"Perfectionism is a dangerous state of mind in an imperfect world."
— Robert Hillyer

Perfectionism in an imperfect world.


Perfection: By Ron Bender -

After nearly four decades of being a skilled professional I had to tone down my perfectionists' tendencies. I always had to explain this perfectionism part of my life to people who know me outside of the workplace. When I am at work everything must be just so. You may know what I'm talking about. As a printer, the work that I produced had to be just right, the machine I was operating was always running to the its greatest potential. I would be tweaking my press, checking, and double checking everything, making sure the paper was stacking up just right, and each element was performing with precision. In other words, everything had to be perfect.

Away from work was another story. It was as though I was two different people. I left part of myself at work. I tried to be happy and at peace being an imperfect person in an imperfect world. I finally gave in.  Enough is enough I decided to indulge my irrational, dysfunctional desire for perfection and just give in. It worked for a bit. Then I sought perfection in another part of my life – My website!

It started ever so slowly. I taught myself how to design websites from a simple program. It was cool and I started to enjoy the creativity. I found myself pouring hours into making just the right touches to each page. Still, I felt they were not good enough. It took me years to publish my first site. It was not because I could not create one. I was putting part of me out there for all to see. I waited so long because it was not perfect, and another way to procrastinate.

But Oh, when I do not have this outlet to be perfect I tend to find other things to take its place. Creating things, writing, and relationships. This tendency spills out all over the place.

And when I'm having a bad day or things in my life seem messed up I can go to create something or write a story and stay there until I feel better!

The Problem of Perfectionism

All kidding aside I don't hang out at work! (Although I used to.), perfectionism is a serious and painful problem for many people and their loved ones. You can see by spending hours every day obsessing about making things perfect, It is robbing God, your family, even your own personal needs. I have admitted to this problem. Which as many people know is the first step to recovery. Fortunately, I've learned to live in God's grace.

I Talk with Many Perfectionists

By talked to many different types of perfectionists – people who are compulsively perfectionists about…

  • How they look
  • What they achieve
  • What others think of them
  • What they feel
  • A relationship
  • The ideal spouse
  • Expectations for their kids
  • Keeping their home immaculate
  • And yes, having the perfect lawn

For these perfectionists, when their compulsion is not ideal, (which is almost all the time) they feel bad. They are beset with inner feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, guilt, anxiety, jealousy, or emptiness.

We think, "If it's not perfect then it's bad" or "If I can't do it right then I won't do it at all."  This kind of black and white, all-or-nothing thinking gets perfectionists into trouble.

Perfectionists struggle to live in reality. They often procrastinate, neglect responsibilities, commitments, or isolate from others. And even when they have succeeded at something they often don't enjoy their success. "It could've been even better," we think. Or rather than savoring their achievement they've already moved on to perfecting their next project.

Perfectionism is Deadly

For some, perfectionism has a tragic end: suicide. One well-known example is that of former deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster.

Prior to his time in Washington D.C. Foster's life looked super successful and spotless: first in his law school class, highest score on the Arkansas bar exam, partner in a prestigious law firm, stable marriage and family, popular, a sterling reputation.

Foster's perfect life all unraveled, especially the sterling reputation. Things went wrong at the White House (wow, who would have thought) in the early months of the Clinton administration. He couldn't remedy the situation and he felt responsible. To make matters worse, the media was all over him, questioning his integrity and competence. His reputation had been destroyed. He killed himself in July of 1993.

Most perfectionists never take things to this tragic end, but Vincent Foster's story illustrates just how increasingly consuming and destructive a problem perfectionism can become if it's not addressed.

Are You a Perfectionist?

God's Grace is perfect! Perfect enough to work with a guy like me. Grace is not condemning. God's grace comes from his perfect and wonderful love. Full of compassion beyond what we could ever imagine. And it's it endless. Totally endless. It is so perfect that I cannot find a flaw in it. It is what I need when I need it. I just need to accept it. For some of us that is a difficult thing to do. We think we have to do something, be something or help in the process. If you are like me, you may also wounder if God's grace is enough to work in my "special" situation. You may enjoy another articial about grace. "Is Grace Enough"

If you or someone you know struggles with perfectionism, know that there is hope. There is help for perfectionists! It all begins with identifying that your perfectionism has gotten out of control.

Not Out of Control Yet????

Just thinking "I got this" is a sure sign you already are out of control. As stated before, we cannot have things perfect in an imperfect world. Somewhere someone in your life, friends, family, God, or even yourself have been neglected. Before you or someone else ends up on the side of the highway take defensive actions.

Find out and take this Perfectionism Survey this will help you see to what extent you (or a loved one) may have perfectionists' tendencies. It will highlight the areas that you may need to let God's perfect grace free you of anxious perfectionism.

Ron Bender
Ron Bender

"For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) And He said "It is good!" Not perfect. But Good. Only God's perfect Grace Makes us perfect. Amen!