The Good Enough Person

Posted by on Nov 13, 2012 in Faith, Mental Health | 4 comments

The Good Enough Person

I’ve noticed a nasty bug going around lately. I’m managing to stay healthy even though I’ve been exposed, but I’ve had a terrible bout of it before that seemed nearly impossible to overcome.  Worse than the flu, it drained my energy and enthusiasm for life.  Worse than food poisoning, it poisoned me on the inside so that I had trouble keeping anything good down when I needed it. Like any contagious illness or infectious disease, it left me more isolated and alone than I wished.  Perfectionism. Unlike a physical illness, it was hard to diagnose, treat, and make a full recovery because I didn’t even recognize that the symptoms were pointing to a greater underlying illness.

I see perfectionism running rampant, destroying quality of life and relationships while people continue under its unmanageable burden unaware. Perfectionism is easy to identify, really, and it’s everywhere if you start looking.  The symptoms are control, judgement, unforgiveness, bitterness, high demands and expectations, blame (of self or others),  fault finding, criticism, and of course, appearing perfect. Despite the appearance of perfection, it stinks underneath, and I’m tired of it.  I think other people must be, too.  Recently I posted The Good Enough Mother and it was by far the most popular thing I’ve ever written on this blog.  I wondered why, because I thought it was okay but it was by far not my favorite thing I’ve ever written. I think it got so much attention because it gave mothers, who are expected to present so perfectly so constantly, permission to just stop it already, to just accept their imperfections as a beautiful, important even, facet of their mothering.  I think it relieves people to hear mothers say publicly that they’re not perfect and that it’s okay to throw that pressure right off and move on – all the better if the imperfect mother is a child therapist who should know better!

So here’s the next installment: I’m not a perfect mother and I’m not a perfect person. I’m not a perfect spouse or cook or friend or Christian or therapist or anything.  Neither are you. We’re not perfect people, and we’re not meant to be – we are meant to be imperfect people connected to a perfect God.  And that is where our medicine comes from to cure the malady of perfectionism – it’s a heavy dose of grace.  Grace first and foremost received for ourselves every day from a God Who loves unconditionally and forgives freely. Then grace given to all of those imperfect messes around us, which incidentally, happens to be everyone. Grace is easy to give when received – it overflows out of your heart to cover over the mistakes and imperfections of those around you.  Whatever is in your heart will overflow and make its way out.  In that way, the ugliest thing about perfectionism is that the pressure we put on ourselves to be a certain way overflows out of us to magnify the mistakes and imperfections of others. It is absolutely destructive to self and relationship.

Can we collectively agree to kick not just the Perfect Mother to the curb, but also the facade of being able to achieve perfection in any part of our personalities or lives? To throw the choking, life-sucking pressure of perfectionism right off of ourselves and move on? Instead, we could give ourselves permission to just stop it already, to just accept our imperfections as beautiful, important even, facets of our personalities. Truly, when submitted to God in humility and shared with others in transparency, our weaknesses and blemishes become what draw people to us, what exude grace and acceptance, what encourage people who are struggling. Growth and change are important pursuits, but the pursuit of perfection steals joy, vulnerability, and peace. The pursuit of God and grace transforms you effortlessly into someone better while relieving the pressure on yourself and the people around you to perform with perfection.

 

 

4 Comments

  1. C…lovely. I could hear Winnicott in there. Are you reading any of Brene Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability? “The Gifts of Imperfection” and “Daring Greatly.”

    • I have not read anything by Brene Brown but I plan to, I keep hearing wonderful things about Daring Greatly. Glad you mentioned her!

  2. Well said and well written! Would you mind if I send this link to a few ladies in my small group at church? We are reading Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst and your post today speaks to the group discussion we just had this morning.

    • Thanks, Janea! Yes, you are welcome to share.

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