5 Ways Perfectionism Steals Your Joy

Chelsea Cote

Blooming Branch
Updated Aug 02, 2016
5 Ways Perfectionism Steals Your Joy
By relying so heavily on myself and my abilities to meet my own and others’ expectations, I’m setting myself up for failure.

I’ve always been the overachieving perfectionist type. I’ve always been the good girl, the rule follower, the people pleaser. I almost never lose my temper. Generally, I’m very good at being responsible, doing the sensible thing, and keeping it together.

For the most part, this has served me well. I don’t take any credit this; it’s just a result of my personality.

However, I have been overwhelmed lately by my inability to keep things together all the time. I feel like I’m fraying around the edges and consistently obsessing, wondering why I can’t be better, do more, measure up, make it happen, work harder.

And it’s killing me. Robbing me of joy, of life, of energy, of Jesus. 

I’m writing this article on the tail end of one of the most exceptionally bad days I’ve had in a while. Everything has pointed to the fact that I’m not good enough. I received an unkind email early in the morning from a stranger who disapproved of some of my most vulnerable writing. Every time I looked in the mirror, my flaws screamed at me that I’d never be beautiful.  I lost my temper with a coworker and caused a great deal of office tension. I was late to an event because my to-do list got the better of me. I got in an argument with my Mom.

While being a perfectionist isn’t necessarily the worst quality when it comes to doing a lot of things, it’s still extremely dangerous. And not just to my health, sleeping habits, nerves and overall state of mind. By relying so heavily on myself and my abilities to meet my own and others’ expectations, I’m setting myself up for failure, yes, but I’m also robbing myself of the peace that comes from resting in my weakness and Christ’s strength.

5 Ways Perfectionism Steals Your Joy:

1. Often, it incapacitates you from pursuing the things you want to learn or do better because you’re so afraid you’ll do them badly or be embarrassed. Sometimes perfectionism debilitates me so much so that I neglect my own needs or responsibilities because I’m just so overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy. This evening I feel horrible. I hate dropping the ball or not doing something well. I hate the way it makes me feel – emotionally and physically – and the way I can’t stop thinking about it.

2. You continue to believe the whispers in my ear that you’re not good enough. And you know what? While Satan inevitably lies to us, he’s slightly correct on this one. I’m not good enough. I will never be good enough on my own. When I attempt to do anything – professionally, personally, relationally – on my own, I’m going to come up empty. I’m guaranteed to fall short. This is a reality. But it’s also the best part. I don’t have to be good enough. I don’t have to be perfect. There is so much joy and fulfillment that comes when I let go of the anxiety and general Type A-ness and rest in the overwhelming love of my Creator. In His eyes, it doesn’t matter how much I accomplish or how few mistakes I make; it doesn’t even matter if I make only mistakes. I am good enough. I’m more than good enough. I’m a chosen daughter of the King and I am fully known, fully loved and fully accepted for who I am – including flaws and shortcomings.

3. You’re truly never satisfied. There’s always more work to be done, more changes to be made, more things that I need. Not only does this deny me the opportunity to allow Christ to meet me in my weakness, but it steals my own joy and satisfaction of walking through life fully relying on His strength and sufficiency.

4. It robs you of living fearlessly and boldly, limiting you to a life of disappointment and regret. While life isn’t always easy and we should certainly strive for growth, I believe we are called to live life abundantly. This means taking risks, learning new things, embracing challenges. It means finding fulfillment and satisfaction in the fact that I am loved beyond comprehension, covered in grace and redeemed by Christ for everything I’ve ever messed up – big and small – and everything I have yet to. When I believe that, I’m less afraid, less cautious, less worried that I’m going to fail. It gives me a ticket to live joyfully and abundantly in the promise that I can never be separated from Him.

5. If your life is meant to glorify God, how can you expect that you won’t need His help in everything? If I had it all together on my own, He would fade into the background. As much as I might feel the need to be, I’m not the prettiest, the smartest or the best at anything, and the fact is for Christ to be visible, I can’t be any of these things.

The New Living Translation of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9 says: Each time he said, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. I love how this translation uses the words “each time”, meaning weakness isn’t a one-time thing that we’re required to overcome. It’s something that allows us to do the one thing for which we were created to do: glorify our Creator and His majesty.

I shouldn’t be, but sometimes I’m so amazed by the Lord’s timing. While I can’t say I really enjoyed any part of today’s terribleawfulnogoodverybadday, I feel He was preparing my heart for these words. Reminding me that I need Him every hour of every day. Reminding me that weakness isn’t just something I must overcome, but that it’s a glorious opportunity for His power to work through me. This makes me part of a bigger picture, a greater purpose and an eternal story. Truly, there is no greater promise and nothing more magnificent than to know that because of my imperfections I am His vessel. He rejoices in the opportunity to pull me out of the depths and set my hinds feet on high places for His glory.

Chelsea Cote is a Type A twenty-something residing in Charlotte, NC. A non-profit development director by day, Chelsea loves Jesus, fashion, her family (including her giant cat Liam), decorating, art in all its forms, gummy candy, thrifting, liquid eyeliner, and watching The West Wing and Friends reruns. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest and read her thoughts on faith, fashion and everything in between at www.bloomingbranchblog.com