Why Perfectionism Will Always Steal Our Peace
Why Perfectionism Will Always Steal Our Peace
Categories: RECENT RESEARCH
Lisa Murray, M.A., L.M.F.T.
It’s always there. Like a mosquito I keep swatting, as it buzzes around my head, torturing me with its presence. Just when I think I have come to accept myself, embrace my flaws, and live in peace, perfectionism sneaks right up and bites me, draining the life and peace right out of me.
I am reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:7, when he wrote of the thorn in his flesh, the thing he had prayed and petitioned three times to be removed, and yet, it still remained. Though many scholars have differing opinions as to the nature of Paul’s “thorn,” I sometimes wonder if his struggle wasn’t with perfectionism. Mine is.
Perfectionism. That thing that keeps me striving. Moving. Craving. Doing.
Most of us can find ourselves trapped in the cycle of perfectionism. We are baited by the belief that our worth, our identity, can be found in the place of perfection. We are critical, shaming, condemning of ourselves. Fueled by an incessant craving for validation and approval, we’ll do just about anything to hide from our flaws or run from them at all cost.
Here is an excerpt from my new book, Peace For a Lifetime, that shares why perfectionism will always drain us and steal away our peace.
I learned as a young child that I needed to be special; I needed to perform well in order to get the love and approval for which I was so desperate. If others didn’t think I was good enough, I had to do better, be better, be perfect and then they would see that I was worthy of their love.
A story from my childhood was pivotal in birthing my counterfeit and creating a perfect environment for her to flourish. Chris—my brother whom I love, respect, and adore—is two years older than me and was discovered early on to be a prodigy on the piano. As a result, he always found favor wherever he went. He played professionally as a child and was admired for his many gifts. Chris was special and loved by everyone who met him.
I took piano lessons right alongside my brother, but what took him ten minutes to learn and perfect took me ten hours to learn and perfect. I persevered and won my share of awards in the various competitions in which we participated, but piano-playing never came easily for me.
On my first day of junior high school, I was so excited for 6th period to arrive, as this was to be my first day in the McLane Junior High School Choir. As we all crowded into the room and took our seats, the choir director, Ms. Clawsen, began to call the roll. When she got to my name she stammered, “Lisa Springer (my maiden name)! Lisa Springer! Are you Chris Springer’s sister?” Before I could even reply, with the choir standing in their respective sections, she had ushered me to the piano, and was giving me the downbeat to the 1970s radio hit, And I’d Really Love to See You Tonight.
Everything was good for the first four bars. I was even feeling I might be able to pull this thing off when the ground began to give way around me and I crashed and burned in the figurative, humiliating, death-defying sense. What I remember most was Ms. Clawsen lowering her baton, looking at me, and flatly stating, “Oh, I guess you’re not your brother.”
The sting of that moment changed the way I experienced everything from then on, especially the way I experienced myself. At that moment, I began living out of a need to receive others’ approval, respect, and love. At that moment, I left myself and began to embrace my counterfeit self because that was easier, perhaps safer than experiencing the pain of my authentic self being rejected.
You do not have to live in fear of rejection. You do not have to become perfect to become worthy. You do not have to remain trapped in the cycle of perfectionism. You can experience the love and acceptance you desire.
I share simple, practical life steps in my book, Peace For a Lifetime, that can help you find freedom from perfectionism and understand the life God desires for you. This material can help you create and experience an indestructible peace – not just for today, not just for tomorrow, you can experience peace…for a lifetime!
Lisa Murray is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Franklin, TN, with an undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University, as well as a graduate degree from Trevecca University. In 2007 Lisa founded the Counseling and Family Ministries at Grace Chapel in Leipers Fork, TN, where she not only works to help individuals, couples, and families, deal with the complexities and challenges of life and relationships, she also treats a full spectrum of mental health issues.
Having walked through her own struggles with anxiety, despair, and perfectionism, Lisa enjoys helping others as they explore and discover spiritual and emotional healing in their lives and relationships. You can read more of Lisa’s articles at www.lisamurrayonline.com You can also follow her on Facebook: Lisa Murray, or on Twitter: @_Lisa_Murray.