Perfectionism is exhausting. You are trying, planning, scheming all the time to make it to a place which you have deemed is successful yet that feels so far away. It is far away because it truly is far away. You will never get there no matter how much you try, plan, and scheme. You can’t get there because you are missing the core truth. You are acceptable now. All the trying, planning, and scheming will not make you acceptable. It can’t because you already are.
This is a hard truth to believe. It takes bravery to believe that you are simply accepted. But know this—your perfectionism is really a form of shame. Perfectionism is the belief system that if you can be perfect in everything, you can avoid or minimize feelings of judgment and shame. You are not going to allow anyone else to shame you, so you are going to do everything you can to live perfectly. And if you fail (as surely you will) you and only you will punish you.
Perfectionism is a constant hustle. Aren’t you exhausted?
The young man who approached Jesus was a perfectionist. From Mark 10:17-22 – As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’” “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
This young man—he was trying, planning, and scheming. And it wasn’t enough. He never got to that place where he felt accepted. So here was this Rabbi Jesus. Maybe He could tell him what he needed to do to get there. Surely He could. He had to try. He had this plan. He had this scheme. Surely Jesus could give him the answer.
And Jesus one-upped him and said he had to give away his possessions. This was not a part of the young man’s plans and schemes. Truth is with the hustle this young man had going on, nothing Jesus would have said would have given this man peace.
I don’t know what this young man’s shame was but he sure was trying to avoid it with all these good works. One core cause of perfectionism is the drive to please earthly fathers, who don’t show or speak love to you. You then find yourself working harder and harder to please daddy in the hope that maybe this time he will love you. Hustling. The trap for you is that ultimately you see yourself as unworthy of your daddy’s love when your father has issues that probably have little to do with you. Instead of the glaring truth that your dad may have a glaring fault, you would rather punish yourself.
Aren’t you tired? Aren’t you tired of the shame?
Jesus felt genuine love for him. Jesus simply accepted this young man and felt genuine love. But this young man could not return it. He wanted to hustle for his acceptance when all along he was simply accepted.
You are simply accepted. Be brave and believe that.