If flaws, errors and mistakes drive you crazy, you’re likely a perfectionist. Not in everything of course. Just in those areas that matter to you. Is it a clean house? Is it while hosting a social gathering? Is it completing your work? Is it making love? Whatever your favourite neurosis, this post will help you let it go so you can rest in the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Let’s face it, perfectionism is a peace-thief. We see a flaw and we are driven, even obsessed with fixing it. We drive ourselves to fix what is within our control. Even worse, we drive others to fix things we cannot control, nagging and complaining until it gets done. Do they welcome our helpful need to correct mistakes? Like a hole in the head. Let’s not even talk about the negative self-talk chattering in our own brain. That’s the real penalty of perfectionism – no peace of mind.
You can do some things about this peace-killer. Here are six helpful tips I use:
1. Notice and claim it. “Yea, I’m a bit OCD about animal hair on my furniture. Do you mind getting up while I vacuum the chair?” This way, it’s all about you and not the other person. They’ll appreciate it and you won’t get flak back.
2. Don’t complain about it. It’s your neurosis. Keep it to yourself. No one else needs to know how upset you feel in the sight of that flaw driving you crazy. This is an extension of #1.
3. Look at the root cause. It helps to be self-analytical. Ask yourself my favourite coaching question. “Why does this bother me?” It doesn’t help to tell yourself (or have others tell you) that people starving in Ethiopia would love to have this problem. Something genuinely bothers you. What is it?
4. Be aware that perfectionism is a way to avoid conflict. It’s ironic actually. Most perfectionism causes conflict as you steamroll your way into getting the perfect result you seek. But when you drill down, you will likely see that there is someone hidden in your unconscious mind whose approval matters to you. It’s probably your mom or dad. Or a hard-to-please spouse or boss. That your friend or child doesn’t mind the imperfection is irrelevant to your unconscious mind.
5. First get neutral before responding or reacting. Perfectionism is rooted in judgmentalism. We have a biased view of the ideal outcome. We cannot see clearly and we react unconsciously and out of habit. God is not in control. We need to be in control and cannot rest until we get what we want. This is our human weakness undeniably revealed.
6. Stop lying to yourself. We are experts at rationalizing. “Oh, I’m not a perfectionist. I just like things done right.” Baloney. “Oh, I don’t care what other people think. I’m doing this because it’s what I want.” If that were true, then you would be at peace if it doesn’t happen quite right. A person driven by “want” is not upset when they don’t get it. A person driven by “need” can’t let it go.
Perfectionism is rooted in self-judgment. You believe you are not good enough. Each flaw-error-mistake reminds you of this existential lie. Anxiety is the heavy consequence. The fact is you are good enough even when you make mistakes. God loves you just as you are now. Jesus is the proof by his teachings, his life and his death on the cross.
The Bible tells us that we are forgiven if we repent. Thus, inner peace comes from seeking forgiveness and humbly accepting God’s mercy. Perfectionism is the opposite. It is our prideful desire to have peace by never making a mistake nor upsetting anyone. You set yourself free when you accept that you are good enough even if others disapprove of whatever imperfection they see in you or your behaviours.