Self Care & Acceptance

Overcoming Perfectionism & Embracing Good Enough

May 26, 2016

I can’t do it all. Sometimes, it seems I can’t even do the things I thought I could do before. Age is certainly a factor sometimes, but not as much as maturity. The more mindful I am that I am pushing past my own limits, the more I release into living limited. With this comes a growing capability to know when too far is too far; that awareness, however, means I have to choose again to honor my limited humanness or overstep. Even the overstepping is harder than it once was. Slap all this sounds-pretty-good self-awareness right up next to a strong perfectionistic tendency, and you will easily understand why my resolve to honor my own human limits sometimes seems like a very stupid idea. Yet, in places of soul peace, I know that relaxing into my boundaries is truly a path for me to find greater closeness with and reliance upon God, greater freedom in Jesus and greater Peace of Spirit. So, I’m resolved. And what that means, as best as I can figure, is overcoming perfectionism and moving into a space of something freer, something looser and something with more room for me…the real, take-me-as-I-am, just a human me.

My head knows that I can’t be a perfect person. I am incapable of being the perfect wife, perfect mom or perfect friend. I can’t even love Jesus perfectly, and sometimes it seems I ought to be able to do at least that perfectly. Perfectionism lies to us; it tells us that perfect is possible and that if we just try hard enough, we can get it right. Perfectionism teases with glimpses into other lives, other worlds and other people that seem to portray perfect. We all have perfect moments, but none of them reflect a whole. A whole anything in this life is flawed; in some ways, it’s the beauty of our fallen design. There is grace to augment the shortcomings. There is counterpoint to all my falling-short. Yet, if I leave my thoughts there and move on in my mind, I am stuck again and again. Why do I keep pursuing perfect? My head knows it isn’t possible. Maybe you find yourself in the same boat?

What is necessary, I’m learning, is to find a new ideal. Saying to ourselves, “I can’t get there” is only part of the process. When our hearts are visionary and determined, we have to claim a new “there” for which we’re aiming. Mine is quickly becoming “good enough.” My effort-loving, goal-oriented, over-achieving self cringes a little bit at this phrase – especially in context. I can’t be a perfect wife, but maybe I can be a good-enough wife.   Do you hear that? It sounds a little like nails on a slacker’s chalkboard to the perfectionistic evil spirit that sits on my shoulder, whispering little daggers into my ear. Good enough? I mean, isn’t that just code for not even trying? No, it’s not. It’s honest.

I can’t explain why good enough sounds so awful to me. If you are drawn to a post about perfectionism, maybe it sounds that way to you too? (Please say I’m not the only one!) I’m completely sure, however, that overcoming perfectionism requires a new goal. I can’t just erase “perfect” as my goal and then leave the line blank. That’s why I keep finding “perfect” scribbled back in the same spot. No, I’m writing “good enough” in big black sharpie on my goal-sheet. Am I a perfect wife? No, but I’m a good wife. I’m even good enough. Good is fine, but it definitely leaves room for more. Good enough says, I’m where I am and it’s okay to just be here. We are always growing, always maturing and, hopefully, always improving. But let’s let pursuit of Him be our aim and let the refining (and, dare I say it, perfecting) be an out cropping of His work in us – not our fantastical destination.

Where in your life do you need to replace your sometimes-well-hidden perfectionism with a plan to be good-enough? I feel constantly that I’m not doing enough as a writer. I could be doing so much more to engage with and encourage other women. I could write better, write more or train more. The list of the things I could do is endless. We all have those lists. I have dozens. Yet, when I look away from my list, and look at my life, I can see quickly that I’m doing as much as I can as well as I can for the space I’m in right now. I’m 8 months pregnant, friends. And I’m 37 years old. And I have a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old. I am tired these days in a way that I haven’t been ever before – and I am sincerely struggling to accept it! I’m not doing as much as I could do 2 months ago. I’m not doing as much as I could do 2 years ago. I need to shut down the self-condemning whispers that say that means I’m not doing enough. That’s a lie. What’s true is that I’m not doing everything. What’s also true is that, for today, for this time in my world, I’m doing what I can. I’m not perfect, but I’m good enough. And, I suspect, you are too.

Lord, we just look to you and fall on our knees in our weakness. Let us look to you alone for a model of perfection. When we see you as you are, we can see ourselves as we are too. We are feeble, we are faulted and we are flawed…but we are loved and our weaknesses and limits are beautiful in the light of your love. Because of you, we can embrace and love “good enough.” Because of your grace and your mercy and your vision of who we are, we can rest in our humanness. We love you, Lord. We stretch our arms ever more to you. Be the driving desire of our lives and let any glimpses of perfection we find along the way call our hearts ever closer to you!

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  • Carey May 27, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    You are not the only one! I strive for perfect everything and nearly lost my mind. Thankful for grace upon grace! Love this: “Do you hear that? It sounds a little like nails on a slacker’s chalkboard to the perfectionistic evil spirit that sits on my shoulder, whispering little daggers into my ear. Good enough? I mean, isn’t that just code for not even trying? No, it’s not. It’s honest.” Because “good enough” bothers me, too, but I agree we must aim for something when we scrub perfectionism. Great thoughts and encouragement. Always love a “me-too” post! 😀

    • Marina May 27, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      Thanks so much Carey! It’s great to know for sure that it’s not just me!!

  • Robin May 28, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    AMEN. I hear that. (Down to the super-pregnant-with-littles part. Mine are 5, 4, 18m, and due early August.) “Good enough” makes me crazy, but I’m having a hard time even getting *there* these days, so I’m learning to let His grace make up the space between where I am and “good enough.” (Well, I say I’m learning that. I’m *trying* to learn that. I *need* to learn that. I certainly can’t say I’ve learned it, or even that I’m headed there with any speed. But at any rate, I feel you!)

    (PS- over here from hope*writers. Hello!)

    • Marina May 28, 2016 at 8:27 pm

      Hey Robin, welcome! I can definitely relate to the struggle to get to good enough. Making peace with my limits is (& I expect will be) an ongoing (usually daily) process. I just remind myself again & again that He enables all that is necessary. So all that stuff I don’t get to must not be that necessary. Here’s to the journey, huh? Glad to have travelers with me on the way!