Something amazing happened recently! I decided to do a workout video at home so that I could get exercise in before preschool pickup (that’s not the amazing thing, please keep reading). I turned it on, thinking that it was about 40 minutes long. When it began to play I realized that it was an hour long! I literally didn’t have time for that.
Normally, I would just shut it off and not do anything but I was trying to complete an exercise challenge on my apple watch and needed a workout completed for the day. (I am competitive and use challenges to help keep me motivated to stay in shape.) I saw that the video had a fifteen-minute warm-up so I fast-forwarded through it and did my own, shortened warm-up. (This in itself is huge – I’m not following instructions to the letter – a big no-no for a perfectionist!)
I then started the main part of the video. After about thirty minutes, I realized that I needed to leave so I stopped it, did a quick cool-down, and headed out. Now, to a normal person, this probably sounds fairly ordinary. I had a hard deadline I could not ignore so I did what was needed. However, I am not a normal person; I am a perfectionist. My bent is to do it right or not at all. Doing an exercise video right means to complete the whole thing, and, if that’s not possible, then not even starting it. Only doing part of the video is considered failure, the worst fear of a perfectionist because s/he believes that to fail means to be a failure and, therefore, unlovable and worthless.
I realize the idea that I failed probably sound ridiculous to many people. I exercised for 30+ minutes – sounds like a win for my health, right? My brain doesn’t think like that. It says, “You didn’t do everything in the video so it doesn’t count.” Obviously, the sweat accumulated and calories burned don’t just disappear, but my head marks the experience off as a failure. I wasn’t perfect, the video was unfinished, so I failed.
However, I am growing in this area of perfectionism and realizing that it’s impossible to be perfect at all times in all things. Choosing to do some of the video rather than none is a huge step for me. I was able to recognize the lie I usually tell myself that it’s better not to try than to try and fail or be imperfect in the execution. I gave myself permission to be imperfect and still believe that I am loved and valuable.
God is really working on me in this area. Realizing that my personality skews toward perfectionism helps me to give myself grace and be more aware of the behaviors and inaccurate thoughts that come from the drive to be perfect.
I don’t want to be captive to perfectionism. I want to live free and that requires truly believing that I am loved, accepted, and valuable in spite of my flaws. I am learning more and more that God can bring good things out of my imperfections if I am willing to admit to myself and others that I am not perfect.