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Challenging Perfectionism

Picture your dream home.

Does it have big windows? White shudders that face the big driveway? Or a porch that overlooks the big and open backyard? Picture your ideal and perfect home. Whether you’re walking in through your French doors or pulling into your four-stall garage, the moment you step inside, all of that picture-perfect idea goes down the drain. A mess of dishes piled high in the sink, overflowing laundry that needs to be washed so badly, or a layer of dust covering your cabinets. This home that you are picturing is a great way to think about perfectionism in the human world. Many of us want to look put together from the outside, but in reality, on the inside, we are not living up to the standards and goals we have set for ourselves.

There is a difference between being a high-achiever and a perfectionist, they are motivated differently. High-achievers are motivated to do their best, while perfectionists are motivated by fear. Perfectionism is avoiding failure, feelings of unworthiness, and low self-esteem. Perfectionists often set high personal goals and are very critical when evaluating themselves. They also compare themselves to others and think that if they cannot achieve something, might as well not even try. The fear of being disappointed by ourselves or disappointing others often stops perfectionists from trying. Fear of making mistakes is another feeling that perfectionists experience, to avoid not being good enough, they often will just avoid it. They also fear shame if they think they will be rejected or made fun of if they don’t do something perfectly.

Perfectionism comes from a place of fear instead of striving for excellence. Dr. Brene Brown states that “perfectionism is not about healthy striving, it is a thought process that says if I do these things perfectly, I can avoid shame, blame, and judgment,” (2010)

A few more things to know about perfectionism:

  • It can greatly diminish our self-esteem, enjoyment of life, and our sense of peace. It can lead us to stress and fear of judgment or worries of inadequacy.

  • Traits of perfectionism are often linked to mental health issues, such as anxiety, OCD, and stress.

  • Those who are perfectionists put pressure on themselves to meet unattainable standards and goals.

You can overcome perfectionism!

  1. Become more aware of your tendencies. Take time to reflect and pay attention to your thought patterns around perfectionism. Recognize the behaviors that you are displaying, if you don’t see you have these tendencies, it will be hard to stop.

  2. Focus on the positives. Write down three or more things that you appreciate!

  3. Allow yourself to make mistakes! This may be hard at first, but remember that mistakes are opportunities for us to learn, grow, and become better. By accepting our mistakes, we can let go of the fear and anxiety that drives perfectionism.

  4. Set more reasonable goals.

  5. Learn how to take criticism. People who are perfectionists tend to take criticism personally, but constructive criticism can help us grow and become a better person.

  6. Lower the pressure that you’re putting on yourself.

  7. Detach and remove negative influences. This can be social media, TV, movies, or podcasts that reinforce perfectionism.

There are also activities and exercises that you can practice on your own to help overcome perfectionism!

Ask yourself

  • Do you find it difficult to recognize when you are being a perfectionist? Give examples.

  • Do you find it difficult to relax your high standards? Give examples.

  • Are you typically unwilling to consider someone’s suggestion that you are being a perfectionist? Give examples.

  • Do you typically disagree when someone says your standards are too high? Give examples.

  • Do you get upset when you can’t meet your own standards?

  • Do you get upset when others can’t meet your standards?

How can we as Christians challenge perfectionism? When we are striving for perfection, we may crumble under pressure, and our relationships with others and God may suffer as a result. When we strive for perfection, it takes our focus away from God. Some forms of perfectionism can be considered pride, however, it depends on the individual and their motivations and attitudes towards perfectionism.

Only God is perfect, however, He has so much grace to give us and welcomes us into The Kingdom through that grace. We can hold firm to that truth and begin to let go of perfectionism. We need to accept God’s grace in the unhealed areas of our lives. God’s grace accepts and wraps us up in who we are and He doesn’t expect perfection from us. He wants us to let go of perfectionism and embrace Him.

Matthew 11:28-30 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Ephesians 2:8 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”


Lily is a current summer intern for Live RecoverED. She is an undergraduate student at Indiana Wesleyan University. She is on the tennis team and studying exercise science with health promotion and wellness. She has hopes to become an exercise physiologist once graduated along with being a personal trainer. Lily loves anything outdoors and enjoys water related activities.


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