i wanted to be perfect

everything had to be tiny. for some reason tiny meant perfect, so i began writing miniscule and my teachers complained for their eyes hurting, but there was safety in that small scrawl. in the little letters lined up neat and blue.

i wrote small until i felt small, until my jeans said size zero and i knew i’d gone as little as i could without disappearing altogether. i wrote small until i had nothing more to say. and then i waited to feel good. i waited to feel the way perfection is meant to feel. i waited to feel the love the world told me skinny would earn. but all i got was admitted into a hospital.

i grew up in a christian home, in a homeschooling home where parents compared children and curriculum. i grew up with a pastor for a father, so the church was watching us too. i grew up with an abnormal desire to please everyone and found that no one was ever pleased, all the time, so i stopped eating because everyone’s disappointment hurt too much.

we were to be seen and not heard. i didn’t say anything. i just starved myself, and that was my silent rebellion. my way of begging to be heard.

we were made to desire perfection, for God is perfect, but not in the way that the church and the homeschooling family seems to think. perfection is not something that can be earned. it is not a behavior, or a set of rules. rather, it is a holy state of being. it is harmony; it is the absence of evil; it is good winning over evil; it is love.

perfect is not size zero, or polite children. perfect is God becoming incarnate in us. perfect is the kingdom of heaven being realized on earth. perfect is justice, is mercy, is kindness.

we long for perfection because we were made to look like our father, and he is perfect. but that’s just it. HE is perfect. HIM in us. not us trying to be like him.

some questions:

1. how do you sub-consciously strive for the wrong kind of perfection?

2. why do you long for perfection?

3. how do you think you might impose this expectation of perfection on your children/spouse/friends?

4. how can we inspire our children towards the right kind of perfection? the kingdom-kind?

(part 2 of ‘What it means to look like God’)

for videos and discussion questions on walking in healing, please visit here.

*please note, i am not trying to blame the church or homeschooling.  i know that many holy, grace-filled examples of both, do exist…


11 thoughts on “i wanted to be perfect

  1. Your 4th question is what I am currently dealing with. My 7 yr old son is a lot like I was at his age. Everything had to be perfect. I want to teach him how to persevere and yet not be so hard on himself to live in that state of grace that God extends to us!

    • dear eileen… what a caring mama you are. to be able to see this, in your son, and to desire to teach him how to not be so hard on himself… yes, sometimes we are just born with the tendency to be over-achievers (i believe i was)… God knew what he was doing when he put your son with you. you have a blessed boy. and why is grace so hard to learn? perhaps hardest for those of us over-achievers… xo

  2. This statement: we long for perfection because we were made to look like our father, and he is perfect. but that’s just it. HE is perfect. HIM in us. not us trying to be like him.

    So good and true! We are holy because He IS holy. We love because He first loved us, because He IS love in us. I am learning–Love is the answer. The more we are saturated in God’s love for us, the less we reach for perfection outside ourselves, the more content we are to be who He created us to be. I wish I could get this across to my girls. They are obsessed with body-image, and driven to self-hatred at times because their bodies don’t measure up to what the world says they should look like. Only a revelation of God’s love can heal this void. I am thankful for your words. Someday, I hope they will read them. Keep shining the light! Love and hugs.

  3. I am scared of my perfectionism, now more for my daughter than for me. We left our pediatrician because he’s been making a big deal about her weight since she was three years old. Not in an over-the-top way, but in a way that stressed me out. I dabbled in eating disorders for about five or six years, and though my behavior is now fine, I know my mind is not. (I planned to do a spiritual fast for three days last year, and gave up after two because it was awakening some scary things in me). As a parent, I feel I need to provide my daughter with guidance in making healthy choices, but I struggle with how much I should say. I don’t want to give the sole responsibility to my husband either, because I know how much weight that male opinion carries for a daughter. I find even in this, parenting my child and developing her self-esteem, and can’t escape the perfectionism. My most frequent prayer is that God would give her grace for me…

    • hello dear stacie,
      you know, i left my doctor because he was obsessed with weight, too… and i don’t think that’s such a bad thing (to leave because of that)… it is only natural that we be sensitive to issues such as that, due to our pasts, and i think more parents should be careful concerning those matters… although there’s a fine line, isn’t there? it’s a fine balance. after all, weight is a natural part of life, and eating too, and we shouldn’t be afraid of it, but to treat it with grace and to recognize that our view of it might be warped…

      and as you so candidly admitted, we are still healing (something which is an ongoing thing, friend… i believe it’s much like salvation… it’s a daily choice, a lifelong journey)…

      the thing is, you are aware… you are very aware, and this makes you fall on your knees before God, and that is what matters. we all struggle. just keep begging for grace, and he will give it. that’s all you can do. and keep being real with your daughter, and let her know about your past, and share the load with your husband because you’re right: fathers play a big role in how their daughters view themselves. and the biggest thing you can do for your daughter is to love yourself… to work towards loving yourself, and she will see this and want to do the same.

      you are a gift… xo

  4. Pingback: Being Perfect in an Imperfect World « Write into the Light™

  5. 1. I strive for perfection sub consiously with keeping up with what I was told would make me better.
    *keeping the car & house clean
    *by not making a choice about something for fear of not being
    *only sharing the positives with certain ppl to keep image going
    2. I long for perfection because I fear not being in control & letting stuff go.
    3. I prolly impose this onto my dh most & I do this by putting expectations on him to live up to my idea of perfection.
    4. If I can learn to allow Christ to manifest Himself through me then each day will be a successful experience under His guidance.

    • my dear frogla, it is great to hear from you… i love how honest you are. this fear of not being in control, where does it stem from, do you think? and number four is dead-on… it’s just a matter of letting go in order to let him. this, the hardest. but he will give you strength….

  6. thank you @chasingsilhouette! The fear stems from one sexual abuse & molestation @ age 5 & 7 & also living under abusive patriarch like parents. It was scary!

  7. emily, i don’t know how to answer those questions… i am so opposite. in fact, as i was reading, i was thinking, that’s not “perfect”… in my mind, right or wrong, i was thinking, perfect is living fully and wholly and truly as we are and knowing when we wrong, when we are less than perfect, we make sincere appologies, changes to prevent it from happening again, and ask forgiveness. and it is given. and that is perfection.

    we don’t expect perfection from our children; we know better. and we love them fully anyway! we know they grow and they grow better by learning from being less than perfect. i think God is the same way… he knows we are not perfect, but he expects us to try, just like i expect mine to do their best and try. and when they fall short, when we fall short, if we are being true, we are forgiven. and even helped.

    i don’t long for perfection; i think that’s a fantasy. a boring fantasy. i long for raw truth and love and forgiveness and growth. to be the best i can be. to be better, not to be perfect.

    and i always worry about writing such things, that it will be misinterpreted. i try to hold to the faith that you know my heart and know that i’m just being vulnerable with my truest beliefs. that i could inspire you, or these readers, to let go of the chains of the hopes of perfection. i don’t even like the word.

    and i think you are perfect. you are loving, genuine, faithful, tender most perfect Emily W. there is.

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