After eight hours of painting my daughter’s room, I stood back, tilted my head, and squinted my eyes. On the little swatch from Sherwin Williams, the color “Danube” was the perfect blue. But now it just looked all wrong. It was bold and abrasive and hard to look at. I wanted a calm, soothing, moody color. I sent pictures to my artsy friends and asked for their opinion. I was trying to convince myself that I loved the color because I didn’t want to use up another day painting or spend more money on gallons of new paint. I was nervous my husband would roll his eyes and be bothered by my indecision. When I finally admitted how truly awful the color was, I said to my friend, “I feel like a failure.” I had to start from scratch. My mistake was exposed. My failure was painted on a wall visible for everyone to see.
I know I’m not a failure because I made a poor design choice. I was just so disappointed in myself. I let myself down. I failed. If you saw inside of me, you might see a lengthy list of my impossible standards. When I don’t reach them, I crush myself like an empty soda can under my foot. It takes me so long to recover. Sometimes it’s as though I cut parts of myself off as punishment. I cut down my feelings if they aren’t “right.” I cut down and overanalyze my actions if they aren’t good enough. I can be my worst critic.
When I can’t reach my potential, I’m tempted to try harder. If I could just work more diligently, I could be the person in my imagination. I could be the perfect version of myself. For so many years, I’ve wanted to be superhuman. But when I fail, the cycle starts again. I fail, beat myself up, work harder, try again, fail, and repeat. I war between my self-inflicted wrath and receiving grace. Honestly, it is more difficult to receive grace and help than my own judgment.
Criticizing myself comes easily. Receiving grace is torture.
I want to earn it, prove it, and show how competent I am. I want to be the woman who does it all. When I fail and fall on my face, I have a choice. I can beat myself into being better or I can accept grace. I can reach out to the hand reaching for me or slap it down.
I walked into my husband’s office and buried my head in my hands. I sputtered on and on about how wrong the blue color was. I was prepared for his judgment of me to be harsher than the one inside my mind. Instead, he said, “If you hurry, you can pick out a new shade of blue before the store closes.” I was ready for anger. I was waiting for him to come down hard on me for my costly mistake. I was ready to prove, defend, and bargain for his grace. Instead, he just gave it. Grace is never earned. It is always a gift.
I wonder how to break my cycle of perfectionism. Perhaps experiences like this one with my husband help, but I don’t think it’s enough. I need grace moments like this all the time. I need to live in it, walk in it, dance in it. I need to immerse myself in it like a long, warm shower cleansing not just my body, but my soul.
I’m not sure if my internal critic will ever be silenced, but I am learning there can be a louder voice, a loving voice that whispers grace over my critical voice. Both can co-exist, but only one will ever love me in return. An intimate relationship with Christ comes when I let His perfect love receive me in grace. I repainted my daughter’s room in a deep sea blue. Grace covering all my mistakes made me smile.Leave a Comment
I feel like I just read a description of myself in another person! I resonate so hard with this. Thank you for writing from your heart and allowing us to really see ourselves in each other.
Carol Ritchie says
I actually feel as though this was my writing as it is my reaction in most of life. I strive to be perfect as a perfectionist and am never pleased or content with myself. I am trying to learn that God loves me and is more than content with me.
karyn j says
i’m right there with you. i’m learning how to fight my destructive/negative thoughts. as she mentioned, im learning to show myself/accept grace. it took 37 years for me to come to this realization, it’ll take some time for me to reverse it or just do better. (heck, i’m proud of myself for being able to acknowledge and be willing to even address it.) know that you are not alone. it won’t happen over night and we may never be completely “fixed,” but we got this!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
It took me a LONG time to learn this and I still fall back into old habits but…
Perfectionism is trying to be perfect, like Jesus, without Jesus.
When I/we try to achieve perfection in our own self-sufficiency it’s basically called “pride.”
When I came to grasp that perfectionism = pride, it really changed my way of thinking. The only
way to be perfect is through the blood of Chirst. No striving, earning, performing needed 🙂
Hope that helps?
Nancy Ruegg says
That helped ME, Bev! Thank you for your wisdom: “Perfectionism = pride.” I still have to fight the urge toward perfectionism, but that little quote is good ammunition to use against the temptation!
I’m learning right along with you, Carol!
Jennifer, you aren’t alone. So glad we could connect!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
I did sort of feel like you over paint I picked for our hallway. We done not so long ago. It was lovely looking on the paint chart. I knew in my heart of hearts when it would be on the walls on our hallway it would be lovely. But as it was being poured into the painter bucket and the painter started putting it on the walls. My Husband said Dawn I do hope you choose well in this color. His face began to show it. Then I began to dought myself had I choose well in the color for the walls. What if my Husband was right it was not going to be nice when it was all painted. I then began to doubt myself. Had I after all pick a nice color for the hallway. Would it be nice. Was my Husband going to be right. Well I did ask my Husband to help me pick the color. But no he left it up to me as usual. He the type everything has to be looking well. When we do something up. It is not often we do the house up. Only when it needs it. As we both are saved. We both believe it is God who gave us the money we have. We tithe to God’s work first then pay our bills. As we believe it is God who gave us the lovely home we have. As there are people in our world today who don’t have a roof over their head we both believe that. We give God thanks for what we have and that we have a roof over our heads. Plus all God gives us. So I began to Pray as the painter was putting the paint on the walls to myself. God please make the color I have choose for the walls look nice when it is finished. Give my Husband that he will like it. Yes when it was finished it was lovely. I had chosen well. Then I thank God. So when I read your incourage reading today. It makes me say. Stop be thank full on to God for the Grace God has given you. Plus be thank full you have the Grace to do everything in strength of God. Plus God Grace is with you every day. You don’t need to be a Perfectionist or have the perfect colours on your walls. You have them painted and what’s more you have a roof over your head. So many in our world don’t have that. That is far more important than worrying about if the color looks right or nice on the walls in your home. At least the paint no matter what color it is. It will freshn up the place in the home you had the paint for. God wouldn’t want you to be worrying about the paint color. When there are more important things in our world to worry about. Love today’s incourage reading. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xxx
Thank you for sharing your story! I’m not alone! I’m so happy the color turned out nicely! I love how God can meet up even in the smallest details of our lives!
Donna McPherson says
I just started receiving these messages this week and every one has spoken to me in such a personal and profound way. None like today though. I need to read it everyday – several times a day. I am quick to give grace to others but so slow to receive it from myself. Thank you for allowing Holy Spirit to speak through you to me today. I felt the “God hug” and it is wonderful.
Beth Williams says
It has been said that we are our own worst critics. We often fee that if it isn’t perfect, beautiful or whatever then we have messed up. Then comes the beatings & the you’re not good enough thoughts. Do it again stupid. Try harder. I’ve said all these things to myself. The problem for a lot of us is comparison. We see how others do things so easily & beautiful. We want to be like them. Trouble is we aren’t. God made us all unique with varying talents & degrees of those talents. We need to be a little kinder to ourselves. The world is harsh enough. Go ahead & give yourself some grace.
Yes, lots and lots of grace. Thank you, Beth!
Maybe you needn’t have worried so much – your daughter might have loved it!
Yes! You are exactly right. She would have loved it.
karyn j says
thank you for that sermonette!! you were definitely preaching to me. this was perfect…thank you!
Thank you! So glad it resonated with you!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Maybe this will help you see your paint color in a different light? Strauss had as his inspiration for his famous “Blue Danube Waltz” the beautiful waters of the Danube river that runs throughout the Europeon Union. Play the waltz, dress up and dance with your daughter like you are at a famous ball in Vienna…maybe you’ll both be inspired? 🙂
Oh Bev, thank you for sharing this with me. It made me smile!
Nancy Ruegg says
“I can beat myself into being better or I can accept grace.” When you put it that way, the choice becomes obvious! We forget sometimes about being gracious to ourselves. Thank you, Anjuli!
Yikes! You act/think just like me! Thank you for helping me to do more than just putting up with myself! The Holy Spirit has been subtly showing me these truths too! I now hear Him say ‘Ease up Girl!’ My expectations of ‘heaven on earth’ have been way too high & often just silly!