Letting go of perfect…

Aug 1, 2011


Even as I type I find myself wanting this post to be “perfect”. The perfect title (note it doesn’t follow the other symptom of self posts). The perfect opening line. The perfect segue. The perfect examples.

If you knew me well you may know that I like to do things with excellence. I strive to do more and do it better than last time.  Even when I wrote papers in graduate school I couldn’t just write a good paper, I had to choose the perfect fonts for the title and the content.  I work hard to be the perfect parent, constantly analyzing how I’m doing, reading a new parenting book, criticizing my last approach, asking others for advice.  Even being in my home is hard sometimes because it is not organized, it is usually in disarray, and filled with clutter…far from “perfect”.   

“People who strive for everything to be perfect often do so for recognition.  They may do it so they can feel good about themselves.  Whatever the reason, this behavior is very self-serving and proud. The basic problem is making things that are less important, more important.” Stuart Scott in From Pride to Humility

Majoring on the minors. My energy, my time, my resources are spent on being perfect and doing things perfectly. EVEN spending time, energy, resources on bemoaning the fact that I NOT perfect.    At that point, what time, energy, resources do I have left to glorify God?

My grip is so tight on achieving perfect that my hand is not open to receiving joy.

My perfectionism (a branch of my pride) stems from my service to self. The only way to be free from the burden of perfectionism is humility through “displacement of self by the enthronement of God. Where God is all, self is nothing.” (Andrew Murray).

Being a mom of 3 children made me aware of my pride and need to humble myself (a daily struggle). It forced me to begin to let go of perfect. begin to unfurl my clenching fingers.  Today we went to church and my boys’ hair was far from combed (quite wild due to wet hair before bedtime and a need for haircuts), their shorts were very wrinkled, and they didn’t wear church shoes, just Crocs. But we were at church. together. they had clothes and shoes on. Focusing on what really matters. If I thought that we could only go to church if my boys’ hair was combed, clothes ironed, wearing “church” shoes, most weeks we wouldn’t make it. letting go of perfect.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Can you relate? What elements of your day are you expending energy trying to achieve perfection? What are claiming to be important? What can you begin to let go and let God?

photo credit: iampeas


  1. Emily

    Speaking to my soul again, Heather! Before Julian came I felt like even when things weren’t perfect, I could sometimes fake it…but now…there’s no hiding anything and I am learning humility and letting go of pride! It’s a process but we’ll get there!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      oh yes! Us type A SLPs struggle with this the most, right? can’t wait to meet that sweet little julian. may God use this experience as a mommy to grow you and refine you in new and exciting ways!

  2. cobwebbyhours

    Ha ha ha ha. Heather – love this post. Yes – one cannot have a child and keep the “perfect” fight. I certainly had to give it up ASAP. Not achievable and such a way to spiral down into depression and feel badly about things that do not really matter. Plus, if we strive for perfect, aren’t we trying to save ourselves and live in a way that implies we can actually achieve perfection? Rather than relying on the ONLY perfect person? 🙂 Such a great reminder.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      oh tracy it’s good to hear than even you have let go of perfection. In my mind you still have the pottery barn magazine home with children in matching smocked outfits, hair perfectly combed (and bows when appropriate). Thank you for sharing your thoughts and encouraging me that i’m not alone!!

  3. Cessy

    Great post. I am struggling against perfectionism as well. Cleverly disguised as “all or nothing”, or high standards, it stifles creativity and keeps our focus on what we don’t do well rather than our effort or what we are learning in the process. My counselor says that the problem with perfectionism is that you can never live up to your own expectations. It’s true, and it keeps us from living life to the fullest in every way, including spiritually. It keeps us in self- condemnation, exactly where the “accuser of the bretheren” wants us. Thank you for your wise words!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      so true cessy. giving our self grace is so hard. allowing ourselves time to “learn in the process”. thanks for your insight!

  4. Charity C

    I am struggling with PPD and while others may not see it, I am a perfectionist. I have let go of much of it, but there are still areas. And those areas eat at me causing the descent into torture to continue on and on.

    Visiting from Thought Provoking Thursday

    • Heather MacFadyen

      thanks for sharing your struggle here Charity. I’m going to pray for you: Lord, I lift Charity up to you. You know her. You created her. You made her the mother to her children because you knew she would be the perfect mother for them just by being exactly who you created her to be. I pray that you would continue to give her grace in her struggle to let go of perfection. May she feel community and that she is not alone in her struggle. Help her to open her grip to joy and help her to see the little gifts of grace in her day so that she can not focus on what she may see as failures. Surround her with Your love. Your acceptance. Wrap Your all-powerful arms around her so she may rest in You. Amen. Thanks again for stopping by Charity!

  5. Starla K Smith

    Perfect comes calling to many. Come ….dine on the never ending fix it. To often I get caught up, worry sets in and I loose my joy. Focusing on that fact that this is a journey. God’s grace is sufficient for me .

  6. Stacey29lincoln

    Oh yes, I can relate. But for me is more about control – and wanting things my way than perfection. I am far from perfect, but I like things the way I like them.

    Having kids – well, our illusion is that we as parents are in control. And though I won’t go as far to say the kids are in control, I have found myself releasing it all to the One who is divinely in control, and perfect.

    That said – it is a daily battle!

    (stopping by from TPT!)

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Oh the evils of control issues. i am familiar as well my friend with wanting everything my way. I actually wrote about control issues in my “symptoms of self” series. Here is the link: https://dontmomalone.com/2011/06/27/submission/ . it is a daily battle of laying down my plan and picking up His! thanks for stopping by.

  7. Pamela

    “My grip is so tight on achieving perfect that my hand is not open to receiving joy.” My heart stopped for a second when I read that — or at least it felt like it did. It was the whisper of the Holy Spirit saying, “Yes, you.” Thank you for obediently writing this — I needed to hear it. I’m copying it so I will be able to read it over and over.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      thanks pamela! I actually strongly feel that that statement was from the Holy Spirit. I was typing the post and suddenly those words came loud and clear, unlike any of the others on the page. Thank you Lord for speaking to us and wanting us to achieve True Joy!

  8. Debbie

    Your entry was so beautifully written. I had to learn a long time ago that only God is perfect so I needed to quit expecting it from myself or others. Blessings, Debbie

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