It is difficult to live up to other people’s expectations. Do you ever feel the pressure? Sometimes we may fail in our roles or find that who we are doesn’t fit with what others wish we would be. Yet often the hardest expectations to live up to are our own. I know personally as a semi-perfectionist that sometimes I can want to be superwoman, but it just doesn’t work! Often we need a reminder that it’s okay to give a little grace- both to others and to ourselves. God knows we’re not perfect. He is the standard of perfection- He’s already there, and He’s willing to be it for us.
That doesn’t mean that we should stop aiming for the highest standards or the best of goals- but I like something that author Jon Acuff points out one of his books that I have been reading recently, Quitter- Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job. He writes about how perfectionism in its worst form can actually inhibit us. He gives the example of an author that refuses to share a piece of writing until it is at 100% perfection. How can we know we have obtained 100%? How can we convince every reader that our writing is at 100% when every reader is different? Instead, he suggests aiming for 90% perfection and shared: sharing what we have to say without becoming too caught up in thoughts like, ‘what if it’s not absolutely perfect?!’. 90% perfection and shared with the world frees us up to actually make use of our writing. No one can benefit if we don’t put it out there! We don’t strive for low quality. We simply don’t make the seeking of perfection into something more important than the reason for setting out to write in the first place.
It is not just writers that suffer from the need to be perfect. This happens with people of every kind and students of every mode of study. We place perfection above purpose. This makes me think of the young singer Jackie Evancho. When she first began to be popular, some people told me that she had sprung up out of nowhere with this talent. Yet though she is a talented singer, this little girl did not begin at the level of vocal quality she has more recently obtained. Instead, in listening to some of her early makeshift youtube recordings, I found that even several years ago, she was nowhere near her current singing ability, and wasn’t the best of public performers, either. Yet one of the greatest reasons for her success was that while she did not start at 100% perfection, she decided to share her talent anyway, and she loves for people to enjoy the gift of singing. Her sharing resulted in her getting a great deal of hands-on practice at her craft, and ultimately made her a much better and more skilled performer.
Certainly Jackie seeks perfection! She now has the benefit of vocal coaching and the assistance of others with her music arrangements. She practices for hours and hours- one of the reasons why she advanced so quickly in her singing ability, and not just because of a gifting from heaven. The talent is God-given and there, but she still put in the work necessary to refine it. She’s still not perfect, especially when compared with some true operatic singers- but people enjoy listening, nonetheless. Often when we live “out loud” despite our fears of lacking perfection, the rewards can be much greater than we might anticipate. God doesn’t want people obsessed with being perfect- He wants people. He can make us perfect. He is perfect on our behalf: but He wants us to live alongside Him, and to live lives filled with love, here and forever.
How wasted it would be if we focused so much on our lives being perfect that we missed the purpose behind them! Seeking perfection can be especially deceptive because it seems like a good thing. It can even be made to sound holy-ish. But this kind of seeking after perfection has little to do with trying to please God. It is fear-based. It causes ineffective use of one’s talents- and it sells the lie that growth is all at once, instead of gradual. What if Jackie had believed she couldn’t become a famous singer because she wasn’t good enough right now? She would probably have stopped seriously pursuing singing, and she wouldn’t have put the work in to get where she is today. What if the same were true of your favorite novelist? They might still be writing simple stories and sharing them with nobody. Give yourself a little grace – and be okay with 90% and shared.