I always love touching on the subject of perfectionism. I am, what I like to think, a recovering perfectionist. My type-A, want-everything-my-way habits are what gave me the inspiration to start this blog. However, I couldn’t help but crack up when I started seeing a rather funny search result leading people to my blog: “how to not be a perfectionist.”
Oh, what we search on the internet. But as amusing as that is, I realize it’s something people actually want to know. How do you change perfectionistic ways? Do perfectionists ever lighten up? Can you ever be happy with yourself? Or are you doomed to being a control-freak, hard-on-yourself type forever?
I will say right now that I do not have all the answers to those questions. But, living with myself for years and actively working to change myself instead of the people or circumstances around me for the past few years has been quite the revelation for me.
On a good day, I wouldn’t consider myself a perfectionist at all. But when things go awry, sometimes that part of me is still very clearly there. And maybe (probably) it always will be. Either way, there has been growth for me, and I’d love to share with you how I’ve tried not to be a perfectionist.
1. Become Aware
Before I started reading on perfectionism and really diving deep into studying myself, I had no idea how bad my perfectionism really was in certain areas.
At certain points in my life, I would spend hours each week planning my outfits and all the accessories that go with them. I would try them on just to make sure it was perfect looking. I was so concerned with having the best fashion that I spent a good amount of time on something that most people would never even care about.
I’ve also had bouts of depression because of how my perfectionism made me feel. If situations didn’t turn out how I wanted or if I was lost in worry to try and control situations, I would be very unhappy. But I never really knew why.
Becoming aware of the ways in which I wanted to “perfect” things and how those habits made me feel was the first step toward recovery. Self-awareness is extremely valuable not only for myself, but for others. Awareness has shown me that there are things that I impose that have nothing to do with other people. Whereas before, I would blame others or think it was everyone else. Not good.
I became more aware of myself by reading books on the subject, journaling, and ultimately asking God to change me for a year. It wasn’t always fun, but I would (and probably will) do it again in a heartbeat.
2. Give It To God
My journey of overcoming perfectionism has really just been a small piece of my journey with the Lord. Without giving this part of my life to Him, I would have probably just become more of a perfectionist.
God has been intrumental in giving me more self-awareness and guiding me to great literature to help me through. Spending time with Him has also shown me glimpses of His love for me, which in turn helps me love myself more. If the God of the universe loves me just the way I am, how can I, silly old me, not like myself?
To grow toward the person I want to be, accepting His grace has had the most impact on my change. His love is ever-encouraging, and He has always pointed me to the truth about my situation or habits.
3. Identify with Imperfection
For whatever reason one may be perfectionistic, somewhere along the line, perfection became equated with “right” or “good.” Perfect is good, in and of itself. Perfect is not good when nothing less is considered “good” anymore.
To identify with imperfection is, well, the opposite of what most natural-born perfectionists want to do. But it’s necessary to shed the weight of the heavy clothes of perfectionism. To look imperfection in the eyes and say, “you are real and you are an option” has helped.
Before, imperfection was just not acceptable. Less than perfect was impossible & made me feel ruined. And I used to equate less than perfect with failure, which is not true.
The tagline for my blog is “embracing the imperfect in every day.” And that’s truly a motto that I try to live by. To embrace and identify with imperfection is to be mature. It’s acknowledging that yes, things are not always perfect, and yes, that’s okay.
4. Accept Yourself
For the longest time, I viewed my perfectionism as something that absolutely needed to change. In certain respects, it did. Perfectionism definitely makes certain areas of my life less enjoyable and makes me a more rigid person, on average.
However, through self-awareness and spending more time with the Lord, I have come to the conclusion that God made me this way for a reason. Not all of my want-it-to-be-just-right tendencies are bad. God made my personality exactly as He intended. The more I have embraced that I am a perfectionist, to the point of understanding that I will not likely get rid of that personality trait, the more I have come to relax about it all.
God has shown me ways where perfectionism is not called for. But He has also shown me that some of my strengths stem from that part of my personality, such as my attention to detail, my awareness of how others feel, my promptness, and my work ethic – all good things.
Being hard on myself for the way that God made me is pointless. Learning to embrace it has not been easy, but it’s certainly made me happier. My personality type – and yours – is no accident. You are perfect just the way you are.
Questions for You:
- If you tend to be perfectionistic, what helps you lighten up the most?
- What’s one thing you choose to accept about yourself, even if it may need changing?