My pregnancy was the beginning of an unravelling – of finding the end of my rope – and the battle grounds to surrender.
I was blinded by my own abilities and talents, by my self-discipline and self-motivated ways. If something needed doing, leave it to me. If something needed changing, give me the steps to follow. From my career, to my marriage, to my health and even my faith, I had everything “under control.”
But the problem with control is that it’s simply an illusion, because we are only ever “in control” when things are within our ability to control them!
Read that again.
We are only ever “in control” when things are within our ability to control them!
And what is it we can control? Our thoughts, our perception, our attitude, our response and reactions. But that’s about it.
And the problem was, I spent 80% of my life worrying and striving to control things that were out of my control.
I strived to be perfect in everything: to have the perfect career, be the perfect friend, daughter, wife and Christian woman; to have the perfectly clean house and cook x number of days a week; to have the perfect body, eating habits and work out routine; to never get mad, angry or frustrated with people (to their face); to help out and give (time, resources, money) even when it was at the determinant to my personal priorities; over commenting in fear of letting people down; marking every Christian “check box” to keeping and progressing in my faith….
I was bound by (my) laws and rules and if I broke even one, I believed I was a terrible person- a failure and surely I needed to try harder.
I tried – and tried some more- until I nearly died.
And if I boiled it all down, it was all simply an attempt to control what people thought about me and whether they liked me; things that are completely 100% of our my control!
The accolades and achievement were striving to feel worthy. The over committing was striving to be liked. The helping and giving was striving to be accepted. The perfect marriage and body were striving to be wanted. And the perfect faith was striving to be loved.
But what was the real motivator behind my behaviour- the master that held me slave to my striving: FEAR; Of People seeing me – really seeing me- of being found out, rejected and ultimately unloved.
Do we see the vicious cycle?
The reality is, perfectionism – the chase for perfect – is entirely unattainable because we cannot control the uncontrollable. And when we spend 80% of our energies trying to control what isn’t within our abilities, we have no energy left to work on what we can control. And we ultimately end up feeling like a failure at everything!
Perfectionism is a myth and a lie. It’s completely and entirely impossible to achieve and in chasing it, we’re setting ourselves up for failure in every area of our life. We will never win the race, we will never arrive and we will never find lasting peace, joy or contentment on this journey.
And every area we struggle in is an arrow pointing to a genuine problem with our heart- a referral pain to the deeper issue down below:
What do all these things have in common? Control.
They were an attempt at grasping for control. And while I attempted to balance the spinning plates for years, they kept me blinded to the real problem – pain I’d simply kept pushing down deeper.
The problem with pain is that when unresolved it continuously resurfaces in our life, many times deceiving us, because it looks different than the last time.
My perfectionistic ways were simply masks – armour I was using to protect myself from being seen- from having to acknowledge and own the pain from my past
When we choose to hide our real selves from the world- when we omit the messy hard parts of our lives and keep them hidden the world – we cloak ourselves in shame.
Shame is a word we all struggle to connect with or we reserve for people who have done “really bad things.” But the fact is:
Shame is universal. We all have it, but it’s triggers and how it manifests itself behaviourally looks different for everyone.
What it does have in common for all of us is feelings of fear, anger, sadness, depression, blame, disconnection and loneliness.
So if we look at the areas in our life where we feel like that, we’ll discover that truthfully, were blanketed in shame; there’s something we’re running from or something were choosing to hide, maybe even from ourselves.
And the key to removing the cloak – to breaking free from shame- while simple in theory, can be extremely difficult in practice.
Vulnerability is the key to breaking the chains of shame- of all the negative feelings we’d rather run from.
If we imagine a graph, shame on one end, and acceptance and love on the other, then vulnerability is the dial the moves us from one to the other.
When we choose to allow our selves to be seen- when we have the courage to own our stories and share them with others no matter how marred or messy- we give others permission to own their own hard parts.
And what does that do? It connects us.
And connection is the key to feelings of love, acceptance, belonging, joy, meaning and ultimately purpose.
16-18 Whenever, though, they turn to face God …they suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence. Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.
So what does it take to do this? How can we begin to embrace vulnerability and own our stories?
It starts with taking an honest look in the mirror.
- What do we struggle with?
- What do we dread others finding out or seeing about ourselves?
- What parts of our past do we want to hide or are ashamed of?
- In what ways do we beat ourselves up, harm ourselves or push our selves into “behaving?”
It starts there, with a pen and paper, writing them down and choosing to no longer hide them; to own who we really are, right now in this current season, and trusting we’re not alone.
Take just one thing, go and share it with someone.
Might I suggest God first?
He is faithful and just to forgive us, heal us and make us new when we seek him with our whole heart.
4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
But we must remember, our lives are in a perpetual cycle of learning, growing and ultimately of surrendering control; moving into a deeper relationship of trust and intimacy with The Lord.
God knows what we need and when. He’s not impatient or hurried to see us smarten up and get our act together. He is patience, steadfast, gentle and merciful, seeing us not for who we are now or defining us by our circumstance; he sees us for who we are in Christ- for the women we will become and for all he designed us to be.
The ultimate rose cored glasses if you will. Not because he’s a fool in love [but he is that too!] but because of our inheritance in Christ- the ultimate gift we’ve been given through his death.
God is slowly at work in our lives, ever refining us, purifying our minds and transforming our hearts to be more like Jesus, until the day of Christ’s return.