The Perfection Lie


My name is Young Mom, and I am a recovering Perfectionist.

I used to be in denial that I am a perfectionist. Perfectionist’s were the type of people that annoyed me, they were the ones with the immaculate houses, well behaved children and clean nice-smelling cars. My house was never clean enough, my children still disobeyed despite my best efforts, my car was a disaster. Nope, I couldn’t be a perfectionist, otherwise I would have everything under control.

But being a perfectionist doesn’t mean that you have an immaculate house, it means that you feel that you are supposed to have an immaculate house, so you freak out whenever you feel your house isn’t.

Being a perfectionist doesn’t mean that your children always obey, it means that you believe that your children could be always obedient if you only do everything right.

When I look in the mirror and wish that I were a little taller and alot thinner. When I judged how other people’s children look and decided that mine would always be clean and co-ordinated. When I apologize to unexpected guests about “the mess”, or the fact that my children are wearing pajama pants in the middle of the afternoon. When I feel like a failure because my baby’s infected finger needs an anti-biotic to heal. I am being a perfectionist.

In a way, its not really my fault. Our entire culture sets us up to be perfectionists. People say things like “If you really loved your children you would feed them all organic food.” or “Real men never show emotion.” We read the magazines that tell us that you can lose all the baby weight in 8 weeks or that sex isn’t really worth it unless you have half a dozen orgasms. We watch the shows that tell us how our lives would become organized if we only remodeled our homes into the perfect paradise, or feature the mom’s that scrapbook every second of their child’s life and never have bad hair days or forget where they left their purse.

And then Christianity kindly adds its own dimension.

We have churches that try to help us along in our efforts to be perfect. A Christian man should always provide the sole income for the family. A Christian woman should not only be good at cleaning and cooking and taking care of her family, she should find her sole source of contentment and happiness in fulfilling that role. Real Christian men will be strong spiritual leaders. Real Christian women will embrace “true” femininity.

Has any of us ever had it all together? I am a great cook, I love cooking. I can make some pretty kick-butt stuff to bring to potlucks. But I detest certain chores around my house, and I must not be very good at organizing, or I’m sure I would get more done. Now, does that mean that I am pretty honest about this? Not really. When I have people over to my house, I’m not OK with them seeing how I actually live, (what would they think if they saw clothing scattered in the hallway, books stacked on the end tables, toys on the floor and dishes next to the sink?) it’s not good enough to be a good cook, I want to live up to everything I’m supposed to be, what everyone else seems to be. So I frantically clean (and hide) the stuff that makes my house look lived in, and shut the bedroom door so that no one can see that I never make my bed. So that I can give off the impression that I am what I am “supposed” to be. And in so doing, I perpetuate the lie.

The perfection lie. The lie that says that we are not good enough. The lie that makes us feel guilty whenever we don’t fit the mold. The lie that say we have to be good at everything. The lie that tells us that we are only worth loving/marrying/accepting, if we are perfect.

I’m not saying that its not good to have things I am working towards, talents that I want to cultivate, issues that I am trying to conquer. But if any of any of those things make me feel as though I will never measure up, I should question why I am doing it.

Why do I forget that God loves me exactly as I am. My husband loves me as I am. My children love me as I am.

I am a slightly messy, forgetful, clumsy, stubborn, loving, creative idea person; who isn’t very fashion oriented, loves to get hugs, experiments in the kitchen and never folds all the laundry. A person who loses my temper, is a little pudgier than I’d like, enjoys writing and gets lost in books. And it is good enough.

And it needs to be good enough for me too.

Fundamentalist Approved Feminist Literature
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Re-post: I am Not My Parents
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  • Michelle

    I love this. I have a feeling you and I would be pretty good friends in real life. You sound a lot like me. I am constantly trying to remember that God created me the way I am and He loves me. Of course, He wants me to be the best me I can be, but that is not measured by worldly standards and I am constantly trying to remember that.

  • Maggie

    Thank you for this post… I really needed to read this. I too suffer from being a pefectionist… it is so much stress that we DON'T need!

  • Muttering Mother

    This sums up a lot I think about. I often feel out of sync with the rest of the world, trying to measure up to its expectations. We shouldn't need to mask our behaviours; as you say, God knows us and loves us. I feel sad for the people who wear it proudly like a badge – "I'm a perfectionist" – and strive so hard to get things under control that they have no hope/need of getting controlled. (Having said that of course I'm always striving harder to give it up and let God be in control!)

  • Young Mom

    Michelle~ "The best me I can be" I like that! It isn't measured by other's standards.

    Muttering~ I agree with not needing to mask ourselves! The pressure to conform even in little area's is ridiculous, and it is hard not to slip on the mask, so you don't have to answer peoples questions.

  • Maurisa

    Wonderfully expressed. I too am a recovering perfectionist :-)

  • Claire

    It's definitely a difficult balance: being "the best me I can be", and then (like the 4-H motto), "making the best better". In short, finding the harmony between being unrealistic and frustrated with oneself, and on the opposite extreme: being complacent.

    How strengthening that our Lord loves us unconditionally, flaws and all! And yet, He meanwhile calls and equips us to reach for holiness, toward more complete union with Him which = steps toward perfection. :)

    I think that's why the saints can be so helpful. They're not role models because they are perfect, or because they never fell or had bumps in the road. They are saint and role models because they knew how to keep going and to get up after falling, and to learn from the bumps in the road…

  • ‘Becca

    I relate to this so much! The best thing for me has been having a job where I take messy things and make them better all day long–I'm the data manager of a large and complicated research study. At work, I make everything perfect; at home, I can cut myself a little more slack. A little. But then, the fact that I have a full-time job and only a few hours at home creates stress about not having time to get even the most basic home stuff done! So I'm not saying you should go get a job, but it might be worthwhile choosing a couple of areas to focus on to divert you from trying to do EVERYTHING perfectly.

    C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity that worrying about how your house appears to others is the kind of Pride that is a Deadly Sin. That really got me thinking about where that perfection lie comes from! It's not just me lying to myself; it's evil whispering in my ear trying to lure me away from God. There is nothing humble about striving to be perfect so others will admire me.

    Last night, I read the part of the Gospel where Jesus says that much will be expected of those to whom much has been given. Later, as I was staying up past midnight just to wash dishes, I suddenly realized that part of the reason I push myself to do so much is that I feel so fortunate: I've been given a relatively privileged life, so I must work really hard to show I appreciate it. But in demanding so much OF MYSELF, maybe I am not leaving room for what God or other people may ask of me, the service I am truly meant to do.

  • Young Mom

    This has been a long time coming, I've been learning about this aspect of myself for awhile, I think I'm finally getting to the point where I can acknowledge it and actually try to do something about it. I may write about what books I've been reading sometime, they have been amazingly helpful!

  • Tess

    I love this post! I do the EXACT same thing as a college junior – always thinking someone else is smarter, prettier, holier, better organized, etc. I actually blogged about it a while back. I try to remember that "comparisons are odious" and nobody is perfect. Thanks for the reminder!