I’ve been in the healing ministry for several years with INNERROOM and other ministries and have lots of great advice and resources to give out when others are having problems, but if I’m not diligent in taking care of the garden within my own mind and heart a small cloud will start forming in the back of my mind. A cloud that starts to swirl with all the things I should be doing and haven't, all the good intentions that I didn't follow through on, how behind I am in life, etc. ... you get the idea. Sometimes, they rudely shove themselves to the forefront of my mind like shoppers on Black Friday. And if I don’t take care of it early, they begin to weigh on my chest like huge boulders, then the oppressive feelings of inadequacy, failure, and despair engulf me. Sometimes, even though it’s emotionally unbearable, I just push all those thoughts and feelings aside by numbing with Netflix or scrolling on social media until I fall asleep.
Then, when I get sick of being sick, I’ll reach out to Jesus. Why do I do this? Because I don’t think it’s a big deal until it becomes a big deal. This is when I really relate to Paul when he says (I’m paraphrasing), “I do the things I don’t want to do and don’t do things I want to do.”
Life can be a rollercoaster of emotions of our own making, and from my confession, you can see I’m a pro at it! The pursuit of perfection is very insidious. You don’t realize that’s what you’re functioning in until you find yourself with an overweight ugly green monster sitting on your heart and you wonder, “ACK! What is this thing!” We may not identify the culprit immediately, but we feel its residual impact because it leaves us feeling stressed, overwhelmed, behind, and in despair.
“Why am I still at the bottom of this mountain? Why do I feel like I’m in an Escher drawing?”
When these kinds of thoughts start to fill my mind, I know I’ve partnered with the putrid green monster - the Spirit of Perfectionism.
However, through my experiences, I learned that embracing imperfection is not a weakness but actually a pathway to true peace and joy. In this blog, I'll share three valuable ways that helped me embrace imperfection and make room for peace that comes from God's unconditional love.
1. Embrace Your Uniqueness
Just like a puzzle piece, each one of us is designed differently. I came to understand this truth by reading a beautiful verse from the Bible, Psalm 139:14, which says, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." I am a masterpiece in God's eyes, with my own set of strengths and weaknesses. By embracing my uniqueness, I learned to appreciate the beauty of my individual journey and loosen my need to be perfect. To determine something is perfect you have to compare it to something else. But, if I really grasp the reality that there is no one on earth and in the history of time that is like me, then there's no one to compare myself to. Now I'm free to make space for my life to unfold and see it all as beautiful.
2. Shift Your Focus from Perfection to Progress
In the modern world of "Instagram-perfect" lives, it's easy to get caught up in the desire for flawlessness, but Romans 12:2 reminded me, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Another way to counter this gravitational pull toward perfectionism is by transferring my focus to progress rather than perfection. Celebrating even the tiniest steps forward brought me a sense of accomplishment and fueled my motivation to keep growing. This shift in mindset helped me stop and acknowledge where I'd started and how far I'd come, and be amazed at the new level of trust in God and inner strength that I had to choose to pull from within myself in difficult moments to get where I am now.
In our pursuit of perfection, reaching goals, and getting to the top, we can easily disregard and disparage all the steps and levels on the way. This attitude made me realize that I was the hardest on myself. Now I've learned to give myself the gift of grace I need to continue to move forward by embracing imperfection as a stepping stone on my path to personal growth and development.
3. Embrace Vulnerability and Seek Support
If the pursuit of perfection is your way of life, hiding imperfections is a must-have tactic in your tool belt. Of all the tools, I think I used this one the most. I used it so much that I even hid my imperfections from myself. But hiding my imperfections and struggles left me feeling isolated from others and confused because I wasn't truly honest even with myself.
Did you know the power within scripture sometimes doesn't activate until you use it in your life? The power of 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." became active in my life once I mustered the courage to share my struggles with close friends. To my surprise, they too had faced similar struggles and their understanding and support brought me a sense of relief and connection. I definitely felt God's grace in that moment of vulnerability. Embracing vulnerability not only strengthened my friendships but also reminded me of God's boundless love, which sustains us, especially in our weakest moments.
As I continue on this journey of embracing progress, I am learning to find peace and contentment in God's grace. The burden of perfectionism has not completely disappeared, but I no longer let it define me. Instead, I choose to meet with Jesus in my imperfection and get His perspective through experiential encounters with him. His response empowers me to focus on the beauty of my unique path, appreciating the progress I make, no matter how imperfect it may be because each time He reveals His delight in the ‘me’ right now and the exact way He designed me.
If you, too, find yourself overwhelmed by the pursuit of perfection, I encourage you to pause, take a deep breath, and remember that you are fearfully and wonderfully made by God. Embrace your imperfections as unique aspects of your journey and allow God's grace to fill the spaces where you feel inadequate. Shift your focus from ‘perfection’ to ‘connection’ with Jesus. After experiencing Him in that old place of discouragement, progress, or lack of progress, it all loses importance as He highlights His delight in you. In addition to those precious times with Jesus, surround yourself with a supportive community that embraces authenticity.
In our imperfections, we find strength, beauty, and a deeper understanding of God's unconditional love for us. So, let's take this journey together, hand in hand, and discover the peace and joy that come from embracing imperfection and leaning into God's grace.
Journaling can be a powerful tool to help you adapt new ways of thinking and being. Here are some journal prompts to aid you in embracing imperfection, focus on progress, and embrace vulnerability:
Ask God for 3 qualities or strengths that make you unique. How can you celebrate and embrace these aspects of yourself?
Identify a specific goal or area of your life where you have been striving for perfection. How can you reframe this goal to focus on progress instead?
Practice vulnerability by writing about an area of your life where you feel uncertain and imperfect. Allow yourself to be authentic and compassionate in exploring your feelings.
Remember that journaling is a personal and introspective practice. Be gentle with yourself as you explore these prompts and use your journal as a safe space to express your thoughts and emotions honestly. By regularly engaging in these journaling exercises, you may find yourself embracing imperfection, celebrating progress, and embracing vulnerability with greater ease and self-compassion.