“Perfectionism says, ‘It’s not enough.’
Gratitude says, ‘It’s more than enough.’
“Perfectionism says, ‘I’m lacking.’
Gratitude says, ‘I’m living in abundance.’
“Perfectionism says, ‘God is holding out on me.’
Gratitude says, ‘God is good and gracious.’
“Perfectionism says, ‘I must try harder and go farther.’
Gratitude says, ‘I will be fully present in this moment.’”
Which one are you? Which one are you really you? That bit of inspiration comes from the book, You’re Loved No Matter What by Holley Gerth.
This inspiration reminds us yet again how much perfectionism is a hustle. Full of insecurity.
You keep hustling for your worthiness. Plus it messes with your mind. It messes with your relationships. It messes with your understanding of who God is.
Jesus told a parable about this hustle. It’s one you may have read lots of times and never saw this hustle before. That’s because this hustle of perfectionism is hard to see; feels like the right response to improve the outcome of our lives; and is built on lumping everyone into “the others” (dehumanizing) so that you can feel like you are enough. True, right?
Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14.
One character in the story was full of perfectionism. One was full of gratefulness.
The Pharisee separated himself from “the other” by his profession of good works. The Pharisee hustled his way to be in the “in group” by separating himself from those in the “out group.” Sounds a bit like a middle school lunch room and deciding where to sit at the beginning of the school year. Due to adolescent development, insecurity is high so you desperately desire to make the right choice to be a part of an “in group” table. And you desperately want to do the behaviors of the “in group” table so you don’t get cast to an “out group.” Here is where the hustle most often begins. If your parents at your young age also encouraged this hustle, I’m sorry. That was not very loving of them living out their hustle into your moldable and impressionable life.
Now you find yourself as an adult still hustling for your worthiness by desperately trying to stay in the “in group.” You don’t feel like you are enough. So you up your hustle, picking on the numbing behavior of perfectionism so that no one will shame you but you. You know that you are not enough and your shame voice is quick to tell you that. But as long as you hustle for your worthiness, you can protect yourself from anyone else finding out. And pretend that you are living your dream life.
When we allow our sense of belonging to be shaped by the in/out, us/them binary of good and bad, we are like that Pharisee. Sometimes even looking on to those in “the other” group with judgment, and at times even disdain.
I’m hoping you are getting a glimpse of you right now and that is making you uncomfortable. This is your beginning. Because I know your Christian heart desires to show love to “the other.”
Another next step is to stop believing the lie you’ve accepted about yourself that has led to believing that you are not enough. Exposing this lie to the light of truth then makes the lie manageable. How about that? Lies that are manageable. Lies that used to keep you in fear now don’t.
Another next step is to start living with gratefulness. “The other” in our parable did exactly that in his prayer recognizing the goodness of God’s mercy on him. Practicing gratitude can help us turn pain into a stepping stone. Leaning into the joys of your life helps you build resiliency so when pain flattens you, you can get back up again, find the Plan B, and go on blessing this world. This includes not hustling to stay in your “in group” but loving your lives in your worthiness so that you can be a true friend (your honest you) in that group of friends of yours and you can bless the rest of the world. Change your brain. Lead your brain.
The world needs the heartbreak you risk. The world need the true you.
Hello, world. I am grateful to be seen.
(photo credit: https://plainmagazine.com/hipster-barbie-is-a-parody-of-your-picture-perfect-life/)