Do you consider yourself a perfectionist? Merriam Webster defines perfectionism as “a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.” Can you relate? I know I can! Although I don’t consider myself an all around perfectionist, there are certain areas in my life where I definitely have these tendencies! I want everything tidy and organized (perfect home); I am always on the lookout for the best calendar or menu planner (perfect systems); I’m a germaphobe (I want a perfectly germ-free environment); I expect others to meet my high standards (perfect friends).
While having high standards and doing things with excellence are commendable attributes of perfectionism, there can also be drawbacks when perfectionism becomes unhealthy. Here are 4 ways it could be keeping you from living a healthy, happy life (and the Scriptural truths to set you free):
1. It Can Steal Your Joy and Peace
Perfectionism can steal your joy and peace, because it causes you to create unrealistic expectations. If you expect life to be perfect all the time, you will be frustrated all the time. If your circumstances and surroundings must meet your impossibly high standards at all times, you cannot hope to live a life of joy and peace, because your life will never be perfect.
You may want to read that again. Your life will never be perfect. It can be wonderful and happy, full of blessings and abundance, but it will never be perfect this side of heaven. This knowledge should make us long for heaven all the more! But until then, if we want to experience joy and peace, we must rest in the perfect love of Christ and manage the imperfect world around us! He removes the burden of trying to “create perfect” in ourselves and in our circumstances.
“This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” -2 Samuel 22:31
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” -1 John 4:18
2. It Can Damage Relationships
Those who are perfectionist often have trouble establishing or maintaining close relationships. If you have impossibly high standards and expect everyone around you to meet them, you will constantly be frustrated with them. As we saw above, just as our surroundings and circumstances will never be perfect, other people will never be perfect (including ourselves!). We are all sinners in need of a perfect Savior! Once we acknowledge and embrace that no one is perfect, we can extend grace, overlook faults, and love genuinely.
“There is none righteous, no, not one.” -Romans 3:10
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” -1 Peter 4:8
3. It Can Make You Critical and Bitter
If left unchecked, unhealthy perfectionism can lead to a critical spirit and bitterness, because the perfectionist is always disappointed with other people and life in general. If you find that you rarely have anything positive or encouraging to say, it might be time to do a heart check. Are you expecting others to be perfect? Do you have a hard time showing grace to others? Do you complain because life never meets your impossibly high standards?
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28
4. It Can Keep You from Reaching Your Goals
They say that perfection is the enemy of progress. Perfectionists want their work to be perfect. They fear failure of any kind, and in order to avoid failure, they procrastinate. Does this sound familiar? Is there a project that you feel God is calling you to but you are dragging your feet because you may not do it perfectly?
One way to overcome the procrastination of perfectionism so that you can reach your goals is to tell yourself, “I am going to do my very best at ( _____________ ). It will not be perfect. I will make mistakes, and that’s okay! I may experience failures along the way. But with God’s help, I can accomplish this task/goal that God has given me and do it with excellence!” Learning to change our inner dialogue can be a huge help in overcoming procrastination due to perfectionism.
“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” -Proverbs 16:3
If you want to dig a little deeper into this topic, check out these helpful resources:
Dr. Richard Winter, Christian counselor and professor, gives an excellent overview of how unhealthy perfectionism can affect one’s life. He offers biblical solutions and sound advice for those who want to enjoy a happy, healthy life in the midst of an imperfect world. Very informative!
I love this booklet from Christian counselor and radio host, June Hunt! It’s only 93 pages, but it is jam-packed with thought-provoking information that can help anyone who struggles with perfectionism. She discusses the characteristics of perfectionists, the causes of becoming a perfectionist, and the biblical steps to solution. I highly recommend this powerful little book!
In addition to her helpful booklet, June has a wonderful podcast, where she discusses the pressure of perfectionism. Such a great talk! I highly encourage you to listen!
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