Why Do I Feel That I Have to Be Perfect?
Do you become upset if you get anything less than a perfect score on a test?
Do you feel like a complete failure when you receive any type of criticism?
Do you find it hard to make or keep friends because no one seems to measure up to your standards?
IF YOU answered yes to one or more of the above questions, you may have a problem with perfectionism. ‘But what’s wrong with trying to do things just right?’ you might ask. Nothing, of course. The Bible praises the man who is “skillful in his work.” (Proverbs 22:29) The perfectionist, however, takes things to an extreme.
For example, 19-year-old Jason admits: “During my last year of school, I felt that if I didn’t get a perfect score on my tests, I wasn’t a good student at all. I also play piano, and I used to feel that I had to perform with the skill of a concert pianist.”
Perfectionism might even impede a person’s worship. Consider what can happen to a youth who is constantly held up as an example to others. Always in the limelight, he may feel as though he’s walking a tightrope, with everyone scrutinizing his performance. Of course, Christians young and old benefit from good examples in the congregation. Yet, the quest to maintain a perfect image may cause a youth to lose his joy in God’s service. If that happens, the youth needs help. But he might not ask for it, fearing that he’ll disappoint those who think so highly of him. He might even be tempted to give up completely, reasoning, ‘If I can’t live up to the perfect ideal, why try at all?’
Perfectionists labor under the illusion that mistakes should never be made. Really, though, that viewpoint is flawed. The Bible plainly states: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) It’s impossible, then, for any of us to be perfect in the absolute sense. In fact, believing that you can do things perfectly is as absurd as thinking that you can leap off the ground and fly. No matter how firmly you believe this, it’s just not going to happen!
How can you keep a perfectionist mind-set from taking over your life? Try the following:
Redefine “success.” Are you wearing yourself out trying to be the very best? The Bible indicates that such an effort can prove to be like “chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:4, Today’s English Version) The fact is, few people ever succeed at being “the best.” And even when a person does, it’s usually just a matter of time before someone comes along who performs better. Success means doing your best—not outdoing someone else’s.—Galatians 6:4.
Be realistic. Your expectations should be equal to your abilities and limitations. Setting the bar too high for yourself can be a sign of immodesty—even egotism. The apostle Paul gives sound advice: “I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think.” (Romans 12:3) So be realistic. Revise your expectations. Seek to do your best but not to achieve perfection.
Lighten up! Try doing some things that you’re not good at, such as playing a musical instrument. True, you’re bound to make lots of mistakes. This time, though, try to view your errors in a different light. The Bible says that there’s “a time to laugh.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4) So why not take a lighthearted approach? Doing so will help you to see that making mistakes is simply part of the learning process. Admittedly, it may not be easy for you to handle doing a less-than-perfect job. But make a conscious effort to push negative, critical thoughts out of your mind.
Always remember that Jehovah doesn’t demand perfection; he simply expects us to be faithful to him. (1 Corinthians 4:2) If you’re striving to be faithful, you can truly be happy with who you are—even though you aren’t perfect.
Homosexuality is widely accepted today. How can you avoid it? What if you have homosexual desires?
“There is no man righteous in the earth that keeps doing good and does not sin.”—Ecclesiastes 7:20.
Think of a task that you’ve held off from performing, simply because you were afraid of not doing it perfectly. Then set a date to complete it.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
Jehovah is perfect, but when dealing with imperfect humans, he is not a perfectionist. He is neither unreasonable nor unrealistic in what he expects of us.
When I become unreasonably critical of myself, I will ․․․․․
When I become unreasonably critical of others, I will ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● In what areas of life, if any, do you tend to set unreasonably high goals for yourself?
● What Bible passages make it clear to you that Jehovah God doesn’t expect perfection of his servants?
● Why might others draw away from you if you’re a perfectionist?
● In the future, how will you deal with your mistakes?
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“Doing your best and being a perfectionist are two different things; one is balanced and the other is not.”—Megan
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Perfectionism and Friendships
Have you shut people out of your life because they just aren’t good enough for you? Or have good people stayed away from you because your standards for friendship appear to be too high? The Bible advises us: “Do not become righteous overmuch, nor show yourself excessively wise. Why should you cause desolation to yourself?” (Ecclesiastes 7:16) One way that the perfectionist causes desolation to himself is by alienating those who might otherwise enjoy his company. “No one likes to be around people who make them feel bad,” says a girl named Amber, “and I’ve seen perfectionists lose good friends over some very small things.”
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Trying to be perfect is as futile as trying to fly