Helping perfectionism out the door

You know what really stinks? When you set some goals in the New Year and then start working on them and fail. Like right off the bat.

It’s enough to make you want to quit, right?

Yes, if I give into the snare of perfectionism.

What is perfectionism?

Here’s one view:

“Perfectionism—an attitude or behavior that takes an admirable desire to be good and turns it into an unrealistic expectation to be perfect now. Perfectionism sometimes arises from the feeling that only those who are perfect deserve to be loved or that we do not deserve to be happy unless we are perfect.

“Perfectionism can cause sleeplessness, anxiety, procrastination, discouragement, self-justification, and depression. These feelings can crowd out the peace, joy, and assurance our Savior wants us to have” (Elder Gerrrit W. Gong, “Becoming Perfect in Christ,” July 2014 Liahona).

I would say that I have fallen into the trap of perfectionism many times in my life. But I have been learning to recognize it in my life and am learning to avoid it.

How can I avoid perfectionism?

How can I “kick it out the door,” as my mom said once?

  1. I am gentler with myself by allowing myself to go at whatever pace I need each day.
  2. I celebrate the small, simple steps I make towards progress.
  3. I set goals that are attainable.
  4. I frankly forgive myself when things don’t go as planned, hoped or practiced for.
  5. I can change mid-route if I need to.
  6. I can laugh at myself!
  7. I remember that I can only focus on one thing at a time and try to do my best, or simply what I am able to do in that moment, even if I don’t consider it my very best effort, knowing that through the atonement, things will be made better in the end.

Progress is not about speed; it’s about direction. Growth is gradual. Growth requires time and patience. ANY good effort “counts!” That is a WONDERFUL, soothing, peaceful, relieving thought!

God loves me, no matter what

Heavenly Father is teaching me over time that my worth isn’t based on what I accomplish in any given period of time. He loves me the same no matter what I do. But my personal happiness increases when I serve others and work towards worthwhile goals.

I am happier when I make efforts to love to others

One example of this was one day this week when I decided I really wanted to try to fill the world with love in whatever small ways I saw or might discover during my day. I was able to do many small acts of service for others that day, and I went to bed feeling joyful! The joy wasn’t just at the end of the day, it was all along the way as I served.

This year, I am recording and writing about things I do not to boast about what I accomplish but to celebrate what God is helping me see, learn, and do. I cannot do all things. I won’t be perfect in this life no matter how hard I try. But I have gifts and talents that I am developing that help me bring joy to others and in turn greater happiness to my own life and family. I let my light shine by working to do that.

No criticism, please

Y0u know, I have had many Priesthood blessings in my life, because of my health issues. In those blessings, I have never–NEVER–heard criticizing words from Heavenly Father. Never!

If God can look at my life, with all my mistakes and foibles, and never criticize me, then I can learn to accept myself, celebrate the good, and learn to do the same for others.

Christ leads me gently along

Christ had to learn line upon line and grow grace upon grace. And he is the one who willingly and lovingly suffered under the burden of all my mistakes, sins, sorrows, illnesses. So he is the one I want to hold my hand through the process of freeing myself from perfectionism. As Elder Gong explains,

“Understanding the Savior’s freely given atoning love can free us from self-imposed, incorrect, and unrealistic expectations of what perfection is. Such understanding allows us to let go of fears that we are imperfect—fears that we make mistakes, fears that we are not good enough, fears that we are a failure compared to others, fears that we are not doing enough to merit His love.

“The Savior’s freely given atoning love helps us become more forgiving and less judgmental of others and of ourselves. This love heals our relationships and gives us opportunities to love, understand, and serve as our Savior would.

“His atoning love changes our concept of perfection. We can put our trust in Him, diligently keep His commandments, and continue in the faith (see Mosiah 4:6)—even as we also feel greater humility, gratitude, and dependence on His merits, mercy, and grace (see 2 Nephi 2:8).” (Elder Gerrrit W. Gong, “Becoming Perfect in Christ,” July 2014 Liahona)

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