I know I’ve written about this before, but I wanted to share some more things that God is teaching me about getting over the problem of being a perfectionist. I believe many women suffer from this problem, and it can contribute greatly to the anger we may feel toward our children, especially when they do things that make it impossible to achieve that perfection we want so much. They whisper loudly, “I want a life-saver!” when we want them to be quiet in church. They spill their milk on the kitchen floor immediately after we’ve finally mopped. They mirror our crabby mood and remind us that we’ve once again fallen short of the standard we feel we should live up to.
Since I have been attending “Weigh Down Workshop” I have been making lots of progress in the area of attitude. In my February family update, I wrote that I had been able to have peace even while I was busy with a stressful project during the month of January. It felt so good to keep my focus on God and not feel as much anxiety during that time! You may remember that I wrote, “I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the old way again!” Well, I’m afraid I did. After I made it through January, I had to get ready to have our taxes done. I realized that I had made a book-keeping error, and it really upset me. It wasn’t a huge error, but I let myself get all worked up, wondering what other errors I had made. My focus was far away from God – it was entirely on myself, and I found myself spiraling downward once again. My worry about the error turned quickly to despair, I felt hopeless and didn’t feel like it was worth trying in the future, all of this quickly turned to self-pity as I whined to myself, “I’m trying as hard as I can, but it’s just not good enough!” What a miserable way to feel, and of course I made life uncomfortable for Gary and the kids as I moped around that day. Thankfully, I can see that I am improving in this area. I’m able to realize that my focus is off, and once I decide to get my focus back on the Lord, my emotions level out and peace can come back quite soon. That day, after I talked with Gary for a while and realized what I was doing, I was able to forgive myself for that mistake and move on with life.
Later in the month, I did something else that traumatized me because it showed that I was less than perfect, and I did lots of crying again. The same old feelings of “what’s the use?” came over me once more, and when I shared these thoughts with Gary, he told me that I had to stop being such a perfectionist with myself. I had to laugh through my tears when he pointed out that I even try to be the “perfect perfectionist”. I pride myself on trying to achieve balance in my life, so I don’t let myself be too structured in my approach to homeschooling, housework, etc. He told me about a picture he could see in his mind: I was a dog who kept jumping for this “perfect” bone hanging out of my reach. There were lots of perfectly good bones lying all around me, but I just kept jumping for that “perfect” one.
Still sniffling , I tried to remember that he was trying to help me…even though he was comparing me with a dog. 🙂 The more I thought about it, the more impressed I was with his analogy. That really was what I was doing – jumping for that perfect bone! Over the years, I have learned to accept myself and I believe that God loves me and accepts me unconditionally, but my actions prove that I still feel like I need to achieve perfection and I won’t be satisfied unless I can do that.
Perfection just isn’t possible until we reach heaven someday! Mistakes need to be seen as opportunities to learn, and we all need to forgive ourselves when we choose a wrong response. We need to do something to right the wrong, if possible, but then we must put it behind us and keep our focus on God. Refuse to dwell on the mistake or sin you have committed once you have confessed it to God.
Think about the words in 2 Corinthians 12:9 – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” If we could be perfect (and we can’t, remember?) then we would have no need for God at all. As it is, our weaknesses remind us that without Him we can do nothing. (John 15:5)
When you “blow it” and get angry at your kids, don’t let it upset you so much that you can’t function for the rest of the day. Instead, use that symptom (the anger) as a reminder to you that you need God and can do nothing apart from Him. Run to Him! Open your Bible and let Him speak to you through His Word, or spend some time in prayer, confessing your anger and asking Him for strength to act in right ways instead.
I thank God for being gentle with me. He must get so tired of watching me try to achieve perfection here on earth when He knows it just can’t happen. He is patiently teaching me more about myself in this area, and I know I’ll improve as I learn to trust and obey Him more every day.
© Robyn Mulder 1999, therobynsnest.org