Fear of Failure

Three Steps to Winning the War of Perfectionism

Why do I hate confrontation?

Why do I feel attacked when someone questions my decision?

Why do I get into a power struggle with my six year old?

Have you ever asked yourself these or similar questions?

These are all frustrations I face and am currently wrestling through.  For me the answers to these questions go back to the topic I introduced last week: Am I Worthy of Love.

I shared with you last week that as a child I began seeking the approval of others to validate my value and my worth in the world.  Whatever I did, I wanted to be the best because the best meant recognition, and in my mind recognition or praise equaled love.  I wanted to be perfect.

As I’ve come to grips with this reality in my own life, I realized that this lie has influenced many areas in my life…some for the good and others not so good.

First of all, as a child the perfectionist in me drove me to get good grades, to behave at school, to give my all in sports, and to develop a strong work ethic.  All of these have benefited me as an adult.  But there are some negatives that go along with believing the lie of perfectionism, specifically the lie that my worth is determined by others.

First, I HATE when people question me.  Even an innocent question from my kids about why I did something a certain way sends my mind into a tailspin.  I begin thinking they are questioning my character or my ability to parent, or maybe they don’t trust me.  I begin to talk negatively to myself and feel I have to defend myself to world.  It’s an awful place to be.

Have you ever been there?  Your friend, colleague or family member innocently asks, “So why did you do that?” And you feel like you are in the hot seat and you need to defend every decision you have ever made?

It happened to me just the other day.  My daughter asked me why I didn’t read the name on a piece of paper to her a month ago.


My mind started spinning, and I felt like she was questioning everything about my ability to be a mom. But thankfully, I caught myself.  I recognized this trigger, and I called a time out.

I literally told her I needed a few minutes alone for a “mommy timeout.”  I left the room.  I took time to breath and figure out what just happened, and then I reminded myself of the truth: I am imperfect, and I am loved.

I’m guessing that if you are like me, you can relate.  And maybe you think you are crazy when little things get under your skin.  Or you wonder why you get so worked up when your patience is tested.  But my friend, you are not crazy.  And you are not alone.

Somewhere along the journey of life, you (like me) probable began to believe that you have to prove yourself to the world.  This is an exhausting act…one that wears you out and leads you down the road of defensiveness and self-doubt.

Eventually, when you are worn down, you react.

You work tirelessly to prove yourself to the world in an effort to be loved, and at the same time you live with the anxiety of someone finding out that you are imperfect.

This is an stressful and exhausting balancing act.

So what do you do?

How do you overcome a belief that you have lived by your entire life?

  1. Acknowledge it.
  2. Take a timeout when you need to.
  3. Begin to replace the lies with the truth.

Let’s break these down a little bit.

1. Acknowledge the belief that being imperfect is bad. And recognize the triggers.

If you grew up in the 80’s like me, then you probably remember that “knowing is half the battle,” right? Well, honestly it is.  Knowing and recognizing your triggers is the first step to overcoming them.  We get into trouble when we don’t recognize the triggers and we continue trudging through life unaware of the cause of our stress.  Being aware of your triggers DOES NOT make them go away, and for a time can actually be frustrating because now you recognize when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, but knowing is only half that battle, so it doesn’t solve the problem.

For me, acknowledging my trigger, is being aware of my mind and my body.  I try to recognize when my heart rate goes up, when I begin to feel frustrated, or when my shoulders begin to tighten…these are all signs for me that I have just been triggered.

What about you?  Do you know the signs for yourself that something has caused the stress to increase?  When you can recognize the effects of the trigger, then you can better understand what the actual trigger is.

2. Take a time out to dig deeper.

After you begin to recognize your triggers, it is time to work through them.  I do this by stepping away from the situation, taking deep breaths and asking myself a few questions:

  1. What triggered me?
  2. What did I believe about myself because of the trigger?
  3. What is true?

If we want to move through life without reacting, we have to be proactive in understanding what the root cause is.  This often begins with a negative message you send yourself when you are triggered.

For me, when I am questioned about my decisions, I send this negative message, “Faith, you don’t make wise choices.  You shouldn’t trust your own decisions because you aren’t good at making them.”

Now, do I audibly hear this message? No!  But I feel it in my heart and mind, which is why I need a time out. I have to step away from the situation long enough to figure out what message I just told myself that stirred up anxiety for me. Once I know my trigger, and I know why the trigger stirs up anxiety, then I can move on to step three.

3. Replace the lies with the truth.

When I know what lie I am telling myself, i.e. “You make poor decisions.” Then I can take a step back and evaluate that statement.

I can literally look at my life and ask myself, “Do I really make poor decisions?” For me, the answer to this is, “no.” Sometimes the lie I tell myself is, “You are a bad mom.” Or “Other moms don’t get frustrated at the little things.”  Whatever the lie is, it is my job to evaluate the negative message and replace it with truth.

Sometimes, I can look at my own past and discover the truth, other times talking to other people helps me figure out the truth.  I can ask other mom’s, “Do you ever get frustrated at this little thing?” When they say, “YES! All the time!” Then I know that my lie isn’t the truth.

Both of these are helpful.  But the absolute best place to find the truth, is in the Word of God.  Jesus said it best when He said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

In today’s freebie, we’ll dig in deeper on practical ways to replace the lies with the truth using God’s Word.  It is an exercise I have my Bible study ladies do as a part of the Loving My Life study.  And it is something I do regularly in my own life.  I can’t wait to share it with you!

In this free guide, I take scripture, and I break it down line by line allowing myself to discover the truth.  As I discover the truth, the lies begin to fade.  And I have the truth of God’s Word as a weapon when the lies sneak back in. Click here for your free guide to discovering truth: The Truth Test.

When we begin to acknowledge our triggers, take a time out to dig deeper, and replace the lies with the truth, we can truly begin to find freedom in Jesus.

Trying to live a perfect life is exhausting and IMPOSSIBLE.  Accepting that I am imperfect is a journey for me.  I know have everything figured out, but I am committed to staying the course.  I pray that this resource helps you in your own journey.  If it does would you mind liking, commenting, or sharing with a friend?  Thanks!

2 comments on “Three Steps to Winning the War of Perfectionism

  1. Pingback: Roadblocks to Self Care – Faith Klein Herrgesell

  2. Pingback: Why Do I Feel Like a Failure in My Marriage? | Speaking in Faith {with Faith Klein}

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