There are some women out there who struggle when reality doesn’t match up to their expectations. They want life to be nearly perfect all of the time, and they collapse in a pile of despair and self-pity when they just can’t seem to keep things running smoothly. (I speak from experience, unfortunately.) Since this phenomenon can be a common source of anger, it’s important to realize this tendency in ourselves if we have it, and then take steps to become more content in spite of the many imperfections we see in our lives.
I believe there are different types of perfectionists out there. You can’t assume that they all act a certain way. Some perfectionists carry it to an extreme, demanding absolute perfection from themselves and others. They must have spotless homes, error free reports, perfect hair, and any imperfections really upset them. Other perfectionists may seek to present a perfect front to people in public, but they relax their standards at home and don’t need absolute order to be happy.
In the hopes that I can help someone who may have a personality type which is similar to mine (your classic “Melancholy” or “Golden Retriever”) I would like to reveal some of my own perfectionistic tendencies. I seldom expect perfection from others, but when I am disappointed by failure in someone else, I often blame myself for their failure, thinking that I should/could have done something differently and helped them avoid the problem they now have. I don’t have a spotless house – the kitchen floor needs mopping as I write, and I have stuff piled up in the laundry room and office, waiting to be sorted and cleaned up. I try to keep my priorities straight and put my family before the housecleaning, but in the back of my mind (so much happens back there!) I feel like I should keep things cleaned up at all times. I am a very good wife and mother, but when little things happen which upset those relationships, my first response is despair. Instead of focusing on the positive things which have happened in the past, my mind starts to dwell on other negative incidents with Gary or the kids, and then resentment and anger boil up. Oh no! I’m a Christian so those feelings rapidly produce guilt. (even though those are very normal emotions and everyone feels them at times!) This cycle quickly spirals downward until I’m a useless blob of self-pity and hopelessness. I am finally able to face life again when I choose to get the focus off of myself and run to the Lord for strength and wisdom. God has been teaching me that I can do nothing without Him. I thank Him that as I have grown spiritually, I am finding that I am running to Him sooner, and I don’t stay in that attitude of despair as long as I did before. I am more aware of my perfectionistic tendencies and I am trying to leave them behind.
Ladies, if you are struggling with anger toward your children, take a look at your life and see if you may be frustrated because you have a picture in your mind of a “perfect” family, and the reality around you does not mirror that image. Maybe you need to let go of some of those unreasonable standards you have set for yourself. While it is admirable to strive to do your best in all that you do, you also need to be able to forgive yourself and accept it when mistakes and failures occur. Your children do not need a “perfect” mother. They need a mother who is perfectly willing to run to the Lord and admit that she can’t do it alone. Your kids need a mom who can apologize when she blows it, and can put the past behind her and start over each day with love, humility, and hope.
[Christ said to the apostle Paul:] “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” [And then Paul says:] Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9 & 10)
If you are a Christian, your goal is to become like Christ. He was perfect, but as long as we are on this earth, we won’t reach perfection. God accepts us with all of our imperfections and sins because Jesus died on the cross for us. God doesn’t see our sinfulness, He just sees Christ’s perfection over us – and so He accepts us. Aren’t you glad He does? If you would like more information on what it means to be a Christian, please e-mail me at robynmulder at hotmail.com and I would be happy to tell you more.
Maybe I should revise this article a few times to make sure I adequately cover this topic, I feel as if I’ve just written off the top of my head and I’m not sure I’ve said all that I meant to say. Then again, perhaps this is a good article to leave a little less than purfect.
© Robyn Mulder 1998, therobynsnest.org