For as long as I can remember I’ve been told that I am a perfectionist. However, I’ve never been able to see it. I’m not the stereotypical perfectionist who I see in my mind. That woman has an immaculate home, manicured nails, and an organized time-management system that helps her to never be late. She is the exact opposite of me. When you walk into my house you have to dodge shoes and toys strewn all over the floor. You will rarely see my nails painted. And as far as time-management? I go by the five-minute rule. If I’m no more than five minutes late, I’m okay.
Then one day I was in the baby superstore near my house looking for a baby gift. Standing on the aisle between the sippy cups and hooded towels, I looked down at the gift registry I was holding and then up at the shelf lined with diaper cream. Should I buy several small items or should I buy one large item? I couldn’t decide, so I strolled my shopping cart to the next numbered aisle and started my search again.
After over an hour, I decided on a gift. Just to make sure it was the right one, I put it in my shopping cart and walked around with it for another fifteen minutes. Finally, I settled on my decision, made my way to the cash register and left the store - an hour and a half later.
All the way home I continued to think about the baby gift I had just purchased. I questioned whether it was the right one. But how could it be the wrong one? It was on the gift registry. I imagined myself walking into the baby shower with my gift beautifully wrapped. Then I imagined the new mom opening it. Would she oohh and aahh over it? Would the other ladies make comments about how perfect the gift is? Would they be jealous that their gift wasn’t as good as mine? The next day I returned the baby gift I had purchased and bought another one – a more perfect one.
After my second trip to the store, I began to feel convicted. My anxiety wasn’t about there being several good choices and I not being able to choose. It wasn’t even about me trying to please the new mom with something she would like. There was more to it than that. My anxiety wasn’t about the gift being right; it was about my gift being perfect. I was afraid of not buying the perfect gift because I didn’t want others to perceive me as anything but perfect.
After I realized this about myself, I began to see it in other areas of my life too. I took my 20-month-old daughter to story time at the library for the first time. Needless to say, she did not understand the idea of sitting down and listening to the story. No, instead she wanted to walk around, visit everyone, and holler out when she thought something was interesting. She was the only child in the room not sitting down. As a new mom, my anxiety built. In my mind I knew my daughter wasn’t doing anything wrong or developmentally inappropriate. My anxiety came from how I was being perceived by the other moms. I thought to myself, “If I make her sit down they may think I’m too hard on her. But if I let her stand-up, they’ll think I don’t discipline her.” I was afraid of not being perceived as the perfect mom.
Since then I have begun to unpack what is at the root of my need to look perfect. Even though I know I’m not perfect, I want the perception to be that I am perfect. My perfectionism is a symptom of three false beliefs, or lies I tell myself:
1. Other people’s opinions of me matter more than God’s opinion of me.
Paul tells us in Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Whenever I try to get the approval of other people, I make an idol out of them. They become more important to me than God. In the example from my trip to the baby superstore, I had a budget. However, the first gift I bought was not within that budget. I allowed the approval of man to become more important than honoring God with my money. I operated under the false belief that people’s opinions of me mattered more than God’s opinion of me.
2. My worth comes from other people’s opinions of me.
It is counter-cultural to think of our worth coming from God and not other people. We live in a time when there is a constant drive to be more, achieve more, and acquire more. It feels like we are never enough just as we are. However, Colossians 2:9-10 tells us the exact opposite. “for in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority.” Through our relationship with Jesus, we are complete. Nothing can be added to or taken away from our worth through Him. Furthermore, Jesus is the authority over all – including all opinions. Jesus’ opinion of us is where are worth lies. He is the final authority of our worthiness.
3. I should be honored over God.
This false belief is an issue of pride. In both of my examples of buying the baby gift and being at the library with my daughter, I was not concerned with other people seeing Jesus in me. I was concerned with people seeing me. I wanted glory for myself instead of for God. Isaiah 43:7 tells us we are created for God’s glory - “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” God created every detail of my being. Therefore, even if I do choose the perfect gift or I am the perfect mother, I cannot take any credit for it. Anything good about me is from God and for God. As Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Brenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on Brenda’s blog, www.TripleBraidedLife.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.