The one who doesn’t want to even get started on something,
to work for just five minutes,
or to just clear one shelf.
If I can’t finish it, I deplore starting it. I become very uneasy walking away when it’s not complete, when it’s not — perfect. The effect of this strategy is that some important tasks hardly ever get started, or consequently done.
Perfectionism looks like this for me: if I can’t do ALL of it, do ALL of it well and get it ALL done at one time — then why risk failing? I would rather live with a bunch of untouched everything than 1/8 of an attempt to complete it. That’s why some people may believe I am not particular about my surroundings. That’s why I appear lazy to myself and (dare I say) to others. I didn’t fully understand this until I read Marla Cilley’s book Sink Reflections in 2004, I just thought I was Lazy, Stupid or Crazy (another life changing book for me). Both of these books were revolutionary for me. They exposed the exquisite ways my perfectionistic psyche paralyzes me.
If I have only 15 minutes to be productive, my mind says, “Oh… no you don’t! Don’t fiddle with that, fix that or straighten out that. You can only get part of it done. Why bother? The rest will still be staring you in the face when you come back. What if you get interrupted in five minutes? Then, you really can’t do this. It’s too hard. It’s something you don’t enjoy doing. Worse than anything, it’s boring! By the way, don’t you need to do this, go here, etc. etc.”
BAM! 15 minutes are gone. It’s as if I have concrete blocks attached to my perfection-seeking little feet and I’m wallowing in quick sand.
What does this “feet-stuck-in-concrete” feeling have to do with being a mom? See if any of this resonates with you…..
“I’ll just do their laundry this time to help them out. They are such busy high schoolers. They focus so much time and energy on being good students. I can’t possibly teach them all the intricacies of keeping up with their laundry! That would take YEARS! Besides, I’ve already missed that window. I should have done that when they were three.”
Newsflash: Complex, multi-step, on-going routines are never taught “as a whole”. They are taught in parts–small, itty-bitty baby steps.
“What is the point of helping them with reading at all? It’s so difficult for them. Maybe it’s just better to just accept their lower performance and move on.”
Newsflash: No one picks up Homer’s The Odyssey and comprehends it right after they’ve mastered Green Eggs and Ham. There are a few more steps inbetween.
“I’m just not going to take my teenager anywhere — ever. They are just so rude and crude. It’s embarrassing.”
Newsflash: The folks that are invited to tea with the Queen of England had to go to pubs first to figure out how not to burp out loud.
I have vowed over the last seven to eighter years to “just start small and somewhere” with my kids. I want to teach them that doing something, ANYTHING, in small amounts, is better than nothing at all. Perfect doesn’t exist. Sometimes even “finished” doesn’t exist!
The act of moving our will and actions toward a goal triumphs over the paralyzation of perfection every time. I promise. And I don’t promise much. Ask my kids.
The most helpful act of submitting to move involves bringing these feet-sticking problems to the feet of Our Lord Jesus on the cross. Yes, even these issues. God does indeed care about all my anxieties, even laundry mountains and paper piles.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God–Phillipians 4:6
This is the first of a four-part series we are doing on perfectionism in order to introduce you to Jill Savage‘s new book No More Perfect Moms. We’ll end the series with a giveaway for a copy of her awesome book and some other goodies!