"Let us not be ashamed to speak what we shame not to think."
-Michel de Montaigne

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Perfectionism Is Nuts, or, Brachioplasty Anyone?!

I realized last night that I may, in fact, be a crazy woman.

Why? Because last night I was trying to rationalize to my girlfriends that I had a "low self-esteem moment" because I made two B's last semester, and because I have this troublesome pocket of fat under my armpit that I've nicknamed "the Bat-wing."

There I was in my bathing suit with three of my best girls slack-jawed as they watched me jiggle my arms and rant about marathon sessions of research-paper-writing at four a.m. while questioning the spiritual implications of plastic surgery.

More evidence of craziness: I've already read half of my required reading for the upcoming semester which hasn't started, AND I just got the book in the mail yesterday. Oh yeah, it's already been highlighted, and my notes TYPED (mind you) and bulleted in a Microsoft Word document.

Don't mistake me, this is NOT bragging.

I know sooo many women like this, like me. Maybe it's grades, or staying thin, or being the expert at work, or having the most accomplished child, or dressing like a celebrity, or having a house with floors so clean you could do stem-cell research on them. Women in particular have this crippling bent toward perfectionism. I've always thought that this kind of Rainman-like preoccupation was admirable, until lately.

I'm not sure when it dawned on me. Maybe it was after I felt the all-too-familiar-encompassing-diarrhea-nervousness that comes before I start a new semester, or maybe it was when I realized that my lovely friends WERE not commiserating with my Kanye West wailing over TWO unholy B's.

Perfectionism is not only unhealthy for your colon, it is also really ungodly.

As a Christian woman, pushing myself to these ridiculous extremes shows that I don't trust the Creator with my fate; I don't trust God with the creation he's made. It shows that I am incredibly shallow in chasing after GPA's that don't account for much when I've barely seen my toddler or my spouse. It shows that I expend way too much energy on the temporal and not the eternal. Never, to my recollection, have I ever burned my candle at both ends for another person like I have for myself.

When Jesus said "love thy neighbor as thyself," it was not only a command, but in some ways, an indictment. He knew how self-centered we are, and stuffed it in our faces: "Hey go-getter who's up at four a.m. writing about collection development for your pompous degree, remember to funnel some of that energy into the homeless guy you try to ignore on the entrance ramp to I-75."

All my admirable go-getter-ness is simply self-serving.

Perfectionism is another way of saying self-centered. I am more than my GPA. I am more than my title at work (or lack thereof). I am more than a weight. A credit score. A bank statement. I am more than what my child does or does not do in life. I am more than this bizarre outcropping of fat that hangs from my right armpit and bobbles over my bra when I run.

[Insert Oprah audience claps and cue "I am Woman"]


  1. Great point. I do have to say though, that I believe the Lord is honored in your efforts to do your best. I don't think there is anything wrong with striving to "make the grade" or "make your body better", but becoming obsessed with anything is wrong unless it's a holy obsession with Jesus. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 9:10..."Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom." Don't beat yourself up...like you tend to do;) Instead, just embrace what has been set before you to do and do YOUR personal best!!!

  2. "Never, to my recollection, have I ever burned my candle at both ends for another person like I have for myself."

    That is DEEP... but untrue

  3. I enjoy your writing so much it makes you think and laugh at the same time. You are wonderful and perfect just the way you are! Love it!

  4. Christeene - these pictures of the arms are crackin' me up.