The Hidden Blessing in Perfectionism

I was a perfectionist from the get-go, according to my mom. I don’t remember any of this, but she insists that I used to come home from first grade with severe stomach aches from the stress of having made a mistake. She shakes her head every time she tells the story, as if to say, “Where in the world did you get the silly idea that you had to be perfect?”

Umm, yeah. Where did I get that silly idea?

I mean, we all know that no one’s perfect — and it’s quite obvious that the world around us isn’t perfect — so where had I gotten this hair-brained idea that I should be? Or that perfection was even possible — that it even exists?

Here’s what I think: God.

I think that the call to perfection that I feel deep inside is God’s homing beacon inside of me, crying out for His perfection. I think it’s His thumbprint on my soul — the mark of my Creator, bearing His character, His nature.

And that’s the hidden blessing in perfectionism, I think — the perfectionism itself — the very fact that our souls know that there IS such thing as “Perfect.”

Of course, we screw this whole “homing beacon” thing up…because we’re not perfect (you had to know that was coming). Our hearts hear the call for perfection, but we don’t realize that it’s not calling us to be perfect — in fact, it’s more pointing out the fact that we’re not, and nudging us to direct our eyes the One who is. But we seem to mostly miss that. Instead, we automatically assume the perfection call is about us (because everything is about us, right?) and then try to get ourselves and our lives as close to “perfect” as we can. Which, yes, pretty well jacks things up.

My version of jacked up has been a life-long habit of limiting myself to only those environments where I know I can win, where there will be no threat of failure (which is like death to me). And even in areas where I feel sure about my capabilities, I put strict limits on my efforts — I’ll only try *so* much, only enough to get some initial success — and then I’ll back off, afraid of going deeper, afraid of the unforeseeable obstacles that might overtake me. I once told a guy I was dating, “If you ever see me producing creative work on a consistent basis, actually flourishing in that area of my life, you’ll know I’m free.”

I don’t know if I’d say I’m free yet, but I’m getting there. I still feel anxiety about the possibility of failing, I still hear the call to be perfect (I’ll edit this post a bajillion times). But now that I know where it comes from, I almost welcome it. It reminds me that I have divine DNA in my soul — just enough to show that I came from perfection, but not enough to make me capable of perfection myself.