Perfectionism is a side effect of pride.
This was recently pointed out by a friend of mine in a conversation about feeling like we have to be good enough.
LEARNING TO LEAN INTO IMPERFECTION
When things are going well, we think we've got it all down, under control. We get overly confident thinking we can handle everything ourselves. Then when things fall apart, we feel crazy and out of control. We go into panic mode, wondering what's going to happen when we're no longer keeping all the plates spinning, how bad the mess is going to be, and how we can cover it up so nobody else notices.
But by exposing our imperfections, we actually engage with others on a deeper level and demonstrate something far greater than our ideal, picture-perfect lives ever could.
I think I have this idea in life that I need to be pulled together, and shiny, and perfectly “On” in order to make a difference in the world. I know I don’t have to be perfect, but I feel like I need to be buttoned up, well-spoken, to have my thoughts perfectly articulated in a way that’s funny, insightful, and always thought through.
And for the past several weeks, God’s been speaking something entirely different to me about how we make a difference.
He’s been saying that just by showing up, and just by being us, and just by letting people see our hearts as we love Him, and our husbands, and our friends, and our family, and our work to the best of our ability — that’s all we need to do.
He’s been teaching me that we can make a bigger difference than we can even imagine just by showing up and letting people see us as we are — imperfect and doing the best we can...
You, as you are today, are enough to make a positive difference in the world. It’s not because you have your words perfectly chosen, or your outfit carefully selected. It’s not because you’re “On”, or at your best, or because you and your husband are at your most synchronized and charming. It’s because you’re you. You’re you, God is in you, and when we let people see us as we really are, God’s able to show them what He’s capable of in a heart and a life that’s surrendered to Him. -Stephanie May Wilson
When we expose our real, imperfect selves, we give others permission to do the same. When we open up the doors of our homes despite their messiness, share meals that aren't photo-worthy in loud, chaotic homes with grumpy family members, engage in conversations when we're not feeling particularly social or amiable, we allow our relationships to become far more authentic than they would be if we only lived in the polished, well-prepared-for moments.
I'm a recovering perfectionist. I used to think I had to do everything perfectly and keep all my ducks in a row twenty-four-seven. But life doesn't work that way; it's not that orderly and nice. Life is messy, and if we try to make all the color fit inside our lines, we're going to be disappointed by the final product.
If instead we hold our plans, goals, and dreams with open hands, we'll be more adaptable and content. It's good to have plans. It's good to dream. We need some sort of structure for our days and goals for our future, or we would never accomplish things or challenge ourselves to grow. But if we try to force everything to go our way, we're going to have a hard time when life inevitably throws us curve balls.
"We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." --Proverbs 16:9
I've learned to be more flexible only through trial and error. I fought for so long to try to make things fit into my plan and my timing, but that's just not how it works. I've discovered that all I can do is try my best to use what I've been given, and trust that it will all work out in the end, even if I can't see that yet.
In the daily details, that means putting my heart and soul into my work but knowing that my work doesn't determine my worth. It means focusing on the things that are truly important-- like my people, my passions, and my purpose-- and letting go of the things that aren't-- comparison, having a perfectly clean house, mastering Twitter, having the coolest new toys, or getting a new car.
It also means doing my part of the work and not worrying about the results. It means writing, coaching, and posting about the things that have captured my heart and trusting that they are having their effect, even if I can't see it in the metrics. It means learning to laugh at my mistakes and learn from them instead of beating myself up about them (something I have to choose to work on over and over again).
Our lives won't be perfect, but they can be good. They can be fun. They can be full. They can bring us (and others) joy. But we can either spend our time trying to make them perfect or we can make them real, abundant, and messy. We can't have both.
WHAT VULNERABILITY LOOKS LIKE
Vulnerability helps us break through our perfectionism. If we share our hearts, we're declaring that we're not perfect and we're not trying to be. In our heads, we know that nobody is perfect (thank you, Miley Cyrus), but it takes sharing our imperfections in a vulnerable, authentic way for us to cement that knowledge and build a bridge with others.
Vulnerability is scary, I'm not going to sugarcoat that. But I promise that it is worth it ten times over!
When we choose to share our hearts despite the fear, we gain a little bit of ground back in the name of goodness and love. When we step out in authenticity and declare that we are perfectly imperfect and wholly loved, we take power back from the fear and lies that whisper we're not good enough unless we're tall, thin, blonde bombshells who are brilliant, athletic, talented businesswomen, wives, daughters, mothers, creators, cooks, chauffeurs, and hosts who are into Crossfit, keto, paleo, essential oils, yoga, international travel, and can manage to look flawless on their Instagram feed while documenting it all.
Vulnerability looks like telling your friend that you're actually not okay today, whether that's because you're stressed about all the deadlines and projects piling up at work while your coworker's on vacation or because you ate too much chips and guac this weekend and can't fit into your jeans or because you feel like you don't have anyone to call when you've just had a rough day.
Vulnerability looks like being willing to share how you're really doing, what your life and home really look like, and what's really going on without any filters or disclaimers. It means jumping on that Facebook Live video without perfect lighting or a quiet home, saying "um" and "like" too many times because it's live and you're nervous, but doing it anyway. And do you know what happens when you do that? People love it! They're all about that authenticity and genuine connection. They want to see the real you! Our culture is full of airbrushed photos and carefully curated feeds and stories; people are craving what's real.
So whether your version of vulnerability looks like opening up your messy home to a friend who needs a listening ear or showing your real, messy life on social media to really show who you are, I invite you to take that step! Show people the real you. Build real, genuine relationships without the barrier of forced perfectionism.
WHAT IT REALLY COMES DOWN TO
It comes down to starting the conversation. It begins with us going first. It starts with us showing up as our authentic selves. Our relationships will be deeper. Our work will be better. Our stress will lower. And other people will be freed to do the same.
Certainly, this requires a great deal of vulnerability and courage, but if the alternative is never feeling comfortable in our own skin because we're expecting an unattainable amount of perfection from ourselves (and consequently, from others), which is really a picture of how you want to live? Wouldn't you rather be freed from the burden of your unreasonable expectations? I know I want to live like that.
Today I'm challenging myself and I'm challenging you to aspire to greater authenticity and vulnerability in the name of breaking through perfectionism. I'm cheering you on as you invite people into the mess and share the real you with your real people and on social media. Together we can create a culture and community of real, genuine life and inspire others to do the same!
And if you're looking for a community where that's the deal you get, I invite you to join The Joy + Full Living Community, friend! We'd love to have you!