I am a perfectionist. Some of it is my natural born personality. In Myers-Briggs world, I am a INFJ. If you have seen the funny poster about the prayers of each personality, an INFJ prays, “Dear God, please help me not to be such a perfectionist. Wait, did I spell that right?” Yeah, I can relate.
Some of my perfectionist tendencies are coping mechanisms that I learned as a kid. They are my way of attempting to control what happens to me. Some of my perfectionist tendencies are just my neuroses. We all have them; I can admit to this one! I have been a perfectionist for as long as I can remember.
I was a straight A student all through school– except for that one B in 4th grade math. And let me tell you, that B was devastating! I stayed up well past midnight for several nights in a row (as a 10-year-old) working on an extra credit project to avoid the B. It didn’t work.
When I was pregnant with each of our three kids, I read every single book about how to be the perfect pregnant woman. I ate nothing that was suspect. I gave up Dr. Pepper. I charted my weight gain and got 8 hours of sleep every night. I was determined to do everything that guaranteed a healthy baby.
As my husband and I approached our seventh wedding anniversary, I read a horrible statistic somewhere that the seventh year of marriage was when affairs started. So, I went a little perfectionist crazy on the “How to Build an Affair-Proof Marriage” books. My husband is a loyal, loving, committed man. I just let fear drive me instead of resting in trust with him.
I am well aware of the perfectionist tendencies in myself. Sometimes, I can recognize when I am spinning out of control toward crazy land. And I can then search for the brakes to avoid a crash. Sometimes, it takes me completely by surprise.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was in desperate need of rest. I felt physically drained and emotionally distant from my kids. I knew this going into the time off from school and work. Yet, each and every day of the long weekend, I pushed hard to accomplish to-do lists. I finished all the Christmas decorating. I did all the laundry. I got caught up on email. I got ahead on the blog schedule. I baked and I cleaned. I took the boy to get a much-needed haircut. I got a jump-start on Christmas shopping.
And as Sunday dawned, the beginning of my work week, my heart lurched.
I wasn’t ready. I had meant to sit down and play cards with the kids. I had meant to snuggle up in PJs and watch movies with them. I had meant to take naps. I had meant to slow down. But I got caught in the “I’ll do it when I get this done…” trap and I never got it all done. I had set my expectations toward a perfect outer setting before I acknowledged the Sabbath rest my soul needed. I had let perfectionism spin me out of control until I crashed into the reality of time.
My brilliant friend, Christianne Squires, talks about learning to “carry stillness” with her. I know that this peace-filled stillness of being connected with God is what I was longing for at the beginning of the break. I also know that it is my choice to live in that stillness or to ignore it. On Sunday morning, God met me again and invited me to remember, to connect, to carry stillness.
I’m struggling to hold on to that stillness as I fight my way through December. As I push against the pull for the perfect Advent season and the Norman Rockwell Christmas.
I decided to bring this to you because it is dawning on me that perfectionism is a huge obstacle to my desire to live a life with God. I wonder if it is for you as well?