Perfection, or Perspective?

Perfection and perfectionism are extremely interesting to me. The pursuit of perfection seems to be all around us. Just Google the words “Beauty”, “Pretty”, and “Perfect”. The images alone astound me. One thing that I noticed is that no 2 images were the same. Why? Because perfect means something different to everybody. Take the simple art of eyebrows (yes, it has become an art!). The “in” brow changes with the season, the decade and even the shape of the face, yet people are continually trying to achieve it….

When I think of the fitness industry I have to realize that it has been built on the pursuit of perfection. This is why it is hard for those like me, who would rather people focus on health, to get their point across. We are all involved in this “ageless” world pursuit. We don’t want wrinkles or sagging skin. I was sitting in the pick up line at my son’s junior high this morning and noticed a group of girls walking into the school. They all sported short (too short of shorts, but that’s a different subject matter), and I realized that those youthful legs are what others kill themselves in the gym for! It astounded me that we are always working to either regain our youthfulness, or stave off signs of aging all together. What would we look like if God actually allowed us to reach perfection? I have a feeling many of us may be surprised at God’s perfection, which is the ONLY perfect thing.

So, what are we to do? Submit ourselves to aging? Just roll over and get flabby? Of course not. An ounce of prevention goes a LONG way. By the way, if it is loose skin that vexes you, all those deprivation diets you praised as your saving grace make it near impossible to rebuild the amount of collagen you need. We learn something new everyday! So, what can we do? Eat to live and enjoy the flavors God has placed on this Earth. He gave us the run of the land, all the veggies we can handle (trust me, it’s MORE than you think you can handle), the fowl of the air, the fish of the ocean, and the beasts of the land. Keep your food as natural as possible and your body will thank you. I really doubt God made Cheetos….

Another thing you can do is move. Don’t move to punish yourself and atone for past food sins, move to be able to move later. Do what feels good to your body. It doesn’t always have to feel great in the thick of it, but when you finish you should feel accomplished and refreshed, even if you’re sweaty and tired :)

Perfectionism is another issue that causes me trouble. Do I suffer from it? No. Not anymore at least. There is debate on whether perfectionism is an inherited trait or a learned response. There are loads of studies and psychology Today even deemed it a disease. After being bound to it myself and having to deal with those that suffer, I cannot say I disagree. It’s a trap of the mind, similar to any other mental illness. In my opinion though, it is a learned response. Most perfectionists learn this trait as a defense mechanism. I grew up with people in my family whom I never felt “good enough” around (note: not immediate family), and I still have some today. I learned to just adapt to what the world wanted me to look/act like and make any sacrifice necessary. Other perfectionists retreat into their world as a way to prove themselves worthy. I mean, if nobody can do it as good as I can… starts to make one a martyr after a while.

Psychology Today puts it this way:

For perfectionists, life is an endless report card on accomplishments or looks. A one-way ticket to unhappiness, perfectionism is typically accompanied by depression and eating disorders. What makes perfectionism so toxic is that while those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure, so theirs is a negative orientation. And love isn’t a refuge; in fact, it feels way too conditional on performance. Perfectionism is usually transmitted in little “messages” from parents to children, some as silent as a raised eyebrow over a B rather than an A.”

It truly is like living under the constant surveillance of failure. Here’s the thing though: failure is inevitable. We live in a fallen world, deemed subject to imperfection. So, is life then one big fail? Of course not! Life is a culmination of ALL of your choices. Each day you wake up to a choice: be slave or be free. Should you choose to be slave, you succumb to the call for perfection, judging yourself and others harshly for marks that aren’t even really there to hit. Choose free and you give in to the wild ride of life where you relinquish the control you only think you have, to the Father Who truly has control over all of life.

I must say it is a freeing thing to choose to be free. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to set us free. If we awake to the same old habits and negativity, we are not free. I received a wonderful complement a few weeks ago from a dear friend. She stated that I had a certain characteristic to not allow what others did or thought about me to bother me. This characteristic she refered to is a result of constant prayer to not be sucked into the trap of perfection. You see, instances in life have no control over you UNTIL you give them control. Defeat is not the final word of the enemy (the negative thoughts) UNLESS you allow it to be. All too often we give control over to those who do not deserve it and we are left to suffer.

One of the most important things to remember is that the hurtful words said about you may not be a result of you at all. Most people who spew hate battle hatred within their own hearts. I CHOOSE not to be one of those people. Daily, I pray (it takes a LOT of prayer!) that I may die to self, no longer seeking a perfection I alone cannot attain, but rather speaking and writing in love as I was called to do.

So, the choice is now yours, daily: FREEDOM OR SLAVERY: which do you choose?