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Recovering Perfectionist

September 2, 2011

Social Media—I’ve hated it for years. Well, perhaps hate is a strong word. I’ve disliked and mocked it. I didn’t see the purpose; it felt like it was merely “surfing the net.” And who had time to do that? As a mom of two young girls, not me!

But now I’ve opened my heart and mind to all things SM. (See, I’m even getting the abbreviated lingo down!) I’m getting my sea legs. And … wait for it … I’ve even started a Twitter account. Gasp! Many, many thanks to my sister who has mentored me, encouraged me, and flat out told me what to do along the way. I’m sure she’s pretty tired of my whining and complaining, but hey, she’s stuck with me for life!

Late one night she was helping me with Twitter and didn’t quite like my boring profile: Christi McGuire, Freelance Editor and Writer. I truly can be creative—if it doesn’t involve talking about myself!  So here were my sister’s drafts:

  • Christi McGuire, Freelance Writer and Editor, crafter of commas, Type-A mom who is learning to roll with the punches, book enthusiast, lover of clever people, eater of cake & ice cream, and a sufferer of all the above!
  • Christi McGuire, Freelance Writer and Editor, Your pathway to become Creatively Compulsive, Mother of two, Rockstar Housewife, Lover of commas and conjunctions.

I conjoined the two to make: Christi McGuire, Freelance Writer and Editor, Type-A mom who is learning to roll with the punches, Rock star wife, Lover of commas and conjunctions.

I checked my creation. Well, my husband thinks I’m a rock star wife (most of the time). And I do love commas and conjunctions (I use way too many to start sentences). But a “Type-A mom learning to roll with the punches”? Ouch. That is way too true. My sister really knows me—better than I know myself!

If you’ve just met me in the last couple of years, you may not think I was ever Type-A. Ha! If you’re a friend of at least 15, 20 years, then you know Christi McGuire is not only Type-A, but she’s a “Recovering Perfectionist.” Yep, that’s me. I used to be a perfectionist. Now I am a perfectionist in recovery. I am constantly recovery from the weight of perfection; I am constantly trying to unload the heavy burden of attempting perfection.

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I suppose being a first-born child, I have always attempted to be perfect. If I didn’t do something perfect, I would hate myself for a long time. The teenage years, college years, and early marriage years only increased my desire to be perfect. I wanted everybody I knew and everybody I encountered to think I was perfect, that I had it all together. When I got married in my early 20s, I wanted to be the perfect wife. I even broke down crying in one of our pre-marital counseling sessions because I wanted to be perfect and felt the weight of that load, even before wedding bells rang.

However, that hefty load was one I had put on my shoulders all by myself. Nobody else expected perfection. My husband didn’t; his family didn’t; my family didn’t; strangers bumping into me at the grocery store certainly didn’t! Living a life of perfection is something that is not only miserable, it’s impossible! It’s unattainable—nobody can lead a perfect life.

So should we just be lazy bums, slackers, having no motivation because we know we can never achieve perfection? Absolutely not! We should not strive for perfection, but we can strive for excellence and strive for the life God has given us. Ephesians 4:1-7 says:

“I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds [us]. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope at your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah’s gift.” (NIV)

God calls us to a higher calling; He desires our sacrifice, our time, our commitment to living a life worthy of His name. He does not call us to perfection. He calls us to strive for excellence in all we do, because we are His representatives on earth. In addition, there is His grace when we mess up … thank goodness for His grace!

As I grow in God’s grace each year, the weight of perfection grows less and less. I no longer strive for perfection—come to my house, and you will see evidence of this! But I strive for excellence in the way of humility, gentleness, patience, love, and peace, as Ephesians 4 commands us to. (Notice I said strive. I have not fully accomplished any of that!) When I stop striving for perfection, the focus is turned off ME and onto GOD. Once I realized it was actually selfish to strive for perfection, that I wanted to be perfect in my own strength, and that my goal of perfection actually limited God and what He wanted to do in my life, I was free for God to move and work within me! Not being perfect is admitting that God is God and I am not! Striving for excellence instead of perfection forces me to depend on God every moment of every day. When I give my to-do lists, my household duties, my freelance schedule, my children’s lives, my marriage, my friendships and relationships—everything—to God, then HE can mold it and make it to fit HIS will, His most perfect will for me. Perfectionists take God’s will into their own hands. Perfectionists function as if they know better than God does for what is best. Perfectionists grab the steering wheel away from God, thinking they know a better route. I know, because I am a recovering perfectionist.

Who else is a recovering perfectionist? What advice, tips, and encouragement can you give to others?

Copyright © Christi McGuire. All rights reserved.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 2, 2011 2:51 pm

    Wonderful post – thanks for sharing! i still struggle with perfectionism (my family regularly laughs at me as i proofread my facebook comments prior to submitting…), but i did find what i think maybe the key to defeating it.

    i found out, that no matter how well i do something, “perfection” is always standing at just the next level, telling me that my endeavors missed “by that much” – in short, as i progress upward, so does it. And that’s impossible. And if that’s impossible, then so too must be perfection itself. So in most cases now, instead of perfection, i “settle” for simply doing my very best. Even if that means i have to proofread a comment it before i hit the submit button =)

    • September 3, 2011 3:08 pm

      And I thought I was the only one to proof my FB posts! 🙂 You are so right on … perfection ups its game just when we think we’ve hit the mark. Totally unattainable. I have also “settled” for doing my best. I’m just waiting for it to stop feeling like “settling” and for it to start like it is OK to do my best. Period.

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. September 2, 2011 3:37 pm

    Amen, Sister!! I’m definitely a recovering perfectionist too! Thanks for the awesome reminder of God’s grace!

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