3 Reasons to Let Go of Perfectionism

9 a.m.
One hour to go before a couple thousand kids arrive. The workers are gathering. Our city is hosting a free Fun Fest day for the children in the community. I had volunteered to help through our local Dream Center.

But as the hour ticks down, we realize more volunteers are needed from the city than are showing up. Not good. We’ll each have to work harder and more intentional to cover all the centers.

Perfectionism_3 Reasons to Let Go

So I tell our coordinator, Pastor Jamie:

Oh, I’ll do whatever you need.
Wherever you want me to work, I say. I’m in.

She says, Great—we need more face painters! Will you work this table?

Oh. Except that, I say.
I’m horrible at face painting. Anything but that.

My prior face painting experiences haven’t been pretty. I’m no artist.

But Holy Spirit stirs:
Didn’t you just say you’d do whatever was needed?
Face painting is needed.

Well, yes, but what I really meant to say was:
I’ll do anything I think I’m good at.
Anything I’m comfortable with.
Anything that doesn’t involve uncertainty or mess or confusion. Or glitter; definitely nothing with glitter.

The Problem with Perfectionism

But the thing about helping others is we don’t always get to match our skills with their needs. Our perfectionism can become their roadblock.

  • Perfectionism can prevent us from trying new things.
  • Perfectionism can stop us from meeting needs.
  • Perfectionism can cause us to be overly critical–of ourselves and others.

And perfectionism can make us say no when the Spirit wants us to say yes.

9:30 a.m.
I know I have to change my no to a yes.

I turn back to Pastor Jamie and say,

Sure, I’ll face paint. I can do this.

Sigh. I take a deep breath then cut out the stencils; I lay out my brushes; I open the paint jars. Yes, even the glittery ones.

3 Benefits of Releasing Perfectionism

10 a.m.
And I start painting. Face after face. Hearts, footballs, stars, LOVE, flowers, flags.

Each child talks to me. I find out their favorite color, the sports teams they follow, how old they’re going to be on their next birthday.

And I realize: this is exactly what I wanted to do after all.

Life is a journey of practicing. Not perfecting.

  1. Let go of perfection to . . . learn new things.

When we do things we’re not necessarily good at, we are stretching. We are growing. Even if we fall down along the way. In our humility, we learn not only new things about ourselves, but also new things about God. When we trade in our perfection, we experience the grace of God’s provision.

  1. Let go of perfection to . . . help other people.

Most people don’t want our perfection anyway. They just want our attention. Our assistance. Our compassion.

“As the soul increases its strength, it can withstand increasing expressions of grace and God. Always the goal remains the same: to stretch the soul in preparation for becoming a container of divine love in the world.”
– Caroline Myss

  1. Let go of perfection to . . . honor God.

Holiness comes in many forms. In many expressions. It doesn’t always look like we expect. But when we do the thing in front of us, the thing God is calling us to do in the moment, even if we feel unprepared or inadequate, God is honored. I see him smiling.

1:55 p.m.
There’s still a line of children waiting to have their faces painted. (Alas, my lack of skills didn’t deter anyone.) It’s time to break down the tables and clean up. We apologize.

2:00 p.m.
I say good-bye to my fellow face-painters and hope we’ll cross paths again. Maybe at another face painting table. Or maybe at something else I’m horrible at.

But whatever I’m asked to do next, I hope my yes comes a little quicker. Because working imperfectly with God is more fulfilling than anything I could do perfectly on my own.

* * *

What will you this week that you can’t do perfectly? How do you deal with perfectionism? Please share in the comments.


42 thoughts on “3 Reasons to Let Go of Perfectionism

  1. Shannon

    Lisa- we’re buddies over at Moments of Hope! I love this article SO MUCH. It spoke right to my heart. I need to let go of perfectionism, and I loved your story about saying “yes” to anything even though it led to painting faces. I love it when God shows up in moments like this!

  2. Linda Stoll

    Beautiful, Lisa. An enthusiastic, willing spirit beats a perfectionist streak every time …

    Would have loved to have been a mouse in the corner, watching the day unfold. But maybe your joy would have prompted me to get my own paintbrush.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I might have handed over my paintbrush to you, Linda! 🙂 I did turn it over to a mom who wanted her 1-yr-old son’s face painted. He kept squirming and I was afraid I’d get paint in his eyes. Mama could try it but I just couldn’t. ha.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’d disagree that you’re not good at anything anymore, Andrew. You continue to share your own unique experiences with those of us who haven’t lived them. We need your stories. But probably not your face painting. 🙂

    2. Betsy de Cruz

      Andrew, I agree with Lisa. You are VERY good at leaving witty, poignant, and wise commends on blog posts. That much I can see. So I suspect you must be very good at some other things I can’t see, in your “real life.” Lifting a prayer for you now. I imagine things could be getting harder for you?

  3. Angela Howard

    When I was reading your story what jumped out at me was that you are willing to listen to the Holy Spirit and obey. My daughter struggles with perfectionism and it can be paralyzing. I will pray that she can hear the Holy Spirit’s voice and surrender. Thank you for this reminder.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I relate to perfectionism being paralyzing. I’m more apt to not start something at all if I think I can’t do it well, whereas some people can’t seem to stop until it’s perfect. (I usually do get tired and quit before things are perfect. ha) I’ll be praying that your daughter will find peace in knowing that “enough” is all we can do; God is the only one who can make things all the way perfect.

  4. Bill (cycleguy)

    “Life is a journey of practicing…not perfecting.” I like that and wholeheartedly agree! Glad you did the face painting even though it would have been perfect according to your standards. The kids don’t care. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Bill. I was glad we didn’t have mirrors around. I didn’t want the kids seeing their faces until they had time to sweat and smear it a little bit, then I wouldn’t be to blame. ha.

  5. Lynn Severance

    Lisa, I can “see” you at this event and loving on those kids who came to be all “painted up” and their sharing themselves with you!

    “Most people don’t want our perfection anyway. They just want our attention. Our assistance. Our compassion.”

    How true. How very true!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Lynn. It was an interesting day. 🙂 And lots of fun. I had been worried prior to the event about standing out in 97 degree heat all day, but the face painting tables were thankfully inside a building. The Lord always knows what I need more than I do.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate your encouragement, Elizabeth. The kids were a blessing in themselves. And I even got to see one of my daughter’s Kindergarten students from this past year. We were both excited to see each other. 🙂

  6. Lois Flowers

    I love how you were able to really talk to the kids, Lisa, maybe in a way you couldn’t have done at another more active station. And this? “Most people don’t want our perfection anyway. They just want our attention. Our assistance. Our compassion.” I needed to read this today. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That’s exactly what I thought, Lois! (After the fact, of course. ha) If I had been the moon bounce lady, for example, I likely wouldn’t have had time for real conversations: Take off your shoes, please. Don’t jump on top of the little kids, please. 🙂 But God provided me the perfect setup. Why don’t I trust him more???

  7. Sarah

    AMEN! As a recovering perfectionist – I really love “to serve God and love others.” YES! I can’t serve and love others if I’m so caught up in doing it “right.”

    Thanks for sharing at the RaRaLink-up!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Isn’t it funny how our desire to do it “right” can actually prevent us from doing it at all? So grateful for God’s grace in being with us in our crazy thinking. Ha. May we continue on our path of recovery! Thanks, Sarah.

  8. Liz

    I so often have friends join me around my craft table who say they aren’t “crafty.” What they actually mean is they are afraid to try, afraid they’ll mess us, afraid they won’t get it just like the example. It always makes me a little sad, because their fear is holding them back from the pure and simple joy of just creating. Blessings to you for these wise words!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ouch, I’m hearing my own voice in those excuses, Liz. You’re spot-on. We hold ourselves back from joys that God intended for us when we make things too complicated and expect too much from ourselves. Thank you for your words.

  9. Betsy de Cruz

    Lisa, this is one of the best things you’ve written, and it speaks to me because I’m such a perfectionist. So true that we can let it get in the way of others’ needs. One thing I’m sometimes called to do and I HATE because I feel like I’m putting myself out there so everyone can see how bad I am at it, is to interpret messages from English into Turkish for churches and Christian groups. It’s so scary for me! But I never say now if I can help it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re so brave, Betsy. I’m sure that the Spirit speaks through you as you interpret, even if you miss words here and there. We had a Guatemalan native speak words of prophecy over us in Spanish on a mission trip, and we were so grateful that there was a young girl among us who agreed to interpret for us into English, even though she didn’t feel competent to. She was invaluable! Blessings to you as you do the same!

  10. Mary Geisen

    These words right here say it all.. Life is a journey of practicing not perfecting. Wow! My perfectionism has been known to get in the way throughout my life. God is teaching me to let it take a back seat and instead let Him lead the way. This post is “perfect” for me today. Blessings!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad this message speaks to you, too, Mary. When I was younger, I didn’t even realize I was a perfectionist. But the older (and wiser? maybe? ha) I’ve gotten, I see how it holds me back in ways that God doesn’t intend. May we continue letting God teach us to take that back seat to His leading!

  11. Dianna McBride

    These words of yours, “Our perfectionism can become their roadblock.” has really struck a nerve with me, Lisa. I have been working at “letting go” of it for a while now, because I realized one day that my perfectionism was indeed being a roadblock to some people around me. The letting go isn’t always easy…in fact, there are days that I have to pry the fingers of my heart off the very thing I’ve worked a long time to perfect. Grateful for God’s grace! Thank you for this post, my friend.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What a blessing to hear from you, Dianna! I’ve missed your sweet spirit and I pray that you are doing well. I agree there are days that it is extremely hard for me too to let go of things that God is clearly telling me to let go of. I’m glad he keeps working with us!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m just hoping I won’t show up on a Youtube video of #epicfails. ha. Some of the mothers had their cell phones with them and would take pictures and video as I painted. But yes, I pray that you’re right and that my feeble attempts were honoring to God even in (maybe especially in?) my inadequacies. Thanks, Dolly.

  12. Heather

    Gosh my heart is feeling a squeeze of conviction… Your mention that people don’t desire our perfectionism near as much as they desire our attention really hits home. And I am guilty of letting the fear of not doing something perfectly deter me from doing anything at all in more than a few situations! I think back to how I turned down what could have been an invitation from the Holy Spirit because I didn’t think I could do what He was asking in the “perfect” way I had always imagined it was done. Thanks for an inspiring story Lisa! I think I’ll try stepping out of my comfort zone a little more- especially since I’ll know I’m not alone. ♥ Blessings on you today!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I’m guilty of the same thing, Heather. If I don’t think I can do something “right,” I often don’t want to attempt it at all. But not only do others miss out when we don’t try, but we miss out, too. I’m learning that, and more and more as I get older. May we both step out of our comfort zone a little more today and do something imperfectly. 🙂

  13. Valerie Sisco

    Oh Lisa I LOVE this! That would have been my response too but how wonderful that you embraced it and had those marvelous conversations with the children you met. Inspiring words, my friend!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you, Valerie. I think many more of us are plagued with perfectionism than we know. Thanks for your encouraging words to continue to try breaking free of it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I saw some faces painted yesterday that looked like I had done them (i.e., it wasn’t pretty! ha). I’m with you, Sarah, may my yeses come quicker even at things I’m not good at!

  14. Lori Schumaker

    Perfectionism is such an enemy, isn’t it? It gets in the way of living the joy God has available to us over and over again! I’m so glad you heard His whispers and turned back to say, “I can do it!” Thank you so much for the great reminder to stop perfectionism in its tracks and grab onto the opportunities that Jesus sets before us, even when we may not think we’ve got rock start status in that area!!!

    And thanks so much for coming alongside me each week at Moments of Hope! I am blessed by your words each week!!

  15. TC Avey

    Beautiful, inspiring and convincing post. How quick I am to pass on doing something outside my comfort zon . What blessing I miss.
    Thank you for encouraging me.
    Love the last sentence. You really spoke to me today.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It’s easy for me to say no to things outside my comfort zone too. I must have a tight little zone. 🙂 But I know that we grow the most when we venture outside of it. God is always up to something!

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