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How to overcome perfectionism through faith
I cried that day
I really did cry.
Sobbed like a baby...
I was trying to make a beautiful cake for my third son’s dedication, and it was a failure!
I felt distressed and anxious but pressed on with a backup plan… It too failed!
At that point, I had two little boys with eyes wide aglow with the prospects of licking the icing off the spoons. Fingers began darting, little voices asking, “Can I lick the icing now, can I have the spoon,” rang loudly…
All of a sudden I burst wide open.
I firmly asked the boys to walk away before mummy said something she might regret… They moved away about one meter and sat and stared.
It's not really about the cake
I’m sure it was a hard thing for them to take in, mummy crying over a cake…
My eldest looked at the cake and whispered, “I think it’s a really beautiful cake mum…”
I sat on the kitchen floor and sobbed… not just tears, a whole tidal wave came crashing out.
As my eldest knelt to the floor and put his arms around me, my middle child’s face turned very sad, and tears came along with it.
“I’m sorry mum…”
Yep, you guessed it, that's when I bawled like a baby!
It was one of those sacred in the silly moments.
I had to explain that it wasn’t his fault that mummy was so sad, and that it wasn’t just about the cake… How do you explain to my then three and six-year-olds about the brokenness of humanity and the dregs of it I’m still working through?
They are yet to know of the damage that has taken place in my life some by my own choice and some at the hand of broken humanity.
How do I tell them these tears come from a deeper place than the shallowness of the situation? I mean who cries over cake? (Unless of course it’s the best cake you have ever eaten and eating the last morsel causes tears to flow, as you are afraid you’ll never get to taste it again!!!)
I could barely breathe, and I felt very alone in my pain and grief. But why was I hurting so much what was I grieving? Why did I feel so alone?
The Proving Perfection Pressure
I knew the bursting of the dam was due to too much pressure. As I later tried to pinpoint what exactly went on in me, I tried to blame things.
I began with my husband (naturally), “If only he’d help out more…wait! He is always helping out… always… so no, it’s not him.”
“I must be doing too much…”
“No… God has called me to this so very clearly…just because I’ve hit a rough patch doesn’t mean it’s all over…”
Then why was my soul in such deep pain?
I had been placing the ‘proving perfection’ pressure on myself once again without even realizing it. I wanted to prove I could create perfection for all I put my hand to for God’s glory right? When did it switch to me? When did I begin to strive in my strength, placing ridiculous pressure to prove somehow that I was a perfect wife, mum, and woman in ministry? Why did I forget that God is at work and that God is grace? I mean I know He is, but why did I know it and still my actions spoke otherwise? Why did I think and act as if I had to do this all on my own?
It was as though by proving that I could be the perfect Christian woman I could wipe out all the sin stuff, the stuff in my past that whispered that I’d never really been worthy of God’s love or anyone else’s… The whisper that said you need to earn love…
And this 'prooving perfection pressure' was slowly suffocating my soul…
Because souls need room to breathe, souls need to hear truth words followed by lives living into those truth words… and I wasn’t letting anyone give me room to allow my soul to breathe…
God created us to be in constant communion with Himself and others. We were not created to walk out this WILD FAITH journey on our own. Somehow the enemy deceives us into believing we have got to be able to ‘do it all’ on our own. Society and media have created a ‘me first,’ ‘do it for yourself,’ culture where relying on anyone else means you have failed.
We need each other
We actually really do need each other, we need God. We were never created to live out the plans of God by ourselves. We are here to help each other find soul space.
Help came knocking twice that day from my husband, and I rejected it, why? Because I’m the mum, I’m meant to achieve this perfect cake on my own right? I thought I’d be weak… a failure… a disappointment… Ridiculous right!?
Later that day I sent a ‘blah’ text to my friend, who quickly responded with a phone call and the offer of help. I tried to turn it down several times, but she persisted (Thank you, Jesus, for friends who press in!). Her help came in the form of listening and in the practical form of baking some treats. God reminded me that day that I CAN’T live this wild faith journey on my own, that I CAN’T earn His love through my proving and striving and perfectionistic behaviors…
He is the HERO
I need Him to be the hero of my story, daily, moment-by-moment.
And, I needed the tribe around me… a God-given gift if only I could receive it…
We fulfill the law of Christ as we love each other and bare each other’s burdens, just as He did. As we lay down our lives for those around us, our stories somehow overlap and intertwine the tapestry of our testimonies in Him. Our arms linked together to give us hope and courage to face the struggles and pain we must persevere through. As we open up our lives for true communion with God and each other, “we humble ourselves to need and be needed by others” (L, G. Micminn).
The tears were never about the cake… They were about recognizing my self-induced isolation, my need to ‘do it on my own, prove my worth’ and God used that moment to help me realize how much I needed Him and others on this journey.
Can I encourage you to rely on God, look to Him when you feel inadequate or unable to do all He has entrusted you with, to let go of striving and proving and perfection? He never asked us to do it by ourselves; He never asked us to prove our worth or to be perfect. He simply asks us to partner with Him, to allow Him to be our hero…
And while you are practicing the art of opening your life and living in true communion, dip your toes into the lives of those around you, offer help, press in, bring true communion of the saints into being. Then allow them to return the favor. The only way we experience the fullness of God’s plans and love is in this place of communion with each other and God.
If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy reading one of the following.
The Feet of Jesus: A wild faith others won't understand
AWAKE OH MY SOUL: Learning to listen for the God whispers