Posts Tagged: perfectionist

Perfection Rebellion

Good morning! You make Wednesday mornings my favorite time of the week. I have the privilege of interacting with the best people on earth on Wednesdays. Joy! I have a SURPRISE for you at the end of this post…. You may want to sit down.

Is it just me, or is Autumn especially spectacular this year? Do you ever feel like God wrapped the trees in color just for you? Or that the sunset delivered pink and purple clouds as goodnight kisses? Or that noticing nature change is heaven’s way of getting your attention?Like the girl who flips her hair and blushes toward the boy across the room, nature is just dying for you to notice her.

And when I stop to notice, I’m never disappointed. While uprooting tomato plants, composting leaves, and chopping down giant sunflowers last weekend, nature taught me some powerful lessons. Here they are in a nut shell.

1. Nature doesn’t have to be perfect, it just grows toward the light. Growing things are scraggly and misbehaving. They often grow where they are not supposed to grow, sprout where they are not supposed to sprout, and bloom when they are not supposed to bloom. But these responsibilities belong to the Gardener, not the growing thing. The growing thing is just supposed to grow toward the light. The Gardener takes care of the rest. The Gardener plants and waters and prunes and snips. The Gardener protects and nurtures and tends to His plants, expecting His plants to be unruly and growy and wild, with a mind of their own. 

Don’t set unreasonable expectations of yourself to”get it right this time.” Let the Gardener take care of it. Just submit to the process, and let God do the rest. As a recovering control freak, I know that surrendering control to God is hard.  But resisting God’s gardening in your life turns out to be a lot more painful in the long run. You don’t have to be perfect, or be right, or be good, or be wise. You just have to be. Let the Gardener take control of perfecting you.

2. Nature doesn’t have to try to grow, it just stays attached. I’ve never seen an apple or strawberry or tomato try to grow. I’ve never seen something work hard or stress out or make goals to ripen. The only thing fruit does to ripen is stay attached to the branch. No striving, or trying or stressing. Just connection and protection and closeness. I’ve found that keeping connected to God throughout the day, keeps me grounded, focused and at peace. No matter what mistakes I make, or stresses that come my way, attaching myself to the Life Giving source keeps me strong, centered, and growing. Jesus used this analogy.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers…

— John 15:5-6

Staying connected to Jesus, the Source, is really all we are required to do. The work and growth that flows out of that relational attachment is the true and eternal fruit. I know that it’s the American way to WORK HARDER! I know that its the corporate way to “PRODUCE RESULTS!” I know that it is the “Christian” way to IMPROVE!  I get that. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I think we really miss the point when we Christians are so busy trying to become like Christ instead of being filled with Christ. Becoming like Christ seems like pressure to say the right thing, do the right thing, and be the right thing. Being filled with Christ feels like a no pressure surrender, don’t have to “be perfect” or “get this thing right” feeling. It’s just letting God lead.


3.  Nature doesn’t have to hurry or slow down time, it just follows the seasons. There is no rush to grow. There is no hurry to get-er-done. There is no, “Wait, I’m not ready!” No matter what- growth, death and rebirth is bound by the laws of nature and no amount of stress, worry, control or anger will stop seasonal change. Acceptance is key. Time will have its way with us, no matter how we fight it. Time will force us through the seasons, so accepting them with hopeful expectancy is the key to happiness. What would it be like if we, like nature, could enjoy the passage of time? 

The Serenity prayer says that “Hardships are the pathway to peace,” and that “Accepting this sinful world as it is, and not how I want it to be,” is key to serenity and happiness. I believe it. Acceptance of the people around me, of myself, and this world takes the pressure off to perfect it all.

This is me plus 40 years- just enjoying the passage of time. ! I know, right? Awesome! Don’t be jealous! You can print this and hang it up for inspiration.

Our constant striving to get stronger, get skinnier, get richer, get better, get more of whatever is the particular currency of the moment- sucks the joy right out of life. Reaching “Perfection” is a silent, pulsing temptation that never seems far from anything I do. But with any temptation, reaching perfection is just a facade- an imaginary ideal impossible to grasp.

I’m learning to fall in love with the REAL in each moment, instead of striving for the illusive IDEAL. I’m actively rebelling against anything that promises happiness by means of “perfecting” one’s self. And when I find myself depleted, harried and stressed, I connect back to the Source, the Vine, my Friend Jesus, because within the context of this relationship, I grow without trying.

How about you? What has Nature taught you about life, about yourself, and about God? Are you struck, like me, with out beautifully imperfect nature is? How will you stay connected to God through the next week?



The Down Side of Responsibility

Hello to the Best Steady Eddies, the Most Consistent and Persistent, and the Earth’s Saltiest people. I love ya! Today, I’m talking to the Ever Readies. The Go Bot Girls. The Over Achievers. And the Over Functioning Super Heros. 

Have you ever felt so overly responsible for something, that it stressed you out? Maybe you were leading a team, or facilitating a bible study or parenting a screaming toddler. Whatever it was, you felt like the thing began and ended with you, and you were the one responsible for its success or failure. 

Feeling responsible isn’t bad. It’s actually a good motivator. However, feeling OVERLY responsible can be bad for you and bad for the people around you.

What Is Over Responsibility?

Feeling overly responsible means that you think it’s your job to take care of other people’s jobs. You think it’s your job to make others perform, make others happy, make others behave, make others conform, and make others pleased with you. You feel a compulsion to live up to unattainable standards of perfection. You feel like it’s all up to you or it won’t get done. You often feel in a lose-lose battle. What should feel like a privilege, turns into a burden. You feel like you are working harder than the rest of your group, family, or team, and that they just don’t understand the amount of pressure you’re under. You absorb and take on others’ feelings and expectations.

The Danger of Over Responsibility is…

People start to sense that you are stressed and angry all the time. They feel a bit demeaned and belittled that you don’t trust them to make good choices. People feel less than important to you. You end up doing your job, and other people’s jobs too. You end up frazzled, stressed out, sick and burned out. Your every action to over-function is met with others’ equal reaction to under-function. Your over-responsibility results in others’ under-responsibility. 

What Over Responsibility Looks Like on the Outside…

You feel unappreciated, over worked, and underpaid. You feel like no one else works as hard as you. You feel bitter at the others’ carefree attitudes, and they get to enjoy the fruits of your labors. You feel self-pity. You may say to yourself, “I have to do everything around here” or “Leaders get the short end of the stick,” or “People are selfish!” You may feel angry that other people are “ruining” your efforts.

What Over Responsibility Feels Like on the Inside…

For me, I start to feel panicky inside. I start to sense that things are spinning ever so slightly out of my control, and that if I let go of my tight grip, a crash is sure to happen. If I were to sum it up with a couple of words of what Over Responsibility feels like to me, it would be sheer terror. terror that this good thing will slip away. Terror that I’ll be blamed for a failure. Terror that the shame of my mistakes my overwhelm me and leave me abandoned. Terror that God will be disappointed in me.

Rationally, I know the things that frighten me will not come true, but terror is irrational, and before I can act according to rationality, I’ve already succumbed to my terror.

What to do When you find yourself in the VORTEX of Over Responsibility

  • Breath and realize you are over-functioning
  • Realize you are over functioning because you care. That’s good. But, turn that care toward yourself. Care enough about yourself to step back, let others have their feelings, do their part, and make their choices.
  • Apologize quickly to the people you barked at, snarked at, or tried to control.
  • Let go. Let go. Let go. Let the hell go. It’s going to be fine without your iron grip.
  • Don’t rehearse in your head 100 times what you did or said wrong.  Remember, you feel over-responsible for being overly responsible, so forgive yourself and move on quickly. All great people make mistakes, and they learn how to recover from them quickly.
  • Tell somebody how you feel and get some support. You’ll feel better when you realize that a lot of people just like you get it,


You are a high achiever, a high performing leader, a Go-Bot, Ever Ready, Risk Taker. You’re the kid who sits in the front row. You’re the one with the high goals and big dreams. The activities you engage in are important. You are called by God to lead that team, to facilitate that bible study, to parent that child and to lead that organization. But you don’t have to run yourself in the ground to get it done.  When you sense yourself feeling overly responsible, know that you’ve just stepped outside of God’s rest. Step right back into God’s rest by letting go of the things that ARE and SHOULD be out of your control. Those things are for God to handle, and not for you.

Cheers to you, and all your relationships!




How to be Good Enough: the Perfectionist’s Guide to Happiness

Do you know an overworked, under-appreciated, bitter employee- one that may get paid well, but is never happy? I’d like to suggest that overworked, under-appreciated, bitter employee is the Inner Critic taking up residence in your head. If you’re a perfectionist, you know this to be true. Your Inner Critic, let’s call her Madge, is never satisfied and continually believes you should do more, produce more, be respected more, be paid more, and above all be more perfect. She sits in the passenger seat of your car and tells you how others should know better, and do better. She yammers away at the side of your bed reminding you of the blunders you made earlier that day. She whispers in your ear at social functions that the people in the corner are avoiding you and can’t wait for you to leave. She sulks and stamps, whining, “it will never be good enough! No matter how hard you try, it will. Never. Be. Good. Enough!” When she’s at her worst, she’ll substitute “You” for “it,” and then her attacks become personal. Madge is duplicitous, suffering with black and white thinking. If you’re not the most successful, then you’re nothing. If you’re not the highest paid, then you’re a failure. If you’re not the most sought after, then you’re a loser. If you’re not the perfect mother, then you’re mommy dearest. If you’re not the most beautiful, then you’re ugly. If you aren’t the best, then you’re the worst. How could you? What were you thinking? Why are always so impossible?

Madge procrastinates. She convinces you to put things off until they become overwhelming and overdue- mostly because the prospect of getting it up to perfectionist standards seems impossible. And if you do it imperfectly, it will be a complete flop. And you’ll be the flop too.

Madge is a split personality- either Pollyanna with childish wishful thinking, or doomsday Drazilla pessimistic to the core.  Ne’er the two shall meet!

Madge is judgmental. She judges others and their motives harshly because she judges you harshly too.

Madge is stuck in the emotionally immature valley of duplicity, unable to integrate the good sides of self and the bad sides of self.

Madge is a victim, mad at people and society and authority who keep her down, but powerless to do anything about them.

Madge is sad. And afraid. And hiding.

How to Reform Madge into Magic

  • Madge needs a new role. Instead of being bitter and disapproving, Madge’s new assignment is to be a realist.  She needs to see the reality that you are human and humans aren’t perfect. To expect perfection is delusional and very un-clever. Madge doesn’t want to be un-clever. She just wants to be loved. So be careful not to fire Madge all together. Just put her on probation until she can grow up a bit, have a more realistic view of herself and the world.
  • Offer yourself plenty of UPR- Unconditional Positive Regard. Don’t love yourself in spite of the mistakes, love yourself inside of the mistakes. When you’re at your lowest, your worst, your least presentable, give yourself an emotional hug and say, “You’re alright, you’re just being human.” Madge will protest this way of thinking because she’s afraid of rejection and shame. She’ll freak out and threaten doom, “Something terrible will happen if you fail!” Tell her, “thank you for your concern, I’ve noted it. Now please calm yourself down and tend to your new job- reality.”
  • Integrate your Yin and your Yang, your good and your bad, your head and your hiney. As long as you’re human, you’re going to make choices that lead to amazing results, and choices that lack the results for which you were hoping. Then, there are times you’ll just make a hiney of yourself. Welcome to the world of being human. Accept it, integrate it and move on. Madge wants you to stay split in the “all or nothing,” but you know now that only emotional children believe in the “all or nothing.” And you’re not an emotional child anymore, are you?
  • Accept yourself as GOOD ENOUGH. Here’s the memo you want to send Madge, “I’m a good enough _______________ to get the job done God has asked me to do.”

Perfectionism can stop innovation, creativity and the ability to take risks. The essence of faith is found in dreaming, in hoping, in trying- not in results. Achievement and results are great, but it is in the faith effort of the actions that lend personal growth. Reassigning perfection to God alone, letting Madge off the perfectionism hook, and accepting yourself with heavy doses of UPR will make you a much happier person.

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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