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6 Lessons My Pursuit of Perfection Has Taught Me

Has this ever happened to you?

  • When someone asks you what you want to do, you say “I don’t care, whatever you want,” even though you know exactly what you’d like to do.

  • You know all the answers in class, but you never raise your hand, because you don’t want to be “that person.”

  • When someone says something you don’t understand, you’re afraid to ask him to repeat himself.

  • You’d rather not talk, because you don’t want to say something stupid—or you talk too much, because you’re afraid of awkward silence.

  • You agree with what someone says to make her like you, even though you don’t actually agree with her or even know what she’s talking about.

That was me. I’ve done all of these things multiple times throughout my life. I was always trying to please everyone, always trying to go with the flow. Never wanting to stand out, have people question me.

Easygoing. Likable. Closed-off. Unnoticeable.

I’ve talked a lot about perfectionism on my blog. The subject means a lot to me. It’s been a huge part of my life. I’ve been that girl who laughs at a joke I don’t think is remotely funny. I’ve gone to plenty of events where I smiled, but inside I was quaking, wishing to be anywhere but there. I still feel like that sometimes. But I’ve had enough. I don’t want to let people pleasing take over my life. I don’t want to live the life other people want me to—I want to be the person God created me to be. And God’s been shaping me every day, teaching me more and more about the lies I’ve believed for so long and the freeing truth he offers instead.

These are some things my pursuit of perfection has taught me:

1. You’re not perfect.

You never will be perfect in this life. Psalm 14:3 says, They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one. (NKJV) No matter how hard we try, we don’t have a chance. We will always mess up, we will always hurt someone, we will always have bad days and not get our way. And it’s okay. Why?

2. You weren’t meant to be perfect.

There are many verses in the Bible with the word “perfect” in them referring to man. That confused me for a while. So does God actually mean we can obtain perfection? However, after further research, I came to the conclusion that the Bible is never saying that we are perfect in our humanity, but that it usually refers to us being spiritually mature. There are many places in scripture that says we will never be perfect here on earth. One of the most motivating passages to me is Philippians 3:12-14.

12 Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on [e]so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own. 13 [f]Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.(AMP)

Paul says he’s not attained perfection, but that doesn’t stop him from pursuing it and becoming even more passionate about God. In fact, it’s an even greater motivator for him to keep running. God didn’t create us to be perfect. He created us so we’d pursue it. Yes, we’ll fall down, yes, we’ll mess up, but we have to get up and keep going.

3. You can’t please everyone.

Think about this logically. There is no way you could make everyone happy. If you’re best friends with one person, someone else will get jealous. You probably can’t get As in every class while winning the cheer-leading competition and learning a whole repertoire on the piano, sing in the choir, and work two jobs. Everyone wants more than what you’ve got. Every teacher wants you to give 100% in all her classes. There is always more volunteer work, more homeless people who need a meal to eat, more friends who don't understand their homework, not to mention all the chores your parents expect you to take care of. There is no way you’ll be able to please everyone 100% of the time. It’s impossible.

4. You weren’t meant to please everyone.

Nowhere in the Bible does God tell you to try to please everyone. Paul says very clearly in Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (ESV) The only person we need to try to please is God. And that isn’t easy at all. But the good thing is that he doesn’t expect us to always do great (see points 1&2). He is gracious and forgives us when we mess up. Psalm 51:16, 17 says, For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. (NASB) How encouraging is that? It frees us when we realize that we don’t always have to be worrying about everyone else.

5. Everyone is like you.

You’re not alone. Everyone struggles with the fear of being abandoned, of not being accepted once someone knows everything about him. We are all scared that if we say something wrong, our friends will think we’re weird or not want to hang out with us anymore. Or, even now in college, I’m realizing how scary it is when looking for a job—you just have to look just right to get hired, promoted, or get a raise. There is very little security in this world, so we all put on a front to look better. But meanwhile, we all yearn to be accepted, just the way we are. When you think you are alone, remember that we are all human. We all yearn to be loved. After all, that’s the way God created us.

6. Not everyone is just like you.

That said, you are unique from everyone else on the entire planet. We all have the same needs, but we are all different in our personalities, backgrounds, education, qualities, and gifts. We have different thought processes, different ways to solve problems, different worldviews. So there is no way you could possibly do everything that someone else does. Because you aren’t like that person. You have your own unique purpose in life. God made you different than every other person in the world. That’s pretty cool, right? So if you’re trying to live someone else’s life, you will disappoint. Not just the other person. Yourself too. Because you won’t be satisfied with something that fits the other person perfectly.

As I prayed this morning, asking God to free me from comparing myself to yet another person, he awoke this thought inside of me: I don’t want what the other person has. I wasn’t created for that. God gave me a specific desire and vision, and what the other person has, no matter how good it looks, isn’t what God has for me. That won’t fulfill me, because God didn’t plan for it to fulfill me. What the other person has is great, and it’s certainly working for him, but it’s not what I need. What I need is something entirely unique to me, something that nobody else will have. And that’s exciting. And scary. Because I can’t just follow someone around, doing what they do. I have my own path to tread, a unique path. And if God has something so different and so me for me, why would I ever want what the other person has? Will having long, flowing hair and perfectly symmetrical eyes really bring me more happiness? Would I be as happy with that super hot guy as my friend is? Would it truly satisfy me if I became a lawyer that made $125,000 a year?

What if I just focused on what God gave me and made the most out of that? How rewarding would that be?

When I think back to my days in high school *shiver,* I think about how much more free my life would’ve been, had I just understood these points. God loves me. He doesn’t expect me to always do everything perfectly, and I definitely don’t have to live up to anyone else’s standards. He gave me his word so I could pursue him with my whole heart. He made me unique so I could serve him in only the way I could. How much of my life have I wasted, worrying about what people thought about me, comparing myself to others, beating myself up for messing up? It’s sad to think about. But the good news is that I’m not stuck. I can keep moving forward, keep learning, pursue him more, and give him glory. Because I’m not perfect. But he is.

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