Our society is constantly shouting at us to be better. We are inundated with messages that tell us to give more, do more and be more, Anna Chelmecki writes. Photo courtesy of StockSnap

Speaking Out: The problem of perfectionism

By  Anna Chelmecki, Speaking Out
  • February 2, 2018

Recently I found myself struggling while writing a paper for class. I had been focused on a specific section, writing and rewriting a paragraph with seemingly no success. No matter what I tried, I wasn’t satisfied with what I wrote. Frustrated, I stepped away from my laptop to take a break.

This experience isn’t surprising for me because I am a perfectionist. I have always put pressure on myself to achieve the highest grades, be as organized as I can be and appear that I have everything together. Unless something is to my satisfaction (which is rare), I will spend time picking it apart and thinking of what I can do to make it better.

Although I’ve had this streak of perfectionism for as long as I can remember, I have never really stepped back to see how spiritually unhealthy it is. I have always held myself to impossibly high standards, whether that be in my academics, extracurriculars or relationships with people.

I never really thought this was harming me. What was wrong with holding myself to high standards? Well, nothing. It’s when we hold ourselves to unattainable ideals that we run into trouble.

When I examined the roots of my perfectionism, I quickly realized the issue was concern for my image. How people perceived me was a reflection of my value as a person. I thrived on recognition, praise and portraying a perfect image.

I was falling victim to the deadly sin of pride without even recognizing it. My actions weren’t done with a focus on God, but rather on myself. I held my image in the highest regard and wanted others to perceive me as a perfect human being. I was glorifying myself and my actions rather than the God who had created me and my abilities.

I knew I had weaknesses. But I did my best to hide them. In my heart, I knew that Jesus offered all of us His mercy and love, but I found it difficult to drop my pride and approach Him with my flaws.

Our society is constantly shouting at us to be better. We are inundated with messages that tell us to give more, do more and be more.

But it is important to remember that Jesus doesn’t hold this thinking pattern. He isn’t concerned with us reaching some sort of standard. He doesn’t want us to try and sand down our rough edges before we come to Him. He wants all of us, every part, no matter how messy we believe ourselves to be.

When Jesus called the disciples, He wasn’t calling perfect people. These men weren’t necessarily qualified or worthy, but they had no hesitation. As Jesus calls the disciples to relinquish control and follow Him, He does the same to you and me in our lives. It’s OK to have a little disorder in our life if it brings us closer to Him.

I am trying to replace my standards of perfection with the standards of Jesus, who doesn’t call us to flawlessness, but to holiness.

(Chelmecki, 23, is a second-year Master of Teaching student at the University of Toronto.)

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