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  • Writer's pictureGuy Gourley

How to Escape the Perfectionism Trap

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

How to Escape the Perfectionism Trap

Lesson #1 Perfectionism is a harsh taskmaster. Once you let perfectionism start dictating your story or life, fear will soon render you powerless. Yes, there is a place for doing “it” right, but people and relationships are messy. Life is messy. They don’t always turn out the way we want.

Here’s hope. There is freedom in messiness. I know some perfectionists and Type A personalities are cringing right now, but hang on. Messy is healthy. That’s right, you heard me. Look, no one has it all together. It looks like that mom down the street is a super mom, but she’s struggling too. That man next door looks so successful, but he’s got his struggles too. How do I know? Well, first, I’m a fellow struggler.

Second, after 22 years of being a therapist, I can tell you they are struggling, too, even if it doesn’t look like it from the outside.

There is a point where you have to trust God that he is going to speak through you and ask Him to help you surrender that critical voice in your head. In professional speak, we call it “self-talk.” But it is more than self-talk. Sometimes it is reliance on self more than “God talk,” reliance on Him. There is a point where you must step out believing that God will work through you and let that voice of fear dry up.

Are you waiting for the “perfect time” to get started? Are you waiting for “when we get through this then…?” Everyone is in the same boat. The only difference between those who “do” and those who “don’t” is the willingness to do the things others won’t.

Everyone struggles from time to time with doubt, but it drains you of energy, hope, and joy. Now is the time to take a risk and trust that good things can happen from one small step. You’ll never know the great things God has for you if you don’t jump.

Lesson #2: Freedom to Jump. One of the ways you can learn to leap is to think of excellence, not perfection. Excellence is a mindset that says, “I’m going to do the very best I can with the time that I have, the resources, and the gifts I possess, and leave the rest to God. Excellence means you are willing to make mistakes and learn from them.

It means when kids have had double ear infections, you haven’t slept, the dog has thrown up on your new carpet, and it is the melting hour between 5 pm and 8 pm, you did the very best you could. It doesn’t have to be perfect; you conquered. Yes, there will be days when it is not pretty, but you will have prevailed.

Yes, there is always more you could do, but there is a point when whatever you’ve been “dwelling on” is draining you. We are not overwhelmed so much by what we have to do as much as by what we’re not doing. Most of the time, the things we fear the most about completing a task turn out to be far less burdensome once we’ve taken that first step. It doesn’t have to be “perfect”. It just has to be done. The performance and perfectionism trap is a killer, so remember, God will work through you. Don’t hold back; get it done and leave the rest to Him.

Lesson #3: The difference between perfectionism and excellence is anxiety. Anxiety starts to ramp up when I think something has been a certain way. Creativity unleashes that anxiety because it sees many options, not just one. Comparison to others often hinders us; it only makes us more anxious. So, before you even start, brainstorm. Think of the multiple options that are available to you. Tunnel vision only increases your anxiety. Create multiple ways that you can achieve your goal. Relax, trust, create, risk, and enjoy.

What will you do?

God is going to use you greatly! Just jump!

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