{Confession}: Yes, I Am a Perfectionist

Yep, that's me.
So, I have a confession to make:  I often wish I was perfect.  I have always strived to be as good of a person as possible, get the best grades, be in the best shape, and make as few mistakes as possible.  I am a perfectly organized unorganized, extremely forgetful perfectionist (how's that for a combination?).  I like when things go smoothly, easily, and when I think I play a part in that by being a good person, wife, daughter, friend, student, fill in the blank...

But the problem is, I'm just not.  Not perfect, in the least.  I am unorganized, I mess up, get angry, forget appointments, forget to make appointments, cry easily, indulge in way too much ice cream, and forget to clean the dishes...for days.  Sometimes I think that the high standards that I hold myself to actually make me feel less motivated to do these things, because I'm so afraid to mess up that then I actually set myself up for it.  It sounds crazy, because it is!

But taking a look around me makes me realize I am not alone.  We are a society crazed about being the very best of everything.  There's nothing wrong with working towards being better, more successful, or more aware.  The problem is when we're trying so hard to do and be these things that we become afraid to fail and avoid mistakes at all costs.  For me, this means being afraid of risk and trying new things because I am afraid that it will bring up a new, even more imperfect part of me.  I love the idea of new things and places, yet I often avoid them for the familiar.  And more than anything, I dread conflict, because in conflict we often see the worst of ourselves.  My poor husband has seen the worst of me as I dance around conflict and then finally cave and handle it even more badly.

The bad thing, for those of who want to be perfect, is that we never will be.  We're human, which means constantly growing, learning, and relearning, but never doing it perfectly.  Life is a messy process, and we can only truly learn if we embrace mistakes and risk as part of the process.  I've realized that without risk, I'm only half-living.  I want a whole life, more than I want a perfect or conflict-free life.  I think of all the implications there would be of a life without learning through mistakes:

- My marriage would be the same that it was on the day I was married (or the day we met - even scarier!), without taking into account all the things 
we can learn from living together. 
- I would be in the same profession my whole life without 
getting better at it or deciding whether it is a good fit for me. 
- Life would be boring, because I'd be living on auto-pilot without choices or mistakes.
- Getting older wouldn't mean getting wiser, just getting older.
- I would live a life without much possibility for creativity, because, as many artists will tell you, creativity is shaped by mistakes, messiness, and doing it again and again.

So, what's the answer?  How can I live a more full life that embraces mistakes? This quote from Gandhi sums it up pretty well:

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom
to make mistakes.”

The best answer I can come up with is graceGrace is God's gift to us, anything we receive that we don't deserve.  Grace is also a gift to ourselves, and each other.  Grace allows mistakes, embraces failure as part of life, welcomes change, remains faithful and understanding, but prompts growth. 

Learning to extend grace to myself is often harder than extending it to others (although I need to work on that, too!).  I need to learn to give myself grace when I eat too much dessert, let the kitchen get too messy, and act like a grouch.  With grace, I can see these as things to learn from in order to become more of the person I would like to be.  

And I'm going to try to be more patient with myself and keep track of what I learn from my mistakes.  In the book Confessor, Terry Goodkind writes,

“I'm afraid that we all make mistakes. One of the things that defines our character is how we handle mistakes. If we lie about having made a mistake, then it can't be corrected and it festers. On the other hand, if we give up just because we made a mistake, even a big mistake, none of us would get far in life.”

I, for one, would like to have a character that is shaped by learning from my mistakes rather than fighting them.  One way I'm already trying to do this is through simplicity.  I write often on this blog about seeking to make my life more simple, whole, and focused on what matters.  I'm realizing along the way that simplicity helps me to see through the things and look at myself and my relationships more truly.


  1. great post. I completely understand, agree and relate! For the past two months (Sept and October) I was even harder on myself about perfection and you really do realize 1)it's not possible and for that reason 2) you could be a lot happier accepting that fact. Great quotes too.. I might have to print and frame Goodkind's!

  2. Glad I'm not the only one :) Isn't it so true - we're happier if we can just accept we're not going to be perfect! But, easier said than done, right?...

    I love the Goodkind quote too - you inspired me to print it out too, and stick it on my mirror.

  3. Rachel, reading this post was like looking in a mirror. I'm so glad you found me on twitter! I think I may be a frequent flier on your blog :)


  4. Ali!! I'm so glad you found me! I would love to have you read, and I'd love to catch up!

    Thanks for saying something :)

  5. I'd love to catch up too! Lancaster and Baltimore aren't that far away... maybe a weekend rendezvous sometime?


I'd love to hear from you!