There is a perfectionist everywhere. They disguise themselves behind a facade. With a good performance, they pretend to be what they are not and have peculiar characteristics.
Are you a perfectionist? Do you think that everything you do is flawed and can be improved, even at the expense of your health and your money? A perfectionist is a person who refuses to accept things as they are and is always looking for mistakes to fix and reach perfection.
It is not bad to want to improve an attitude or to want to do your job in a better way, but this type of personality can be dangerous if you do not know how to control it. For a perfectionist, anything less than magnificent is unacceptable. But the perfect thing does not exist, nothing and nobody is perfect. And because of this, this type of person tends to feel disappointed and frustrated when they find that they cannot do more to improve themselves or what is around them. Statistics on this matter say that more than 80 percent of the population recognizes being led by perfectionism in certain areas of their lives. Many people say: I like to do things right, perfectly, I am a perfectionist. And they say this without understanding the consequences this type of personality can have.
There are differences between the demands of the perfectionist and the desire for excellence. The perfectionist says: the best of me is not enough, the one who wants excellence says: I am pleased with the best of me; the perfectionist says: I cannot be happy if it is not perfect, excellence says: I will be happy with the best of me; the perfectionist says it is painful to fail, the one who wants excellence says: failure is part of life.
There are two types of perfectionists: the pathological perfectionist and the one I call a “Christian perfectionist,” who tries to save himself/herself even when separated from God. In the Bible, we can find the story of Ananias and Sapphira, who had traits of perfectionism. From the evidence presented by the biblical text, I cannot determine whether Ananias and Sapphira had pathological perfectionism, but I am sure they were Christian perfectionists who tried to be perfect by their own means. They had a distorted image of God, they perceived Him as a perfectionist. They thought that God does not accept anything other than perfection.
From perfectionists’ point of view, we have to at least pretend that we are good before God. If you do not do good before God, He will punish you: “Get off the tree or God will punish you,” “don’t ride a bicycle because God will punish you” … and many other misperceptions of that type. They have an image of a God as a perfectionist and He will punish us for what we do wrong.
In Ananias and Sapphira’s story, it is shown how they had a distorted image of the members of the church. They were afraid that the brothers and sisters in the church would notice their inability to live up to them and thought they would not be accepted if they were recognized as being below the Barnabas family and their commitment to God. They showed a false fidelity in order to enjoy prestige among the other members of the church, and they did not mind trying to deceive the Holy Spirit.
Those Christian perfectionists like Ananias do what they have to do in the church in order to maintain their image as good Christians. Nowadays, the families of church members who are like Ananias have no room for error because they live with the illusion of perfectionism. If the family is having any kind of problem, such as the single daughter getting pregnant or if there are marriage problems at home, they pretend everything is fine, perfect, no problems. If the pastor asks them, “how is everything?” They answer: “Oh, pastor, everything is fine here, perfect.”
We could define the profile of the Christian perfectionist through the following characteristics: just like Ananias, perfectionists are never satisfied, they are critical of other people, they set impossible goals for themselves, they value themselves for what they do and what they have, instead of valuing themselves for their identity in Christ. They do not accept praise or criticism because they are never satisfied with what they have achieved.
When talking about the pathological perfectionist’s profile, we can say that he/she lives in continuous dissatisfaction in spite of doing everything well. He/she lives in tension and concern, since he/she feels judged and criticized both personally and by others, which prevents him/her from achieving the happiness he/she is looking for. It can end in depression, anxiety, or suicide. The pathological perfectionist’s development starts in childhood, at home because he/she never received love or acceptance from his/her parents. It was demanded that they have high performance in exchange for love and acceptance, and, when they reach adulthood, the programming they have in their minds is to be perfect or to appear to be perfect to be accepted and avoid failure.
Pathological perfectionists are afraid of failure. They associate failure with a lack of personal worth and constantly think that if they fail at something, they are worthless. By being too focused on trying to avoid making mistakes, they miss opportunities to grow and learn. Furthermore, they are afraid of others disapproving of them. They believe that if they let others see their flaws or failures, they will be rejected. Trying to be perfect is a way to protect themselves from criticism, rejection, or disapproval of others. They are also characterized by having a very radical way of thinking. They go from one extreme to the other without considering middle ground. If they do not do things perfectly, they think they are useless or feel incapable of moving forward.
How can you know if you are a pathological perfectionist? You can ask yourself the following questions to evaluate yourself. Answer “Yes” if the answer is generally affirmative in your life and “No” if it is not generally true in your life (you may want to ask a close family member or a friend to confirm your answers, to make sure you are being realistic in your self-evaluation).
- I often think that I should have done things better than I did.
- I tend to put things aside if I do not have the time to do them perfectly.
- I fear failure when I work on an important project.
- I try hard to impress others with my best qualities or achievements.
- My self-esteem drops if I repeat a mistake.
- I always strive to stay in control of my emotions.
- I feel very bad when things do not go as planned.
- I am often disappointed about the quality of others’ work.
- I feel like my standards should not be that high.
- I fear that people will think badly of me if I fail.
- I am constantly trying to improve.
- I am unhappy if everything I do is considered normal.
- My home and office must always be impeccable.
- I feel inferior to others who are smarter, more attractive, or more successful than me.
- I have to look flawless whenever I am in public.
If you answered “Yes” to five or more of the statements above, this suggests a significant perfectionism problem (This is a screening test, but for an accurate diagnosis of depression or other mental disorders, an in-person consultation with a trained health professional is in order).
But I have wonderful news for you: perfectionists can receive healing!
Ananias and Sapphira were under the pressure of perfectionism, the prison that chains all those who want to be perfect despite being separated from God. The life of deception that Ananias and Sapphira lived led them to die ashamed in front of their congregation. The Ananias of today has the opportunity to recognize their perfectionist condition and save their souls.
If you are an Ananias, you must understand that perfectionism is something illusory and impossible due to the sinful nature we all carry. If you do not get out of that prison today, you will have a life full of anxiety, depression, unhappiness, and in the end, eternal perdition for trying to live apart from Jesus.
How can you receive healing and be free from this terrible prison? I will give you seven tips below that will be of great help:
- Accept the Grace of God, you do not have to fear losing God’s love, nor measure yourself while being compared to others because the Grace of God reaches you.
- You do not need to try to impress God. He loves you and wants to transform you in His own image.
- Trust that God will meet your needs
- Let yourself be filled by the Holy Spirit. This way you will enjoy its fruits: joy, peace, patience, fidelity, self-control, and benevolence.
- Whatever you do, do it in the name of the Lord.
- Hand God your demands to do things your way.
- Accept that it is okay to fail, and when you fall, get up and move on.
My dear friends that read these lines, it is time to accept that you can fail in your work, you can fall, make mistakes, but, in the name of God, you can move on. Accept that you are unique, and you should not compare yourself to others. God made you as you are and, in Him, you can do everything.