Subtle or loud the deep longing for perfection in our lives is something we cannot escape. Whether we fight it by denouncing it loudly and “rebelling” or embracing it and pursuing it with all we have, it affects us at the core. It’s really nothing new, though there’s continual talk about the effects of social media and well… media in general on our mindsets (which yes, in some ways is true) this is something that’s been around since the dawn of time. The desire to have a perfect feed on Instagram or the most stylish kids or the nicest car all stem from a much more internal longing. Perfection comes from that large part of our soul that wants to be better, to meet our full potential, to feel complete, fulfilled, accomplished. It’s the need to be accepted, seen as valuable, and feel whole.
I am no different.
Raised in quite a few very critical environments, I was shaped to strive for perfection with all that I could muster. It was exhausting, to say the least. This deep longing infiltrated everything I did, school, work, health, relationships, and even my passions. As I grew, it became more about (what I thought were) my life goals. Everything had to fully capture my vision, my effort or my intention. If it didn’t, I felt like a complete failure. Sounds dramatic, but at a heart level that’s how I worked. I didn’t know how to be different. I didn’t know that I was truly okay, exactly as I was, even if I never reached perfection or “succeeded”. Ironically, I heard this preached continually throughout my life, but never actually saw it lived out by elders or peers. Anyone else experience this?
This year has been different. It has been a year of “rest” for me. One of slowing down and, for the first time, truly, discovering who I am without all the striving, without listening to the voices from my past telling me to constantly progress, change, grow, improve, be better. As a result, it’s also been the first time in my life that I have had long seasons of pure contentment. My core situations aren’t any less stressful, the same fears are sitting in my mind waiting to be activated, but I’m looking at them with more objectivity, with a soul at rest. Perfectionism’s power over my life has lightened. I’d be lying if I said I was cured. I don’t know if that’s entirely possible in this world. Instead, I feel peace, like I never have before—a deep resounding peace that regularly changes everything.
How Does Change Occur
So I’m sure you’re wondering how this came about, how it is that I could be changing at the core—you want the formula ;). Well, to be honest, there is no formula, because we’re all unique people with very different ways of thinking and living, but there are a few nuggets that have assisted with the process. For me, it’s looked like a handful of small changes that have slowly started to reset my mind, at the foundation.
I began my journey by joining a women’s group that gently opened the door to new and healthy thought processes. I gained the courage in this setting to peel away the protective layers of my soul and ask myself hard uncomfortable questions. During and after this period, I spent a lot (and I mean a lot) of spare time reading and journaling and praying. The Maker of your soul will meet you if you wish to dive in deep and uncover who you are apart from how your environments have shaped you. His guidance is truly what brought me and continues to bring me to a place of peace. Finally, I cannot encourage you enough, friends, to spend time processing/thinking and writing. It doesn’t have to be pretty. In fact, it’s usually best when it’s not. Give yourself space in life to process deeper thoughts. Saying a hard no to silly pointless things in your life and even those good things too. Slow down. Have evenings, mornings, even full weekends with no plans and see if you can purposefully avoid your usual time fillers. Plop down on your couch, a cozy chair or bed or go on a walk and find a beautiful quiet place outdoors, and just start letting your mind wander. Write these thoughts down. I have a few starters for you below, if you have no idea where to begin, but do not feel limited to these. I have no intention of this being a checklist/follow-these-steps-and-you’ll-be-good kinda guidance. Your first try may simply look like you just sitting and thinking. Perhaps you can only muster a few sentences. Allow yourself to sit longer and just be. Let it be messy. Let it be uncomfortable. If you want to run, check your phone, or do anything in order to leave the space, that’s probably a sign you’re feeling vulnerable—at the core, you’re uncomfortable with yourself. Deep down you believe the lie that you’re not enough. You must be doing, helping, fixing, striving, succeeding… there’s no time for nothing, no time for stillness, time for just you.
So start by giving this last portion a whirl. Set some time aside this weekend and sit alone in a quiet place and let your mind wander over these questions or if you already are aware of a few heart dilemmas, dive into those! However it goes, I hope you experience and fully embrace the discomfort, challenge, encouragement, and sweet healing.
Starter Questions for Journaling
1 | What are 5 descriptive adjectives that capture how I’ve been feeling in this last week or two or longer?
2 | Rank these adjectives, with #1 being the strongest emotion felt over the weeks (or longer).
3 | Next to each ranked emotion, write the first experience, conversation, person, or environment that comes to mind when you see it, think about it, or say it out loud.
4 | Which one of these 5 now sticks out the most or brings up the most internal or emotional thought for you?
5 | Jot down thoughts around why or even simply describe the most recent experience, conversation, person, or environment that came to mind for it.
6 | Sit and let your thoughts wander back to your childhood. Was there ever a time you felt the same emotion or had a similar reaction? Write about it.
7 | Consider how the childhood experience may have shaped your perspective and given you a skewed understanding or a fear. How might it have been different if you hadn’t had that childhood experience? What would you have believed about yourself, others, or your world without it? This may be a healthier perspective to go back to for moving forward with a healthier understanding of yourself.
8 | For deeper discovery and self-work, I highly recommend taking the course I took or finding a similar Life Skills program or even working one-on-one with a counselor. We all need assistance and guidance. No one can truly heal and be a whole person in this world without help and digging deep, no matter how perfect you may feel. I promise you.
À votre santé!