There’s this commercial that keeps popping up in my newsfeed on Facebook from Crate and Barrel.
On the forefront, this seems to be a great video for the idea of gracious hospitality. People are showing up, unexpected, at the door, but they are all welcomed in. However, does anyone else notice how well those unexpected arrivals are received? The brother comes with the couple, a perfect place setting. Grandma’s boyfriend is a vegan? Perfectly cooked and arranged vegetables on a beautiful plate. There’s no squishing or discomfort, but everyone is seated around the well-decorated table with plenty of room for elbows and no one fighting over anything.
Honestly? I would love to have this, because I have bought into the idea that with enough planning and prepping (and apparently well stocked red plates), I can attain the perfection that I so desire. But I’ve learned that while chasing perfection can lead to some improvement, it also dead ends for me in anxiety.
My perfectionism typically rears its ugly head during blank slate moments (moving to a new area, starting a new job, etc). Over the years, through a lot of failing, I’ve learned that there are few flaws to my desire for perfectionism. While it doesn’t completely remove the desire, it helps me to see the bigger picture.
First, society’s idea of perfectionism is not what God calls me to be. Paul had every reason to be considered perfect in his time. He had the pedigree and the education. He knew how to do life perfectly in his community, but in Philippians 3, he says “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” God doesn’t call me to be successful, only faithful. He calls me to press on, to keep going, and to have faith. In my weakness, in my failure, God’s grace shines. That’s when people will see it. How could I show people the grace of God, if I spend most of the time acting like I don’t need it?
Second, I have this idea that being perfect will help me obtain respect. And that respect will keep me from being left out of things because people will think I’m dependable and capable. It’s something I use to try to control how people think of me, but the reality is I have no control over that. If someone is set on not liking me, not inviting me, not including me, there is nothing I will ever be able to do to prove myself to them. And I don’t think God wants me to make that my top priority anyway. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” not the admiration of others.
Third, none of my friends are perfect. It’s funny how much I obsess about being perfect when it really isn’t a top priority on how I choose my own friends. In fact, the messier the better. I don’t want to have friends who have figured it all out, who can tell me the secrets of life. I want friends who want to figure out this life together. So why would I think these same awesome friends would expect anything different from me? The best memories come from the hardest days. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. Life is complicated, and I want to surround myself with people who get that, and who are willing to stick by me in those dark cloudy days, pointing out the silver linings and laughing in the rain with me.
While I know these things logically, it still doesn’t keep me from wanting to be perfect. The desire is rooted deep. And I’ve held onto it tightly for a long time. I’m trying to take steps away from it, though. That’s why I’m doing the vlogs, a way for me to document the good and not so good all at once. It’s a reminder to me that life doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be a good one. I imagine that this desire to be perfect will find its way back into my thoughts when I become a mother, which is why I’m trying now to let it go. I don’t want to pass this on to my kids. I want them to let go of perfection and embrace completion in Christ, and I realize the best way I can teach that is to do it for myself. So this is where I am on this journey. Not anywhere close to where I want to be, but taking a step closer every day.