Relapsing Perfectionist

I am a self-proclaimed perfectionist.

I don’t like being wrong or in trouble. I like things to be squared away. I get worked up when things don’t go according to plan or I don’t meet the goals that are in place.

Being imperfect meant there was conflict, and I was not having any of that.

I have never been laid back, even though I strive to make it look like I am.

I have struggled with this anxiety for most of my life. I have had many moments of wondering what I did and how I could have improved. Many times sending me to tears of panic (or straight up panic attacks) that I have not met the bar I set for myself.

I am always concerned about what people think about me and how my reputation is viewed in the world.

Lately though, God has been putting so many things up in my face to address my perfectionist ways.

Seriously, it has been in a professional book I read, my personal devotional lessons, my women’s group devotional on Ruth, on a couple shows I watch…

I get it. I need to let some things go.

“We are saved by acknowledging our vulnerability, not by showcasing our ability.” -James C. Klagge

Here is the thing, in my perfectionist ways a lot of what I need is some sort of praise for my efforts to let me know I am doing ok. I like being recognized. I have a need to strike this weird balance of seeming to be humble and not demanding that praise, but internally my inner self is screaming for it. Really that isn’t very humble at all I realize. I don’t like asking for praise but it is definitely something that I need.

I became a perfectionist because I wanted that praise. I wanted things to be orderly and free of conflict. I wanted to feel significant. There are some deeper seeded things that have happened in my past that contributed to this which I won’t delve into here. The layers I still need to unravel for my own self-discovery and growth are many. Basically though, I wanted to be recognized on any level for the work that I was doing. I wanted to be a good kid, a good student, a good teacher, a good wife…you get the picture. It’s not really that I am in competition with others, but I am in a competition with myself. However looking back at times, I see that I came off as “better than” because I was trying so hard to attain perfection for myself. (Which is causing me some anxiety just thinking about how I may have come across…ugh the cycle of self-deprecation.)

“If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Gal 1:10

This turnaround is what gets me into trouble. I get too stuck on waiting for that praise that it becomes a vicious cycle of working to be perfect but then the pain of no one acknowledging it. When no one acknowledges it, I go down this rabbit hole of self-doubt and wondering if I could have done it better. I will beat myself down and guilt washes over me that I didn’t do my best. The should have/could haves wash over me like a tidal wave, and I have a hard time fighting back to reality.

Congratulations Steph, you changed another diaper or sent another email. There is not going to be a crowd applauding that so get over it.

However when I don’t get recognized, I become a little bitter and feel rejected. It’s just what I do. Like I said, most of the time that just sends me into a deeper frenzy of trying to find other things to be “good” at to showcase or work harder and bigger at said thing. (If you are familiar with StrengthsQuest, I believe this is a huge reason why Maximizer is one of my top Strengths.)

Other times that non-recognition comes out in the form of nagging aka adult temper tantrums. (Why didn’t you see me?Look at all the things I am doing!)

I see this nagging come out mostly with my relationship with Tom. I am sure it is because I feel most comfortable with him and on some level I know he isn’t going to leave me because of my perfectionist tendencies or bossiness. But needless to say, generally my outbursts or silent rebellions only happen with him and not my co-workers or friends. They get the other type of foolishness of trying to outdo myself.

Unfortunately, I have seen this bickering happen even more since George was born, hence the reason that God probably has been throwing up some “Get it together girl” signs in my direction.

I become irritated quickly with Tom when it seems like I am doing “all the work” but get no reward. Maybe it was the baby blues and woes of breastfeeding (that is such a one-sided/can’t be shared job) that exacerbated my perfectionist downfall, but I was a mess searching for that praise from Tom. In my head I needed him to recognize every time I spent hours washing pump parts or folded George’s onsies. I lashed out a harsh, “I’ll get it,” when George cried for the umpteenth time in the middle of the night desperate for a thank you from my slumbering husband. I became bitter when the academy started and he was gone late into the night and never felt like I got my time. I became resentful when he would come home and sit on the couch for 5 minutes while I was “slaving” over dishes. In my head all I could see was how much I was doing instead of what he had been through that day. I wanted him to help me or acknowledge me. I became a big calculator or scorekeeper, always looking to get paid back. It was about me, big ol ugly perfectionist me.

Another flaw of being a perfectionist is that I retreat when I am wrong. In my head I know I am wrong, but I dread admitting it out-loud. Once when I was a kid, I sat in our family room for an entire day refusing to admit that I said something I shouldn’t have. Stubbornness at it’s finest. I knew that I said it; I just didn’t want to say it out loud to my parents that I was wrong. I didn’t want it to be true, and I hate facing the music. Like somehow saying it out-loud would produce this dark cloud over my head that would never leave. Because sulking made me look like such an angel…I don’t know why I feel that if I admit failure, I feel that I will always be a failure. So I just hide from it instead. It is avoidance in the biggest way. I guess you could say that I am also stubborn along with the refusal that I have any ounce of bad in my body. I want the shroud of perfection to stay there, and I have some delusion that admitting faults is going to drastically change people’s perception of me. Like somehow they can’t move past that tiny indiscretion and get on with our day.

I need to remember that people don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think.

This may make Tom sound like an inconsiderate husband. I want to dispel that and say that he is indeed a fantastic husband. He shows me thanks in many ways, and I know that he does appreciate me. I also love being a mom, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be recognized for the work that I do, even if it just about becoming a master poop cleaner-upper. My perfectionism just makes me delusional at times. Sometimes it has merit, but most of the time it just causes misplaced resentment. This is just me admitting some of my faults.

I don’t want to be the person who racked up what I did and was only looking for the recognition. I don’t want to be the person who hides in fear because I am human and had a moment of weakness.

I was feeling alone, lost, and very bitter. But I couldn’t admit it to anyone for fear of what they may say.

It became exhausting and almost paralyzing trying to win approval from others when really the only approval I need is from God.

I am never going to be perfect, but I can be me. I can be a person that God can use for His will, imperfections and all.

This is a daily struggle for me to accept hence the relapsing perfectionist.

But all I can do is be better than who I was yesterday and show deep care for those who come into my life.

This past month I have really been trying to embrace some of these lessons of letting things go and not being as concerned with getting praise. But with that, I also am learning to be more open with Tom about things that I need as well instead of just silently glaring at him waiting for his attention and putting him on notice because he didn’t do this arbitrary thing that I never asked him to do in the first place. I am trying to remember that he is not a mind-reader.  I am trying to recognize the things that Tom does and not in relation to what I am doing. I am really trying not to dwell on things and move on. I am trying to see that perfect isn’t always the best. I am trying to understand that even if I make a mistake that it doesn’t define my whole being.

If you look throughout the Bible, there are scads of imperfect people that are doing His Will. God looks past our faults and still uses us. That is pretty comforting. In fact the more I dive into the Bible, I see it is through this that we make our impact.


image via

So this is me, a perfectionist, admitting quite publicly that I don’t have it all together.

That’s has to mean something, right?……You don’t have to acknowledge that.

5 thoughts on “Relapsing Perfectionist

  1. Every perfectionist will probably say, “I could have wrote that!” Other people don’t get what’s in our head, especially the husband who leaves a sink full of dirty dishes when I just cleaned the kitchen! Seriously? I am going to tell you this: You’re doing a great job, Steph. Hey, us Perfectionists need to stick together! 😉

  2. Congrats on being featured on Faith and Fellowship today! I love the concept of “relapsing” perfectionism . . .I guess I’m there too, because I seem to conquer one area of perfectionism and then realize I’m freaking out over some other area of life. Thanks be to God for His ongoing grace and work in our lives through His power (and not ours!).

    • Thank you! Isn’t it the truth on thinking we have it together only to realize that we have so far to go? Glad we are not on this walk through life alone!

  3. Pingback: 4 Years |

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