Years ago, I naively thought I was decent at decorating, until people started re-doing my efforts. Whether at church or work, if I was assigned the setup of a table of any kind—snacks, desserts, book sales—someone would come along behind me and re-arrange the items.
It happened so often, that I just stopped trying. I’d laugh it off, and ask to be assigned something else. It’s hard to face a weakness. And because I so desperately want to be good at decorating, it hurts.
When I take a step back, I can see that my standard for decorating is ridiculous. I’m comparing my home, my income, my resources and my style to others who are truly gifted in this area. Logically I should see those comparisons and my personal expectations aren’t fair, and give myself a break.
Only there’s this critical voice inside me that says admit defeat and give up. In a quiet little hiss it says things like, “You’ll never be happy with the results … someone will come along behind you and do it better … you aren’t artistic … if you can’t do it well, just forget it.”
That voice has a name: Perfectionist. And it’s not my friend.
One would think that the desire to do things well is an asset. And it is. But perfectionism isn’t the pursuit of excellence. It’s the pursuit of perfection.
Excellence is possible is some things; perfection is possible in nothing.
Excellence pushes us to do our best; perfectionism pushes us to be the best.
Perfectionism is the enemy of learning and growing and enjoying areas of life where we haven’t achieved mastery. And we procrastinate addressing those areas for fear of feeling unsatisfied, critical, and discouraged.
Procrastination and perfectionism go hand-in-hand for me. And one of my most memorable bouts with perfectionism was when I was writing a book on procrastination.
It was amazing what other tasks I chose to do rather than write. They were all things I’d procrastinated, but apparently dreaded less than writing that book.
I scheduled a medical screening I’d put off for years, made a copy of a car key that required a special locksmith with a special machine, and decided to start excising again.
But write? I was paralyzed by the thought of it. Seriously, why did I tackle a topic that only very intelligent people with lots of degrees and initials behind their name wrote on? I’m no expert!
The more I researched the topic, the more I became so consumed over what to include in the book, that I couldn’t start. Visions of people thinking they’d wasted their money just about made me sick.
Then it didn’t help that I’m friends with someone who has had three books hit the New York Times best-seller list. And although I know I shouldn’t compare my success with hers, the impossibility of writing a best seller made me want to call my publisher to quit multiple times.
Finally, I had to admit I wasn’t going to write a perfect book. And I’m not the perfect person to write on this subject. But I have been called by God to do it. So, since He is MUCH smarter than me, I decided I better sit down at the computer, ask for His help, and start writing, trusting God to lead me.
This was not a one-and-done conversation I had with myself. Each chapter, I had to face that same high expectation and those same fears. What if I left something important out? What if I quoted a study that was debunked a year later, only I didn’t know it? What if a psychologist reads this and posts an angry comment on Amazon?
The perfectionist bully taunted me with dire consequences throughout the entire process of writing this book.
So how did I actually get it done? I chose to trust God.
I know that sounds simple, but it’s really true. Years ago God challenged me to trust Him, not just say I trusted Him. What a difference it makes.
Perfectionism directed my focus on the end result. But when I took my eyes off the results and put them on God, perfectionism lots its grip on me.
No longer was the burden of the results squarely on my shoulders.
Just knowing God won’t let me down gave me courage to start. And He’ll do the same for you. Here is some truth from His Word:
Psalm 9:10, “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”
Isaiah 42:16, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”
When we are faced with a challenging assignment, one where we doubt our ability to do it perfectly, we can choose to trust God will not fail us. Assured of God’s faithfulness and His love, we can proceed with confidence, giving the work our best efforts.
Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!