Sarah Markley
About the Author

I'm the mother of two little girls, the wife of an amazing husband who'd rather play the guitar than anything else and I love to write. I spend my weekends watching my daughters ride horses and play soccer. I blog daily and my greatest wish is to see women healed...

(in)side DaySpring: things we love
& you will too!
Find more at
(in)side DaySpring:
things we love
& you will too!
Find more at
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Reader Interactions


  1. I so hear you, friend. Totally. This is a way He keeps us constantly depending on Him — let’s choose to be grateful together and hold grudges against ourselves a bit less, eh? {hugs}

  2. Amen. I struggle with this myself–and it’s a terrible disease. What a relief to know the Lord carries our imperfections on a daily (hourly) basis.

  3. Sarah,
    Self-legalism…what a good definition of perfectionism. I am a member of “Perfectionists Anonymous” – finally learning that, as you said, it’s about the relationship not the rules. It’s only taken me 52 years to figure this out. Thankfully God is patient and loving!

  4. I am a recovering perfectionist. Most of my life has been lived in fear or competition. My self-legalisim (great words) has hurt my relationships with other women, frustrated my husband and children, and caused me to not reach my fullest potential as a wife, mom, sister and friend. Ultimately, it is a failure to believe God is who he says he is, and what he says about me (his beloved) is true. Thank you for speaking truth that I needed desperately to hear.

  5. Thank you 🙂

    -struggling perfectionist now trying to allow for the imperfect

  6. Thank you, Sarah! This is exactly what I feel my ‘life message’ is…you articulated well the misguided way we expect perfection and then punish ourselves internally. Thank you for being so clear and candid!

  7. I am! And I love what you wrote: “The struggle of the perfectionist isn’t necessarily being “hard on herself.” I think it goes one step beyond that. Perfectionism is a form of self-legalism in which we impose unhealthy and unrealistic rules on our own selves. When we don’t meet up to those standards? We punish ourselves with feelings of not being good enough and feelings of failure.”

    I never thought of it that way!

  8. I admit it: I’m in the “failing perfectionist” club. I can’t achieve perfection no matter how hard I try, and then I end up mentally beating myself up because of it. My sneaky companion is comparison, which only leads to more striving to be perfect. I love the term self-legalism, put crazy expectations on myself. It’s when I truly sink in to what God expects I find that sweet, glorious, peace of knowing I am perfect in His eyes.

  9. I am. exactly like this. And I am also struggling to release it all to Him. Because we actually get less done if we always expect perfection or nothing. And it makes me fail at the things I could do at least well enough. Praying for freedom from the enemies lies for all of us!

    • It has made me miss out on a lot, too, probably that would have been OKAY if I could have tried. Or just done something to be living in the moment, rather than stuck in my own head! This has made me cry, I’m not sure why. Thanks for the post, tho & all the honest comments.

  10. Oh Girl! Thanks for being real! I am also a recovering perfectionist, learning to admit daily my humanity. Thank you for putting it into perspective once again. It’s not “I can’t do it all.” It’s what csn I do?

  11. I’ve heard that many messy people, including hoarders, are perfectionists. If it can’t be done right, then it shouldn’t be done at all. I’m so guilty of this!

  12. Wow, this hit the nail on the head for me. I will be the first to admit I am a perfectionist, er, self-legalist. If I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t do it. Instead of seizing the moment, I keep waiting for the “perfect” time. Thank you for speaking truth!

  13. Oh My, Oh My – how thankful I am you wrote and posted this… I am just like this ~ and your insight helps so much.

    Thank you for being you and being so honest too.

    Brings healing balm and great grace to my heart.

  14. Thank you so much for this!! This is so me… all or nothing. If I can’t do it all, I end up doing nothing. I have such a hard time with moderation! If I’m counting calories and halfway through the day eat something that I don’t know the calorie content, I think I’ve blown the whole day, when the TRUTH is that I can still make GOOD choices for the rest of the day (without worrying about having an exact calorie count at the end of the day). I’m working on learning that doing “some” is better than doing “none.” It doesn’t always have to be ALL. I needed to hear this today. 🙂

  15. Thank you for sharing this. God spoke straight to my heart through you today. 🙂

  16. I need that thank you. I am really hard on myself. I have no problem encouraging others to look beyond their flaws to see the beauty within but I am constantly pointing out my own flaws. How sad for me to expect so much of myself. Thank you for speaking the truth.

  17. “Self-legalism.” Interesting. That definition, I can relate to. I’ve never thought of myself or been thought of by others as a perfectionist. But I think we all struggle with self-legalism in some way.

  18. I completely agree with you about self-legalism and how it is counterproductive –

    But I’m asking with complete sincerity, not to “nit-pick” –

    What do you think Christ meant when He said,

    “Be thou perfect, even as your Heavenly Father is perfect”.

    This is one of the verses in Scripture I struggle with, because I know Jesus doesn’t want us to struggle under a Law, and yet I’m wondering what the meaning of this verse really is. Is there another kind of perfection, which He is speaking of, rather than one’s character or morals, or the state of one’s soul?

    • I think what this verse is talking about is the pursuit of Godly character, not the idea that we are supposed to actually reach perfection.

      I agree, though, it’s hard when we think about that.

      • comments about the verse got me thinking… as far His love for us is concerned- we are perfectly lovable. We are already made to BE perfect because we are worthy of His love even though what we “do” is imperfect. Sort of Being perfect vs. doing perfect??

        Also, how silly is it that I dont feel comfortable admitting to others that I am a perfectionist since clearly someone with such a disorganized kitchen doesnt meet definition of perfect perfectionist 🙂 I am even a perfectionist about perfectionism! But working on it!! Thanks Sarah for this post!

    • Also just something to think about that I have been pondering lately but would have to dive into more.
      I read somewhere, (actually I think Sara Mae’s blog, although not totally sure) that perfect in biblical terms actually means complete.
      So we are complete (perfect) because Jesus was complete (perfect)
      It would be cool to do a word study on something like that. Hmm… need to find som spare time lol

  19. Wow! I can so relate to this type struggle…and One Day At A Time….I think I can do this… then I pray…..God grant me the Serenity to Accept the Things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference. So nice to know we have Sisters in Christ who have self-legalisms too. God is good all the time!

  20. WOW! This puts alot of things in perspective for me. Thanks for putting it into words Amy.

  21. I too have struggled with being a perfectionist much of my life. Thankfully, at 54 I am finally beginning to be a little easier on myself. I would never criticize others the way I have criticized myself in the past. Like Janet, I would like to hear some of your comments on Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” I think this verse may have added to my angst over trying to be perfect, yet I know I can never be, and that God doesn’t expect me to be, thankfully! Thank you Lord for your son Jesus Christ!

  22. I have been an on again off again perfectionist since I was a child. When I think I can’t get something right I give up and just feel bad about it. Ugh, I have to remind myself no one is keeping score.. Certainly not our heavenly Father. He has grace and unconditional love waiting for us. It’s time to break free of the self-legalism…

  23. This is PERFECT! I was nodding my head the whole time I was reading! Especially when you spoke about “all or nothing”. That’s me all the way when it comes to eating and exercise as well. I love that you pointed it out as self-legalism. I never thought of it that way. I grew up in legalism, so now I run from it! At least I thought I did! I impose rules and expectations on myself and then roll up into a ball of self-loathing when I can’t live up to them. Thanks for putting it all into words for us!

  24. oh did I need this today. I am so a secret perfectionist and I am so good at beating up on myself. I thank you for helping me look at this from a different view and know there are others who are in the same boat and we are looking to get on the right track

  25. I truly feel as if this post was meant exactly for me today! I have been living in a world lately, after a recent move, that feels as if I am constantly failing. This post was exactly what my heart needed to be reminded of. Thank you Thank you Thank you…from the bottom of my perfectionist heart!

  26. God is so good….He touches us in the places that we so hard try to hide from ourselves…..I am a secret perfectionist myself…and right now I am failing terribly!

    I am an exercise nut and I am compulsive about my weight. Recently, I broke my foot, and I am unable to walk on it…it is in a cast, so ……NO exercise for 10 weeks and then PT. It has been 5 weeks already and I have gained 12 pounds!

    Last night I did not even recognise myself….I was screaming at my husband, being rude and my manner was ungodly! Why???? Because I disliked myself!

    I chose what the world deems valuable and not what my First Love, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says is valuable….peace, joy, patience, accceptance, surrender to Him alone, love, charity, endurance……

    The Holy Spirit definitely led me to this post, and I shall bow low to Our Lord Jesus and give Him My Yes! To His Holy Will for me and look to Him only!

    God bless you!

    Everything is Grace,


  27. This really hit the spot for me today. Thank you so much, I am totally like this, but learning very slowly to change. I’m 55 years old, and have been on and off a diet since I was 15! Always monitoring what I eat, struggling to get that 25 pounds off. A really close friend pointed out that this is a form of self hatred. That if I treated a friend the way I treated myself, well… I wouldn’t have any friends! I’m afraid to speak up in meetings because I (think) everyone else has something better to say, or no one wants to hear me. I have to be perfect or I won’t say a word.

    • Lisa E you took the words right out of my mouth! I so identify with everything you said. Thank you for your comments.

  28. Thank you for that reminder. I’m sure I drive my family crazy – the more ‘out of control’ they are, the more I try to enforce the rules. I need to learn to rejoice in the chaos. Happy to have them as part of my life…

  29. Holy mackeral. I thought I was the only one that felt that way. I was raised legalistically…cant do it right dont do it at all. This has affected my ENTIRE life. Every aspect. I have no close friends cause I figure I would be a bore. I dont try anything cause afraid of not cutting it…not perfect..why, I would look like a fool. When I was married my ex would actually tell me not to talk around his family because I said stupid things (I was very quiet and docile when we first married, then I grew a back bone…long story) i.e not perfect.
    Now,.single mother of two (they were more important to get out of that relationship) I am not perfect enough to ever have a relationship again. My home is not perfect, 30 pounds over weight, job…life. Can’t go back to school the timing is not perfect. But, that old time keeps spinning. Thanks for posting. Lately, I have prayed for God to show me how He really sees me. I feel the root of all self esteem issues is not REALLY seeeing ourselves as GOD sees us

  30. I absolutely LOVE this post….it hits me to the core! I don’t know why I try to hold misled to such standards and live so stressed out! Thank you SO MUCH for this wonderful, insightful and eye opening truth!

  31. SO glad to see that there are so many recovering perfectionistas out there. I also like the term self legalism. I have been doing some personal “soul searching” recently, and God has shown me that my perfectionism is actually a form or idolatry! Ouch! I am putting what I desire for me to be before that which He desires for me. My way above His. I am jumping on the throne, getting in His face and saying, “Christ in me isn’t good enough. I don’t like the situation I find myself in (not of my own making, as a matter of fact) and its not what I want, so FIX IT!” Instead, I am learning to say, “Thank you, Father. I may not like this, but I love you and I want to see you in it. I submit to your plan.” Wish I could say I am at the point where it comes quickly, but I am a slow learner, so it is taking God a while. Fortunately for me, he doesnt expect perfection. He already has that one covered for me!

  32. Thank you Sarah! <3
    So well written and so honest. God touched your heart, your splendid creative writing and with it you have touched so many of us. (It is evident in reading the previous replies from the beautiful women above). We truly needed your sweet words and (in)couragement.
    I am tucking your post away for safe keeping and re-inspiration. I sure there will be days and times that I will need reminding that by God's grace alone, that with a faithful heart I am doing it well enough. No more "It's all or nothing!" With the help from my Heavenly Father; I will do what I can, when I can, as good as I can. 🙂

  33. Oh Sarah… We would be such good friends IRL. I call myself a “lazy perfectionist”, but I like your definition better.

  34. Uh, yes. I am so very much a secret prefectionist. Thank you for writing so plainly of how self-legalistic it is to impose that perfectionism on myself. I think I’d much rather work on being good than perfect. Even that is, most days, difficult. Thank God for grace. I completely get this. So truly do.

  35. Admitting humanity. Why is that SO hard for us? I want to please myself AND everyone around me, yet the only person who really matters is God and He already loves me perfectly just the way I am. Love this, Sarah. 🙂

    • Simply said, profoundly true. Thanks for sharing!! So thankful for His perfect love <3

  36. Oh My! I am with you on the house perfection thing! Try as I might, I tend to have piles here and there and would rather do almost anything instead of cleaning house! I used to think that if I could not do something perfectly, I just as well not do it at all! Lately, though, I have begun to loosen up on myself.

  37. Oh Lord, deliver us all!! Yes, I am a recovering perfectionist. God is revealing to me that as I reveal my inadequacies and shortcomings, He can reveal His power at work in me. I used to be frozen in fear to do anything, especially for God, because I did not want to fail. As we confess, one to another, He is faithful and just to forgive us. GRACE is AMAZING.

  38. What an awesome post. It is me! Now you have taught me not to hide behind the perfectionist!

  39. I so get this. . . totally struggle with this as well. Awesome post and such wonderful reminders for us all. I’m going to work on my perfectionist tendencies one layer at a time. 🙂

  40. I am a little bit of perfectionism in me. I am truly hard on myself when things go wrong or don’t turn out as I think they should. Comparison & competition are my constant companions. I need to pray about this and realize that I am who God made me to be and do my best at everything–perfect or not! 🙂

  41. Are you in my head Sarah? My writing has been lining up with a few of your post this week. Also, I was talking to my husband about when I was younger and took private dance lessons my teachers would push me to join a competitive dance group in the school and I never wanted to. The reason? I didn’t think I would ever be good enough (they were pushing me because I was good enough!). I thought ‘I will never be as good as those girls” So I didn’t even want to try. This comes from being a secret perfectionist like you say. If I think it won’t be good enough or perfect then I don’t even do it, I don’t even try. Again not at home, I have a sink FULL of dishes right now! But then I get frustrated if someone is coming over and I think I have to clean clean clean. Ugh yes, self legalism and I am trying to learn to live in grace. Grace.
    I also believe this is part if the reason why I struggled with depression after having each baby.
    But I am starting to look at things differently after starting to read Holly Gerth’s book The “do what you can” Plan! I wrote about here
    I just love the way you write, your honesty and your style!
    Thanks Sarah!

  42. Been burdened with this affliction of “self-legalism” all my life. Sad it’s taken me 60+ years to begin to finally let go and let God. Daily decision to walk in grace and not “self-legalism.”

  43. As I was reading this I cried as this is me 100%. I have never thought of myself as a perfectionist but have learned that when it comes to health/food, I am “all or nothing” attitude. I have the same messed up mindset that if I make a “food mistake” the day is shot. I have struggled with this for a while and keep handing it to God, but coming back to take it back to settle it by myself. Well it doesn’t work that way! Also it was never God’s plan for us to do this. He wants us to give it all to him. I am working on setting my ideals as normal not something unattainable. It’s definitely a struggle so thank you for this post!

  44. I am in some areas and not in others. When we have people ove , family or friends I have a little freak out if everything isn’t perfect. I need to remember Jesus is the only perfect one! I also need to keep in mind that most people are only here to see us, not the condition of my hose. My mother was a perfectionist, and a 87 she is finally letting up a bit.

  45. Oh gosh…me too! Closet perfectionist, right here. I wrote about it on my blog…which I started 2 years ago…which only has about 5 or 6 posts…because it wasn’t perfect so I would quit, start, quit again…

    It’s taken some time, but I’m finally getting to the point you’re at, too: doing what I can with what I have (be it time, food, exercise, decorating) and letting the Lord’s grace cover the rest. There’s peace when I let His grace cover an imperfect piece of writing or home decor. You’re not alone!!!

  46. Never thought of my perfectionism as being “self-legalism”…great definition. I know the Lord wanted me to read your post because every word spoke to me! With a lot of prayer and persistence I know I can become better…not perfect, but better. I am only made perfect by His blood. Thank you Sarah for sharing your heart with us.

  47. So good. So true and hard to read that I had to close my email when it first came in and re-open to read about 4 times. Timely message. Thank you for sharing!!

  48. I saw the title of this post and had a big “gulp” in my throat. Such a struggle to let go of perfection. Thank you for your honesty. It is a huge encouragement to let go of the “self-legalism” and be okay with self care.

    God bless!

  49. Thank you!!! You described me perfectly when it comes to eating and exercising – and I didn’t even know that I was a perfectionist in these areas until I read what you wrote! I do the same thing…if I have a sweet in the morning, if I can’t walk for 30 minutes…and on and on…

    I sincerely appreciate your insights –

    Patty O
    A Thankfully Imperfect Woman

  50. Thank you for speaking aloud what I think and fear and bursting that bubble of believing I’m the only one!