I have a confession…
I’m not perfect.
I know, it’s probably super shocking, right? *insert eye roll emoji here*
You see, I’ve always been somewhat of a perfectionist.
The first time I really knew that label applied to me was in 4th or 5th grade, when we had to write our standard info at the top right corner of each piece of notebook paper we used for work: Name, Date, Subject.
I’d use my Lisa Frank #2 pencil and use my very best penmanship and start to write my name on the top line. The date went on the second line, then the subject on the third line. Easy enough, right?
Around 4th grade was when we started learning cursive and anyone with a K in their name knows the pain of getting those proportions just right so that it doesn’t look wonky. (Okay…maybe it’s just me!)
I’m ashamed to admit that many trees sacrificed their lives so that a young perfectionist named Kelli could crumple up countless sheets of notebook paper with no more than 5 letters written on it, simply to avoid having messy eraser marks or smudged pencil lead on a finished piece of work.
I can now confess that this was my vice as an elementary kid…crisp notebook paper with no eraser marks was my goal and it all hinged greatly on whether or not I liked how I wrote my name.
Perfectionism has loosened its grip on me through the years, although I do still enjoy a nice, crisp, unfolded fresh paper. I’m learning that perfection is wayyyy overrated. Brene Brown once said “I’m a recovering perfectionist and an aspiring good-enoughist.” Girl…ain’t that the truth!
Perfection always seems like an admirable, yet lofty goal – the perfect home, the perfect marriage, the perfect kids, the perfect wardrobe, job, car, title, income, story. But you know what I’ve learned (and am still learning)?
When perfection is our goal, failure is our fear.
When we strive for perfection in any area of our life, we’ll often find that we’re hiding our true selves – specifically, our perceived imperfections – so that we’ll be viewed by others as having it all together.
Maybe it’s because we don’t want anyone to know we’re falling apart in our marriage, in our parenting, in our finances, at our job, with our studies, in our faith, or with our relationships. Maybe we feel like our past makes us too much or not enough or is too wild or too tame. At its root, though, perfection is just an over-zealous, desperate attempt to cover up what we perceive as our imperfections, our failings.
But, what if we took the power back and changed the narrative? What if we didn’t see our imperfections as hideous failures that we have to mask or hide? What if we could look at those areas of our lives where we need improvement, need help, or wish we could change, and call them…beautiful?
Did you just whisper a sigh of relief? Me too.
Why? Because when you flip the script and relieve yourself of the pressure to “fix” what’s not perfect, you’re giving yourself the grace to embrace your story – who you truly are right here, right now – and see the beauty of being a work in progress…because that is exactly where we ALL are.
If you or I were perfect people, we’d have no need for Christ, for His grace, mercy, power, or salvation.
If I really and truly had it all together, I’d have no need to draw near and lean in to Christ or seek His wisdom. I wouldn’t need the support of deep relationships and community. Contributing to those around me in meaningful ways would be void of empathy and camaraderie because I would become the standard by which everyone else was held. (Yikes!) More likely than not, I would be judgemental, harsh, impatient, frustrated, and less likely to dive deep with others. You know what’s ironic? That’s kinda how I act when I’m striving for perfection!
Perfection is found only in One and that One is Jesus. He came and lived among us – Immanuel, God with us – loving, embracing, and compassionately healing and saving those he came in contact with.
Can you imagine how different the miraculous stories in the Gospels would be if the blind man saw no need to ask Jesus to heal him, regaining his sight? Or if the lame man was stubborn enough to believe his efforts would help him one day walk again? “No thanks, Jesus! I can do this on my own. I don’t need help, I can handle it!” It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?
When I set perfection as my goal, I devote my time, energy, and attention to achieving and maintaining an image in my own strength and ability. One wrong move, and the gimmick is up – I’m found out, exposed. Who knows what opportunities I’ve missed to find wholeness, satisfaction, and joy in living life in community as all of me, blemishes and all. The mask is removed and I’m seen for who I really am…and in that wake, I’m left embarrassed, ashamed, and bitter.
If I allow myself to be me – ALL of me – imperfections included, I can appreciate that God created and molded me exactly as He saw fit. Those areas of my life and heart that I believe are imperfections become spaces where I can invite Him in to create something beautiful and shape me through His mercy and grace into the woman He is in the process of helping me become. I begin to see character flaws as tools that He can transform and use for good of His people and the glory of His kingdom…and I begin to see the imperfections in others as the beautiful, recognizable fingerprints of an intentional Creator.
You don’t have to live your life under the weight of striving for the unattainable and unsustainable goal of perfection. You have the power to choose freedom today by loosing your grip on the false image of appearing or being perfect and by clinging to the idea that those areas that need a little work are really just opportunities in disguise.
Take advantage of those opportunities to drop the mask and own the imperfections that make you and your story unique. Deep dive into a supporting and encouraging community, cheer others on, and bask together in the freedom of a loving and gracious God, reminded that those things you desire to improve are areas He’s waiting for you to turn to Him for a divine and lasting change.
Call it what you want: flaw, blemish, dirt, failure, defect, weakness, deficiency, shortcoming…
It’s never too late to let the veil of perfection fall, friend. Call it what you want: flaw, blemish, dirt, failure, defect, weakness, deficiency, shortcoming, history… Embrace it. Own it. Let Christ move in and through it…
…because there truly is something beautiful about imperfection.