as faultless as possible.” Personally, I am very familiar with this particular word & definition because I have worked all my teenage life to be as faultless as possible. I have, in every sense, strove to be the picture of perfection. Actually, I believe that’s still putting it lightly. I’m an ultra-detailed, excessively organized, extremely meticulous overachiever who strives for perfection in every. single. area of her life.
I assure you, this is not an exaggerated statement. I have always fought a (losing) battle for absolute & total perfection in every area of my life. When working on schoolwork, every problem, paper, & sentence had to be written in my best penmanship, with the most thorough answer possible. If I didn’t feel my morning devotions had gone flawlessly, I did them again. When I sent a text or email, I would read it at least two times through before sending it & often tore it apart afterword with harsh condemnation. Everyday was scheduled with precision, & if even one step felt sub-par, the rest of the day felt off. In addition, my bedroom is always spotless & picture-perfect. When one thing is touched or moved out of place, it bugs me until I fix it. & God forbid anyone even touch my closet! 😛
Last month Mom & I were in Ulta smelling perfumes from the Philosophy collection & as we walked I literally paused at each display to straighten the perfumes, lotions & creams in pristine, measured lines.
Yeah…I may have a problem.
But in all seriousness, this chronic craving for perfection has led to a constant battle with self-worth. I found my worth in schoolwork, volunteer-work, glowing interactions with friends, & a busy schedule. Failure became my worst enemy, my worst fear.
My everyday actions began to define me.
Worse, I held myself to impossible standards & punished myself when I fell short of them with verbal abuse. Harsh critique became a habit, a routine.
Satan knew the lies that hurt most, & whispered them daily: “You’re a failure.” “You’re ugly.” “You’ll never be enough.”
& then I got sick.
One by one, my illness began to strip me of every ounce of “perfection” I had desperately grasped for so long. One by one I watched helplessly as school, babysitting, volunteering, speech, church, & activities slipped away…taking every shred of my self-worth with them.
Defeated, I would lie in bed & believe my worth was completely gone. Who would want to be friends with someone whose life had been reduced to debilitating pain & bedrest? Who would want a daughter who couldn’t graduate with honors on time or go to college or leave home? Who would want a sister who couldn’t play with him or take him places? Who would want to pursue a relationship with someone who barely had enough energy to take a shower & had not one shred of beauty left?
The other day I was sitting in my room & my mind was whirling with all the ways I had flopped this week & the stress of it all began to choke me. My breath came in wheezy pants, my eyes were wide, the tears were spilling, & my room began to spin. It took me a few minutes before I realized what was happening: I was clinging to anxiety & work & my to-do list like my very life depended on it. There was no outside pressure or urgency regarding these things, yet I was placing the weight of the world on my sick body & brain & for what?! A few minutes of satisfaction before a new task arose?
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, & began to pray, “Jesus, I am surrendering all my feelings of stress, anxiety, worry, inadequacy, guilt, unworthiness, brokenness, helplessness, fear, & doubt into Your hands & saying NO MORE! Jesus is where I find my peace & hope! Jesus is where I find my identity….for I am HIS!”
& then it hits me…the truth of that last sentence, & I pause. For so long, I placed my identity in all the wrong places, in all the wrong things, & it has suffocated me. Verses wash over my soul & I feel overwhelmingly like a dying woman in the desert receiving precious life-giving sips of water.
“He calls me beautiful one.”
“I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
“Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
A question slams into my mind with undeniable force, “Is anything you’re doing here adding up to anything that matters? In the end, is what you’ve chosen ultimately about Christ & His Kingdom? If not, then no matter what you’ve chosen, it won’t matter at all.”
Society teaches us to constantly strive for perfection, to fear failure above all else. We live in a world that notices & critiques our flaws far more often than noticing & acknowledging our strengths. & as a result we unwittingly put our faith in idols…idols of beauty, money, fame, grades, affirmation, intelligence, etc. We put our time & energy into things that are not ultimately glorifying Christ & His kingdom. We become increasingly aware of other’s strengths in differentiation to our own weaknesses. We begin to play the dangerous game of comparison to others who seemingly have their lives in perfect order. We put on an exhausting facade to hide our feelings of inadequacy & our flaws.
We forget that because of Jesus, we are enough, & worthy, & invaluable.
I realize it is far more important to embrace priceless moments spent with friends & family than it is to be holed up in your room working on school from dawn til dusk. I realize it is far more important to read the Bible where God leads you, to pray with abandon, & to journal the precious things He taught you that day than it is to simply go through the motions. I realize it is more important to be a present friend than it is to be a perfect one. I realize it is more important to cherish the snuggles from my little brother than it is to stress over my blankets being muddled.
I admit, this is something I still frequently struggle with, but I’m learning. I’m learning not to elevate myself, but to elevate Christ in me: His love, His grace, His mercy, His goodness, His majesty, His power, His strength. I’m learning not to trust social media, to realize it is simply a platform that caters to the perfect facade people so desperately crave. I am learning to bring my vulnerability, flaws, & imperfections to the feet of Jesus who is passionately & perfectly in love with me.
I am learning to let go of masks & fake confidence & the pressure perfection brings. I am learning, in the words of Ann Voskamp, “to remember to put my priorities in all things unseen. I’m trying to slay the idol of seen, break the idol of performance, & believe the state of my house doesn’t reflect the state of my soul. It’s the priorities unseen—the prayers, the relationships, the love while doing the work—that hold the meaning, the merit.”
I am learning to trust that He is enough in me to make me enough.