A Recovered Perfectionist

By on November 26, 2013
mature woman smiling

By Heidi McLaughlin –

“I work with you every day and I can’t believe how perfect you are.” My colleague’s words put a smug smile on my face and made my chest puff with satisfaction and pride. As I turned around and walked away I silently patted myself on the shoulder. I was getting there. I was achieving what I thought was expected of me. Being perfect. But I didn’t realize I was painfully going down a pathway that would end up almost destroying my soul, my marriage and my family.

At the age of thirty-two I prayed and asked Jesus to take away my sin and give me the assurance of eternal life. As I emerged into my new life of attending church and observing how other Christians acted, I thought that all Christians needed to look and act perfectly. After all, a Christian’s sin has been forgiven, we are made righteous and the old person is no longer alive.  What I didn’t know is that all my old selfishness, pride and toxins of criticism and anger were still living in me. So I tried to cover up my old ugliness by pretending to have my Christian life all figured out and by acting perfect.

I became a self-righteous Christian seeped in perfectionism. What made it ever uglier is that I thought: Well, if I can do this, how come other people can’t?

My standards of self-imposed perfectionism were then transferred onto my husband, children, friends, workplace and church. Of course we know that everyone and everything in life will eventually disappoint us. Sadly the person it disappointed the most was me.

What was wrong with me? What kind of a pathetic Christian was I that I couldn’t stop my anger, criticism and self-imposed high standards of perfectionism? I felt like no one could help me and daily I struggled to keep my domino life from tumbling into chaos.

When we try to be something we are not…eventually we all wear out. I felt like a failure and I spiraled into a place of darkness that I was not prepared for. Still, I kept thinking that if everyone around me would just “shape up and do what I expected of them” life would be more pleasant and I would be happy.

One day I picked up a book by Evelyn Christianson called LORD CHANGE ME. I was shocked to discover that the rest of the world did not need to change, but that I needed to change from the inside out. The bible says: “Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2 NIV). Then I learned further that I cannot renew my mind, actions, habits or words; that the Holy Spirit is the one who is in the people changing business. I needed to be free from my “perfect self” and give permission to God and the Holy Spirit to help me find freedom and joy in accepting the “me that God made me to be.”

Once I discovered this truth I felt like someone cut my prison chains. At first I didn’t much like the “real me”. But over time as I allowed the power of God and the Holy Spirit to change my insecure and imperfect heart, I found that I am really a very nice person.

I learned to love my zany sense of humor, my creativity, my passions and the many gifts and abilities that God gave me to enjoy in this life.  Over the years God has transformed my criticism into compassion, my anger into contentment, my regrets into rejoicing and my shame into beauty. I like the authentic “me” that I have become.  Oh how I long for every woman to find her true self though the power of the kind, loving and gentle Holy Spirit. As the bible says: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV).

About Heidi McLaughlin

Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. She is married to Pastor Jack and they have a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 9 grandchildren. When she is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book; or golf and laugh with her husband, family and special friends. You can reach her at: www.heartconnection.ca

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A Recovered Perfectionist