I am a recovering perfectionist. In my unchecked state, I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders and like it’s up to me to fix everything. Everything is broken or imperfect. Everything is ripe with possibility of “if that, then,” or “what could this be, if….” It’s exhausting.
Recovery is an endless process of rewiring my brain and emotions to think and care differently; to appreciate imperfection and the process of becoming; and to set and maintain better boundaries. Not everything is my responsibility. Some things are out of my control. It is okay for some things to be left undone. It is okay for some things to be imperfect.
I read a book about recovering from perfectionism and it suggested living life based on a set of values – instead of caring about EVERYTHING – choose what to care about and focus on that. Sounded good – I have values.
I value integrity. I value inclusion. I value stewardship of resources. I value looking on the bright side of things and staying optimistic about what “could be” instead of wallowing in brokenness and despair. I value clear, direct communication and being willing to work through hard things together.
But the thing about values is that they are aspirational – something to strive for. They don’t always get to manifest – for a multitude of reasons, some of which are out of your control. It is heartbreaking when some values are compromised, especially when harm is caused, whether intentional or not.
So what’s a recovering perfectionist to do? In all this – I have learned one thing that gives me the strength to continue, a renewed focus, and a sense of grounding in the midst of the chaos of life:
grace for when you can’t do it all
grace for words you didn’t mean to say
grace for the words you wish you would’ve said
grace for when you’re sick and unable to perform or produce at usual capacity
grace for when you’re grieving
grace for when you fail to maintain boundaries
grace for when you cancel plans
grace for when you left something undone
grace for when you just plain forgot
grace for when you don’t have enough energy to deal with difficult situations
grace for when you need time and space to rest and heal
grace for when you failed
grace for when you didn’t even try
What I’ve learned is that grace is something we have to practice; like working out a muscle. It feels foreign at first, like cheating the system (you can actually make the choice to NOT beat yourself up for something?). But the thing is, God offers us grace each and every day – it’s up to us to receive it and embody it as part of our every day life.
What do I mean by grace? In this context:
grace is releasing guilt and shame and the “shoulds” and “shouldn’t haves”
grace is breathing a full, deep breath and knowing that your worth isn’t tied to what you produce
grace is soaking in God’s transforming love; in your body, mind, and soul
God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always. – 2 Corinthians 9:8