Perfectionism.

I’m a perfectionist. I’m not your average, every day perfectionist, however. I don’t bust my gut day in and day out working above and beyond what your every day average Joe would. My perfectionism comes out in slightly different ways.

When I was in high school, there was a particular subject I thought I was ridiculously stupid at. I thought everyone was far better at it than I was. So I ended up not really trying – I thought to myself “what the heck, I’m going to fail it anyway – so why even bother?” Perfectionists have the glass half empty; they’re down on themselves often. My ED was about being perfect – being good at something for once. I could exercise and restrict and lose weight – I had this need to lose weight. I had to do something right for once in my damn life. This could not be just like any other thing that I had started and failed.

Uni last year was added to the list of ‘Can’t Do’s’ – just like the HSC, it became this big, overwhelming and looming thing that I was not good enough for. I had to be the best, and I knew I couldn’t be. So I quit before I even really began. That was one of my favourite things in coming to Bible College. I’m actually going to finish my Diploma and maybe even an Advanced Diploma and I’m going to finish it well. And yeah, there’ll be some learning curves on the way and lots and lots of stress and maybe a few crappy marks that I’m really not happy with at all – but in the long run, it really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. I don’t need to be the best, I can rest assured God loves me regardless. Which is really, really cool.

I do a subject called ‘Foundations for Creative Ministries’. It’s awesome. One of my favourites. And we read a book recently called ‘The Heart of the Artist’ by Rory Noland. He talks about a few issues that artists struggle with, perfectionism being one of them. I’m a writer and a musician. I am an artist. And yes, in addition to that, I am a perfectionist. But we don’t need to be the best. We don’t need to be glorifying ourselves through our own actions and our own work, we need to be glorifying God.

So today I will write an essay on Paulie Saulie Paul of Tarsus. I will reference my big, fat theological books. I will not be overwhelmed by the prospect of failure. I will not be afraid to admit that I don’t know everything. And I will remember that it’s not about me, but about the One who has so graciously saved me, despite my failures.

Don’t use your ED as a tool to being perfect. Don’t let fear overwhelm you, don’t et the ED whisper in your ear that you’re really not good enough at all. Give it a kick in the face.

Your eating disorder is a liar.

B Xo.

P.S –  Whenever you start getting overwhelmed with all this perfectionist thinking, try and imagine it to be like a zone that you’ve entered into. Be aware of your thoughts and emotions – know why it is that you’ve entered the perfectionist zone and then do exactly as the picture says – Run! But not literally, of course. Especially if you’re not allowed to exercise yet 😉

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13 thoughts on “Perfectionism.

  1. Hmmm… i’ve never cons idered myself a perfectionist, but have a huge fear of failure (and therefore avoid a lot of situations in which i could fail). You’re a wise young lady. 🙂 Very insightful!

    • 🙂 I think it’s the motivation behind the whole avoiding thing. And yeah, in particular why the ED comes about. Have you found you have had a similar experience with the ED? X

      • it’s certainly a trait i’ve had for as long as i can remember, so i’d call it a contributing factor. for me, though, it’s more about pulling my out of control world into control. (if i had to call it one thing). The fear of failure certainly complicates therapy, because my (good) risk taking is about zero!

  2. I think fear of failure and perfectionism can be two sides of the one coin, particularly when we define ‘failure’ as ‘not doing it exactly right’. I also had a long ‘can’t do’ or ‘didn’t finish’ list, and somehow convinced myself I’m not good at anything. But at age 34 I went to uni for the first time, having not managed it at age 18, and I FINISHED my degree. I can’t tell you how amazing that felt. I achieved great-but-not-perfect marks and I didn’t finish my Honours year (depression, anxiety and anaemia pretty much killed that idea) but I was still stoked.

    Ironically, although my ED is very much about feeling like I’m achieving something, I still said to my counsellor, “But I’m overweight… damn it, I can’t even get an eating disorder right!!” Yeeaahhh…. work in progress, here.

    • I bet that really did feel amazing! Well done. I think we really need not beat ourselves up for the things we feel we haven’t achieved, I think we should keep focusing on all the good that we HAVE achieved, or have finished. It’s about having the courage to admit that we’re not perfect too.

      Re your last comment, I understand to a degree. In recovery I struggled because my ED would tell me I didn’t go far enough, I could have lost more weight. But nothing would have been good enough for the ED anyway!

      • Wait… I’m not perfect?? 😉

        What I’ve noticed in recent months is that I’ve stopped doing a whole lot of things I enjoyed, because I’m not as good at them as other people, or because they didn’t turn out the way I wanted. Example: I’ve been knitting since I was 5 years old (that’s… wow, 36 years now) and I’m pretty good at it in that I can follow a complicated pattern. But I have a friend who is an AMAZING knitter – writes her own patterns, has several projects on the go at the same time and actually finishes them, can modify patterns if she doesn’t quite like them, has an incredible knowledge of techniques and jargon that are way beyond my understanding. I am nowhere NEAR her league, and so I stopped knitting because her excellence made me believe I was bad at knitting (although I told myself I “didn’t have time” for it). Lately I’ve realised I’m GOOD ENOUGH at it. All I want to do is knit a jumper or two, and I’m more than skilled enough for that. I need to learn that ‘good enough’ is… good enough. Think I might get my knitting out this week…

        BTW, I hope you don’t mind me commenting obsessively on your blog. I swear I’m not a stalker! 😀 But your posts are all really hitting the mark with me right now.

  3. Interesting post as always Ms Bek, and another that speaks closely to some things I have been reflecting on lately – this seems to be a trend. I know that a lot of my struggles recently have surrounded rediscovering passions – things that I once loved and enjoyed (perhaps too much, such that they became an idol for me), are no valued very little by my. And I think it is because of my perfectionism, which, is quite similar to your own now, in that it is more of a discouragement. In the past though, it has led me to ‘bust my gut above and beyond the average Joe’ – training more, running more, practising more. In fact, the other day my changed mindset was brought to light – a friend said he ran 14 in the beep test, and another said he ran around the lake here (7.1km) in under 30 minutes. Now, in a previous life, that would have had me picking myself up, putting my runners on and heading out the door – to try and ‘get ahead’, and to ‘be the best’. I was so concerned with my outward ‘appearance’ to others, and a perfectionists desire to be ‘above and beyond’.The crunch probably came last year when I played a high level (one below the guys on TV) for one match – I looked around, at players the professional (full time, paid 250k + ) athletes and realised that despite how “good” I was, I was nothing compared to them. They say you can ‘achieve anything if you work hard’, but I discovered this was a fallacy – I had worked hard, harder than anyone I knew, and yet I still wasn’t ‘good enough’. What a demoralising realisation that was, and it has been a source of much confusion and ailing passion in recent months.

    The real struggle, involves discovering how to engage in activities (writing, music, sport, whatever!) simply for pure enjoyment – not in comparison to others, not as my idol and my ‘whole life’, but simply ‘just because’. As Tim Winton accolades in Breath, accolades doing ‘something completely pointless and beautiful’ that ‘should need no explanation’. But that is such a foreign concept for me – the only things I have ever really pursued in my life have been football and a girl. And they mean(t) EVERYTHING to me. Now I have to learn to ‘rediscover’ myself – new passions, new interests and new activities. This is a challenge in itself, but the real challenge lies in picking these ‘new’ things up, and engaging in them without making them some perfectionist idol. That, is my struggle.

    Long comment, and worth a blog post of my own sometime, but food for thought.

    Great post as always.

    • Huge reply Petey!

      Not sure where to begin, but definitely think you should write a blog post about it too.

      Today when I got out of bed I asked that God would take away my desire to be the best. Perhaps you should do the same.

  4. Thanks for your thought-provoking post, Bek. I think that for many perfectionists, the seed of ‘failure’ was planted by someone long ago. And it’s hard to dig it out once it’s taken root. I love your line: “God loves me regardless.” Something to reflect on. 🙂

    ‘The Heart of the Artist’ sounds like a good read!

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