Chasing Perfect and Coming Up Short
I've always known that you're not supposed to be a perfectionist. From a very early age, we are taught that there is no such thing as perfection, and striving for perfection will leave us empty-handed and dissatisfied. I know this, and yet, that's never stopped me from trying to reach this unattainable state of being. It's my nature to want everything figured out, all of my ducks in a row, and no wiggle room for error.
Unfortunately, striving for perfection robs me of contentment, and a life without contentment is a life full of anxiety.
If you haven't read The Road Back to You or learned about the enneagram personality typing system, I highly recommend it. Much of my recent insight into my perfectionist nature has come from the enneagram's wisdom, and you won't find it shocking to know that my personality type (1) is actually called "The Perfectionist".
The longer we live in this state of striving for perfection, the more we begin to believe that our need for perfection is actually what makes us successful. Essentially, we think that the negative voice in our heads, the one that tells us we aren't good enough and need to do more, is directly correlated to our ability to achieve new heights. We wonder what would happen without it - would we lose our motivation? Would we lose our chance to be great?
The older I get, the more I realize that, while the negative voice inside my head is a good short-term motivator, it's a long-term soul crusher.
The negative voice in my head says, "You look terrible, go work out." Maybe that's enough to get me laced up in my running shoes and out on the trails, but what happens when I tell myself that every day? Eventually, the act of exercising becomes an punishment because it's all about fixing a "problem", not about cultivating a healthy habit.
The negative voice whispers, "You're not very impressive," which is enough to send me on a new rampage of goal setting and overloading myself with responsibilities. Even if I set good goals, am I sacrificing my chance at rest and relationships because I feel desperate to overachieve?
Giving into the negative voice inside your head will make your life just that - negative. Even with the best of intentions, allowing negative motivation to be the force that drives you to reach your goals will cast a shadowy light on everything you do.
Lately, I've been striving for contentment over perfection. Perfection says, "I cannot rest until everything is perfect", while contentment says, "I rest, knowing nothing is perfect." I know that God's best for me is not a lifestyle rooted in shame or degradation, so I can't continue to rely on the negative voice to propel me forward. Instead, I need to learn how to rest in His plan, do my best to steward my gifts, and be motivated by something bigger than myself, rather than the desire for self-promotion. Self-promotion isn't perfection, it's selfishness, and when you break it down, that's not what any of us are after.
If you find yourself on the hamster wheel, constantly chasing perfection, are you ready to join me in pursuing a different path?