This may surprise those of you who have visited my home and observed my less-than-perfect housekeeping habits firsthand. The problem with perfectionists is that we get trapped in this “all or nothing” mentality. So if we can’t do something perfectly, we don’t want to do it at all.
I’m going to swallow my pride and share a current illustration of this in my life. A little over three years ago I embarked on a weight loss journey. It should not surprise you that I followed the program to a ‘t.’ As a result I lost over 30 pounds! (34, to be exact. We perfectionists like to be exact.) This was huge for me (no sarcasm intended)!
Well, the weight stayed ‘lost’ for a while, but then the pounds started finding me again. I finally recommitted to lose the extra weight again almost a year later and managed to shed ten of those unwanted pounds. Unfortunately within the following year they paid me a return visit, only this time they each brought a friend! So, once again, I re-enrolled in my weight loss program, bid twenty pounds farewell and (once again) arrived at my goal weight after several months of faithfully sticking to the plan.
Now, is it just me or did you notice a pattern here? In case you missed it, let me highlight it for you: Gain. Lose. Gain. Lose. Gain. Lose. I’m quite experienced in the weight gain department. I had grown in my ability to lose weight. But I was tired of this teeter totter. Pounds up. Pounds down. I needed to develop a new skill: maintaining a healthy weight.
About the time I was longing to jump off this playground ride, a verse jumped out at me during a Sunday morning sermon. It was Philippians 3:16, from the New Living Translation: “But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.” I had made progress in my weight loss journey. The challenge now was holding on to it!
When the pounds start creeping back on, my perfectionist tendencies kick in. I feel like a failure and quit trying. The scales then tip (no pun intended) drastically in the other direction. I relinquish nearly all the progress I have made.
But I’ve recently adopted a new mantra, one that is helping to change my unbalanced, “all or nothing” approach to life. Lysa TerKeurst shared it in her new book, Unglued. Fellow perfectionists, recite with me:
“Imperfect progress is the goal.”
It has taken me awhile to really believe this. Little by little, however, I’m becoming more comfortable accepting my imperfections. I have good days and bad days. But I’m learning to pick myself up and forgive myself when I fail. I don’t have to let one bad day turn into a month of bad days. God’s mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:23)
I’m still learning how to maintain a healthy weight. I have my ups and downs. (Pun intended.) But God sees my heart, and knows that I’m sincerely trusting Him to help me change–even when the number on the scale is moving in the wrong direction. His grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect(!) in my weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) I’m so thankful for that.
It’s a battle sometimes (okay, all the time!). But I’m still in it and I’m not giving up. For me, that in itself is progress.
So here I am, no longer swinging from one extreme to the other, learning to live somewhere in the messy middle.
Imperfect, but making progress.
His work in progress.
And you know what?
I think I just might be perfectly okay with that.