The REAL Truth About the Perfectionist Nobody Told You (and It’s Not What You Think).

From a young age, I learned the value of being perfect.

Perfect got the accolades. 

Perfect was affirmed.

Perfect was safe.

I was taught, “practice makes perfect.” 

My attempts at perfection regularly flung me onto a wild pendulum that swung from, “your mistakes diminish your value” to “your performance validates it.”  Often I found myself like Miley Cyrus holding on for dear life to a wrecking ball hiding from the truth of my fallibility.

Early on, I learned that to be perfect was the goal and anecdote to the emptiness that came as a result of disappointing others. I silently believed, my good enough was never enough which led to a performance mindset that plagued me most my life.

I pushed beyond my human limits to be something God never designed me to be - perfect. 

Perfectionism became a survival mechanism to keep me safe from the daggers of criticism, shame, and disappointment that regularly pierced holes in my young, fragile, and emerging self worth.

To this day, my brain fights to keep me safe from the perceived harm of (im)perfection.

I must regularly confront the lies of perfectionism that became my truths. 

I wish childhood Najah knew then what I know now as a recovering perfectionist about perfection. 

When I find myself struggling with perfectionism, I point back to the 5 truths below that changed my life and keep me out of the perfection trap. 

Perfectionism is Performance. Perfectionism says I need to earn my keep. If I don’t perform perfectly, I don’t deserve to be here. Often we feel like imposters if we can’t be perfect when we’re actually being imposters when we try to be perfect. No one can actually be perfect, we can only pose as a perfect person.

Perfectionism is Avoidance. Perfectionism is a human way to avoid rejection and criticism. It says, if I do it all perfectly, I can avoid potentially being hurt or rejected by others.  You cannot control the actions of others. If being perfect is the only way to keep others from rejecting and criticizing you, it’s probably time to re-examine the quality and foundation of your relationships.

Perfectionism is Fear.  Perfectionism is motivated by the fear of lettIng yourself and others down. Perfection says my good enough is not good enough. It says, if I can't do it perfectly, I am not worthy of acceptance, belonging. As a perfectionist, your position with others is threatened by a bad performance. Listen, we ALL are going to give a bad performance (many if we’re honest). Healthy relationships are based on who we are, not what we can or cannot do. 

Perfection is not excellence. You can do an excellent job without being perfect. When you do the best you can, you are doing an excellent job. Somewhere along the way,  the messages we received in life confused us. We thought perfection was the standard when excellence actually should have been. Perfection is determined by an external measure. It’s about measuring up to what others expect. Excellence is about doing the best you can do based on who you are and your individual capacity and capabilities. The goal is excellence not perfection. 

Perfection is reserved for God not people. When you seek perfection, you are seeking an unattainable, unreasonable goal. Pursuing perfectionism is like voluntarily jumping on a hamster wheel. You may be running fast but you will never reach the desired destination. God is Perfect so you don’t have to be. 

Perfectionism is a seductive, tempting lie. When we expose the truth about perfectionism, we are released from the bondage that keeps us on a perpetual pursuit of the impossible. Give yourself permission to let perfectionism go. It no longer serves you.

1 comment

Tamara Brown

This was good Najah! I too was a person that strived for perfection instead of excellence. Gradually through the years God showed me that my challenges, mistakes and missteps are the very things to help develop my character. Learning how to navigate through the obstacles of
Imperfection, reveal different ways of dealing with life in a better and more efficient way than if I had not experienced the difficult times and mistakes.

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