Resisting Perfectionism: The Harsh Taskmaster of our Souls

“Progress not perfection”

                                                    -AA Slogan

Perfectionism is a harsh taskmaster of our souls. 

Perfectionism replays those child-like messages filled with shame, “If you don’t do what he/she says, you’re a failure. You’ll never write good enough, blog good enough, teach good enough…” This endless list of lack haunts my mind when I submit to the stock of perfectionism.

I have noticed that freedom climbs higher on my values list as I age. Years spent giving my time and energy to people and systems, that stripped my best, tends to cure my compulsion to perform. I am done with the days of little left behind for me. I choose to resist the thinking that insists something be perfect before you offer your gift to the world. I’d rather trust in imperfect attempts and gradual progress. I will care for individuals rather than promote systems.

I have served within, and benefited from, three systems: the church, the business world, and the field of education. Each has given me innumerable blessings and yet threatened to drain the very lifeblood out of me (metaphorically speaking). Gratefulness fills my heart knowing that God exists and creates outside of the confines of systems. Today I say “Thank you” to an amazing Being who stills my heart to hear His voice and reveals His purposes, ideas inconceivable to me when left to my own devices.

I long to do what bubbles up inside of me, which is full of life and purpose. I dare to believe that God focuses on progress and smiles when I take this approach. I wonder what could occur if people pursued their innate desire for freedom? What if we stopped trying to please everyone else and started listening to those slight promptings that come into our minds and hearts? Would we live any differently?

As an aspiring author, perfectionism greets me around ever corner I explore. The publishing world has distinct rules. The only problem is, they vary depending upon which expert you listen to and try to follow. I must come back to this place of striving for progress and resisting the compulsion to be perfect.

During my time in recovery, I would come to my sponsor like a naughty child who disobeyed her parents. Old codependent habits were hard to break, and I often fell back into those familiar yet destructive patterns. Mary used to release me from shame and perfectionism with these simple and yet profound words, “When you know better, you’ll do better.”

She was right! In time, I learned to re-parent myself with a gentler and kinder approach. Baby steps of progress slowly and steadily took me along the path of healthy emotional, mental, and physical living. When I wanted to say no, I learned to resist explaining myself to others while calmly repeating her response , “This just won’t work for me.” End of story!

So, as I venture into this world of publishing, I accept my childhood stage of development. Like my great-nephew, who has just learned how to walk, I will bump into obstacles, fall down, and then get back up. One day I envision running freely into a hopeful writing future.

8 Replies to “Resisting Perfectionism: The Harsh Taskmaster of our Souls”

  1. Mary…….what a wise woman! I really wish you could find her again….just to let her see how it’s all turned out for you. I loved the photo of Justin in the hand/head hold thing…..perfect photo for that paragraph. Can’t WAIT to see you tomorrow…..JUST CAN’T WAIT!!!!!!


  2. Freedom!! As much as I long for it, strive for it and relish in it, it comes with such big serving of responsibility. First I need to recognize it and then I must remember not to squander it, but treat it with honor and respect. Most of all I need to separate it from that pesky perceived need for a perfect outcome. Oh, my. Nothing worthwhile is without cost. I’ll pay, gladly.


  3. Yes, perfectionism is an impossible task-master indeed.

    I remember the day the penny finally dropped for me when I began working with 12-step recovery and really learning the meaning of “Progress, not perfection”. This saying is common in 12-step and is a more meaningful goal of progression. And the only measure of progress that really means anything is our progress measured against ourselves today verus yesterday. We can stop competing with others who in all likelihood, have no meaningful basis of comparison to us. How do we know all of the cirsumstances in their lives versus ours? Each of our journeys is unique so frankly, I find it a waste of time comparing myself to others on the pathway of life. Who am I to question who God has called me to be versus who He has called them to be anyway?




    1. Chaz, I so agree with you and have spent a number of years in a Twelve-step Recovery myself. This concept of progress, not perfection was a life-changing epiphany for me. I still savor the concept many years later. However, I have to repeat the slogan often to remind myself of the freedom God gives me to be who He created me to be. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, strength, and hope.


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