I’m not exactly sure when it started, but I definitely remember when I finally realized I couldn’t keep on living with my self-imposed impossible expectations.
It was Motherhood.
Shortly after the birth of our first daughter my mom gave me these words of wisdom when she saw me trying to maintain all-the-things like I had done prior to pregnancy, “Tiffany, it’s ok to let some things go. The house doesn’t need to be perfect.”
I started to take the hint, but really didn’t “get-it” to the level I needed to until two and a half years later when our second daughter was almost six months old.
I had been having severe neck pains and finally couldn’t deal with it on my own. I loaded up the diaper bag and double stroller, with our toddler and infant in tow I headed to my Doctor.
I don’t remember much from the appointment, but I do remember him asking me this one question, “Tiffany, are you stressed?”
I was taken aback a little. I wasn’t there for a counseling appointment, I was there for the pain in my neck to be fixed.
My answer was a little hesitant after quickly thinking what this line of question might be uncovering, “I don’t think so.”
He responded, “I think you have Shingles and they may be stress-induced.”
Talk about a wake-up call.
I had been trying to do all the “right” things; taking care of the house, volunteering at church, cooking meals, breastfeeding, getting groceries, reading to our girls, being a good wife, and on and on from morning to night. And it wasn’t just about doing these things, but it was about doing them perfectly and maintaining my “super-woman” status.
And now I was being told that this level of performance was affecting my health and well-being. After ignoring minor red flags, my body was now screaming at me to stop while all along I thought that what I was doing was normal and the way my life was supposed to be.
Has your quality of life been affected by performancism and perfectionism too? Imagine being ok with things just being ok… being present in a moment without a to-do list running through your head… or even joining in on, or heaven forbid, starting the fun family food fight.
I wish I could say the process of overcoming perfectionism was quick and easy. It wasn’t. But I can tell you that I have been a recovered perfectionist for a while now and there are three things that are game-changers for finding and keeping your freedom.
We have to start with understanding the unconditional love of God. You can’t do anything bigger, better, different, or enough to have Him love you anymore than He does right now. Now stop, take a breath, and read that sentence again. This very truth should lower blood pressure, relax your shoulders, and unclench your jaw. The God of the universe loves you fully and no-matter what you do or don’t do. Once we can rest in this, we can move on to the next key.
For the logical side of our brains learning the difference between excellence and perfectionism is life-changing. Perfectionism is a hard-driving, unattainable, never good enough standard. Excellence is doing the best with what you have as you grow. So if I have one hour to clean my house before company rings my door bell, we set the timer and give it a go starting with the most important areas. When that bell rings, we are content with what we did, while letting go with what didn’t get done, and enjoy the rest of the evening.
Now that your heart and brain have something to grasp the cherry on the top is experiencing real peace and never wanting to let it go. Peace is priceless and a lack of it is our red flag that something is off. For me, my peace can be stolen amidst a plan or expectation that is going awry and I have learned to quickly adjust both so I can continue to walk in peace. Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and originates from our time with Him.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
Friend, Jesus already paid the price for your eternal salvation in heaven and your abundant life here on earth. It’s not earned. It’s a free gift and God so wants you to receive it, open it up, and use it every single day as you walk with Him.
May your heart rest in God’s unconditional love, may your mind find relief in a life of excellence, and may you hold onto His peace so that you can live free from perfectionism and walk in the abundant life He has for you.