“Hello my name is Hanna and I’m a perfectionist.”

One of my greatest gremlins in life– (You know the 80’s film? I think there was a sequel too. My parents said I wasn’t allowed to watch it, but I did anyway at my friend Rachel’s house and, of course, it scarred me.  They’re nasty little monsters that jump out from under the bed and, in my imagination, follow me around and whisper lies to me.) –back to the point… One of my greatest gremlins is the one that tells me over and over that I have to be perfect. He sneaks around the corner at the most opportune time and reminds me that not only do I have to strive for perfection, but more importantly, I need to make sure everyone else thinks that I’m perfect.  And then he laughs, in this horrible, high pitched annoying evil laugh, when I totally fail at being perfect.  He mocks me and tells me I better make sure no one else sees how imperfect I am.

The really sad part is that he used to be one of my best friends.  I made sure he was with me wherever I went, always feeding me with his lies of perfectionism.  I needed him to remind me how unworthy and insufficient I was to propel me towards perfectionism. But over the past few years, I slowly begin to realize that he was not my friend.  I started seeing him for what he was– a liar, a joy thief, an enemy.

Some of you have the exact same disgusting, little gremlin following you around too.  I hope you know he’s feeding you lies.  And I hope you know he’s not your friend.

I just finished reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and she gave me some great new thoughts on perfectionism (and the picture of a gremlin being my little lie whisperers that follow me around) to wrap my hands around.

Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a defensive move. It’s the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame.  Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shied we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen. 

Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval. “I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Please. Perform. Perfect.” 

Healthy striving is self-focused: How can I improve?  Perfectionism is other focused: What will they think?

Perfectionism is a form of shame. Where we struggle with perfectionism, we struggle with shame. (Daring Greatly, p. 129)

Does that hurt your stomach?  It does mine.  So where do we go from here?  Poor perfectionists; our immediate response is how can I perfect myself by not being a perfectionist?!  Brown suggests,

We have to make the long journey from “What will people think?” to “I am enough.” …We have to be willing to give ourselves a break and appreciate the beauty of our cracks or imperfections. (p. 131))

I am enough. Do you believe that?  I, insert your name here, am enough.  On a good day, I believe it.  But many days, I don’t.  That’s sad and I don’t want to admit it, but isn’t that the first step to me breaking down my perfectionism? –Being honest about my cracks?

The apostle Paul told us the real beauty about our cracks.  As he was pleading with the Lord to remove the “thorn in his flesh”, which I’d say was his biggest, fatest, dirtiest crack…

He [God] said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. [2 Corinthians 12:8-10]

The other day, my friend told me about this illustration a Wheaton professor used in his class.  He gave his students a cardboard box and said “Beat it up. Rip it up. Put huge holes through it.”  The class damaged the box as much as they were able while still keeping the box somewhat in tact.  Then the professor put it on his desk with a bright light blub shining underneath.  Because there were so many cracks, holes, and tears in the box, the light was able to shine through.

The point is that when we are honest and authentic about our cracks, Christ’s light shines through.  It is in our brokeness that He uses us, that He shows His love, His redemptive power, His amazing grace to others.  When I’m trying to act perfect, I’m not letting my true self be seen, nor the power of Christ in me.

So what would it look like this week, while your home for Thanksgiving with friends and family, to 1) believe that you are enough and 2) Allow people to see your cracks?  I think if we practiced those two ideas on a consistent enough basis, we could change the culture of our families, friends, schools, and more.  What would it look like if we all stopped trying to show everyone else our perfect mask and started to create honest, authentic relationships and communities where we showed our cracks?  And, more importantly, showed Christ’s redemptive plan in our cracks.

After all, you are enough.  You are enough because He made you enough.  Just as you are.  With all your cracks and imperfections.  He loves you and calls you His own.  So, perfectionists, I dare you to practice believing that you are enough and start allowing people to see your cracks. 

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