Pop over here and read the devotion that started the series if you missed it.
Yesterday you shared some of your struggles with perfectionism in the comments – and could I ever relate! Thunderstorms knocked out my internet for most the day so I had to head to Starbucks to read your posts. The other coffee addicts would pass by me on the way in and see me giggling and smiling in agreement as I read. They’d get their order and pass me two minutes later on the way out – and I’d be clutching my heart, salty water pooling in my eyes, shaking my head in agreement and prayer. I went through 2 lattes, 200-some comments, and 2 napkins as tissues.
Yesterday we also defined this thing we wrestle as: a set of self-defeating thoughts and behaviors driving you to set, and to expect to reach, excessively high or unrealistic goals. Zero in on the phrase “self-defeating thoughts and behaviors.” It’s key to note both parts of that hyphenated word. First, they come from self/our flesh/Satan and not from God. And second, they defeat us rather than help or perfect us.
“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do." ~ Gal 5:17 (ESV)
I could tell from your comments, as you read the devotion and spelled out your perfectionism’s particular brand of crazy, that you were seeing the truth of that.
So today we’re looking at some of the causes of this self-defeating thinking and behavior. The clinical experts in my research say a number of negative thoughts, feelings, and beliefs can drive our perfectionistic tendencies. Such as: fear of failure, fear of making mistakes, fear of disapproval, all or none thinking, and belief that others are effortlessly great.
Fear of failure. Perfectionists often equate failure to achieve with a lack of personal worth or value.
We sometimes equate failure – on something like a math test or an attempt to keep our closets organized - on par with sin. Like something that deserves condemnation, punishment or isolation. Messy closets do not equal murder, a crooked sewn quilt is not slander, cellulite and typos are not stealing. God offers grace to murders, slanders and thieves! Why can we not offer ourselves or our family a little grace on the math tests and closets?Fear of making mistakes. Perfectionists often equate mistakes with failure – and therefore, with a lack of personal worth. In orienting their lives around avoiding mistakes, perfectionists miss opportunities to learn and grow.
Seriously - how many times have we missed out on something fun or enriching because we weren't certain we could pull it off well, or look good doing it? And how many things have we started and not finished because we felt we weren’t good enough at it?Fear of disapproval. Perfectionists often believe if they let others see their flaws, they will no longer be accepted.
In reality, authentic transparency usually brings people closer. Trying to be perfect is a way of trying to avoid criticism, disapproval, and rejection. I think its also a way of protecting our pride - rather than letting it die with Christ on the cross. By the way, Christ was criticized, disapproved of, and rejected – and He was truly perfect! So it will happen to us too.All-or-none thinking. Perfectionists frequently believe they are failures if their accomplishments are not perfect from start to finish. Every part must be flawless.
We deny the existence of a learning curve, and discount the process of “failing forward.”Belief that others are easily successful. Perfectionists tend to perceive others as achieving success with a minimum of effort, few or no errors, little emotional stress, and maximum self-confidence.
This is a powerful one. Maybe the most powerful of them all – that’s why it was so freeing to read everyone’s confessions yesterday. And that’s why even though we know what our perfectionism does to us and those close to us, we keep trying to be “perfect like them.” We compare our reality to assumptions we make based on their appearance. And sometimes “they” don’t exist anywhere but in our minds, myths or magazines!Several of you commented that you learned your perfectionistic ways from your mother. And some of you said you can see it rubbing off on your children. (I have as well.) So we’ll keep talking about this. Look over that list again and think about which one of these issues cause you the most trouble. And pray about that today. Feel free to share it with me and I’ll pray too.
Stay tuned for more on this topic.
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