My Battle with Perfectionism…
It’s been a hot minute since I have posted anything in here. For that I apologize. I don’t know, I’ve been in a different place the past year and honestly….haven’t had much to say publicly as the Lord has done so much work on me personally and with my amazing little family.
A few days ago I picked up the new book by Brene Brown, “Dare to Lead” and have been absolutely been devouring it. If you have not read it yet…stop reading this blog post and do yourself a favor and go get it.
I’ve always loved her writing, but I think it’s her ability to paint a flowing picture of both the struggles/problems we face as leaders AND the solutions or “anecdotes” as she calls them at the same time.
Reading through her newest masterpiece brought up an old adversary of mine that I wrestled with for most of my life until just a couple years ago:
I was born with an insatiable need to PERFORM.
Not a tendency to it…but literally a physical and emotional NEED to be good at anything and everything I did.
I was praised for it my entire life as if I was this phenom of driven passion for success. I was put on podiums and pedestals to talk about it over and over again….
But the thing all my teachers and coaches and everyone else never knew was that I was exhausted and it never filled me up. I NEVER once felt fulfilled after I hit a goal or won a championship or broke a record…ever.
And I never actually knew why. I honestly just believed I was more driven than most people and I settled for calling it barely contained passion.
But that wasn’t it…
The Lord showed me a couple years ago at a business conference (First Steps to Success by Dani Johnson) of all places that all my striving for my entire life, all my awards, all my accomplishments and successes had nothing to do with me being passionate.
They all had everything to do with me being DESPERATE.
That’s right. I did all of the things I did (and most of them good things…) out of sheer desperation.
But desperate for what?! On the outside I had everything.
Successful athlete that went on from a small town to become a doctor…
Amazing wife and kids…
Called on to travel and speak on stages across the globe…
But none of it was from a healthy place. At it’s core it was a hollow place in my heart.
One thing some of you don’t know about me is that I was adopted as a baby. I never knew and have never met my birth parents.
My adoptive parents are and have always been incredible and I was fortunate to grow up in an amazing environment where I had everything I needed to succeed.
But the lie the enemy had planted in my heart and soul from the moment of my birth was that in order for people to love me and for people to accept me…I had to do one thing:
It was nothing my parents or teachers or coaches did or didn’t do that set me up for this…..
Learning that achievement equaled approval and acceptance early on was like touching lighter fluid with a lit match.
I craved it…
I HAD to have it…
I was terrified of losing or not performing…
My best friend and I who competed all through school together in every single thing we could possibly turn into a competition (love you Greg!) would always say growing up:
“I don’t know if I love winning so much or if we just hate losing so dang bad!”
It never in a million years dawned on me until a couple years ago what was happening and why I HAD to start new businesses all the time. Why I HAD to do fitness programs that involved competition. Why I HAD to always top whatever I had just done….over and over and over again until it almost ruined my marriage and lost me everything.
I was trapped by and addicted to Perfectionism.
Brown says it like this:
“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a defensive move.”
By succeeding at everything and trying to be the best at every single thing I did…it created a barrier around the one thing I needed more than anything else:
to be accepted and loved regardless of what I DID.
Brown goes on:
“Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval.”
“Perfectionism is not a way to avoid shame. Perfectionism is a function of shame”
OUCH!!!! It’s so so true and reading that now from a place of realization and healing it is so obvious and so freeing….
I was ashamed at being given up by the ones who gave me life…
I was ashamed at being what I thought was un-wanted…
I was ashamed at not being enough for them for them to keep…
All the lies. All the ways the enemy twists the truth…no matter how many times I had told people the actual opposite over the years.
So a couple years ago, actually in January of 2016 in Orlando, Florida, the Lord broke this shackle off of me once and for all and released me from ever needing to go back there again.
I went to the conference not having a clue as to what it was about and this blog isn’t about all of that.
On the first day though the speaker said, (paraphrased)
“In order to get to where you want to be and reach your goals…first you have to learn to forgive”
I kind of chuckled and was like, “Sweet, I’ve already done this but I’ll go through the motions so that the rest of these people can get the help they need…”
LOLOL….that’s exactly what I think I even said out loud!!!
So we pull out paper and she said,
“I want you to write down a list of all the people you need to forgive..”
So being a good student I write down some people on that list that I figured had done stuff to me who I could forgive. I even put my birth mom and birth dad on there without even realizing what I was doing just trying to “dig deep” and engage at this conference. (I had no idea what was coming.)
After we did that the speaker said,
“Ok, now that you have that list, at the very top of that list…I want you to write YOUR name on there. Because the first person you need to forgive is YOU.”
There have been a handful moments in my life where what the Lord was trying to tell me hit me so hard it felt like a sledgehammer to my chest and this was one of those.
I began shaking and literally crying right there in my seat (along with hundreds of others)…
The next words out of the speaker’s mouth broke the bondage I had been under to Perfectionism my entire life…
“The Lord wants you to know that you are loved and accepted just because you are YOU and NOT because of anything you have ever or will ever do.”
Tears were still flowing…
Then she said,
“The Lord wants you to stop STRIVING and just start ABIDING.”
I was stunned and that whole weekend was still a blur for me because I don’t remember how many people were there because it felt like I was in the room by myself and that the Lord and I were nose to nose.
It felt like He walked over to me and as He wrapped His arms around me, He lovingly but firmly took the giant weights I had placed on my own shoulders, broke them in half and flung them away.
Brown perfectly describes the struggle:
“Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because perfection doesn’t exist. It’s an unattainable goal. Perfection is more about perception than internal motivation.”
Do I still have to check myself and does Cindy still have to tap me on the shoulder at times and reign me in?? Of course…
Salvation is instant…redemption is a lifelong journey.
I am still driven and still passionate…but now instead of HAVING to DO all the things….I GET to do the things the Lord shows me to do and know that if there’s nothing pressing He brings to me that I am enough…even if I do nothing.
Someone needs to hear this today.
You hear leaders say all the time, “You are Enough!” but that doesn’t feel right and something feels off about that every time.
Or even if you feel that and really try to embrace it…it never lasts.
It’s because you in yourself are NOT enough…not even close.
I had Philippians 4:13 etched into a piece of workout equipment I had made for me recently because it is a reminder that no matter what I do from here on out or what I accomplish or what I achieve or whatever…NONE of that is because I myself am capable of it or enough.
The only reason I can do anything at all is Jesus. That’s it and that is all.
You are loved friend…
You are accepted…
You are chosen…
Just as you are.
“No more striving…Just start abiding.”
Love you guys,