10 February 2014

The Perfection Myth: why chase something that doesn't exist?

If we are honest with ourselves, we probably all know that perfection doesn’t exist – but most of us waste a lot of time and energy pursuing an elusive mirage that we think might be found just ahead. But while we’re busy pursuing perfection, we’re missing out on the most precious parts of life: the laughter of silliness, the joy of spontaneity, the lessons found in failure, and the freedom found in grace.

Tell me, why do we spend so much time comparing our insides to someone else’s outsides? It’s a powerful question, and most of us (if we're honest) play the comparison game every day. We look to see how we measure up to those around us. And we don’t measure up. At all. Because we are comparing ourselves to something that doesn’t actually exist. We compare our messy insides – our struggles, failure and less than perfect lives to other people's carefully cleaned-up, perfect-looking outsides.

But what is actually real? We all wear masks that keep our insides from peeking out. We wear masks at church – we can argue all the way there and then paint a smile on our way in. We pretend to be more spiritual, more put together, more mature in our faith than we really are, fearing if anyone knew the real us, they would think less of us, so we choose to put a mask over our brokenness.

We wear masks at home by pretending things are okay even if they are not, saying nothing when our feelings are truly hurt. We sometimes don’t feel comfortable being our real self even with our spouse because we are afraid of being judged. But masks never bring us closer to who we were created to be. Instead they make shallow what God has intended to be deep. Marriage, Friendships, Families, Church. Masks don’t serve us well, all they do is keep us judging ourselves and others instead of living in and loving through grace.

And how did the comparison game get so bad? In this day and age, social media is one of the biggest culprits giving us completely unrealistic visual pictures which we compare our bodies, homes and families against. And the more we compare, the higher our expectations grow and then the Perfection Imperfection really sets in. Not only does it increase our desire for a 'perfect' house, kids, body and partner, it actually causes us to be discontent with our real houses, kids, bodies and partners. Most of the time it’s so subtle we don’t even realise it's happening, it’s just a subtle erosion of our satisfaction. But if we aren’t careful, discontentment can turn into disappointment, and disappointment into disillusionment, despite the fact that what we are longing for – the perfect house, job, husband simply doesn’t exist.

So.....instead, how about putting on a new lens through which to view life? Leaving behind perfectionism and instead finding freedom in authenticity?!

Living an authentic, grace-filled life where we are honest with ourselves, and it becomes easier to be honest with others. Where honesty breeds honesty. Where your honesty can draw out the honesty of others, and by admitting your own struggles, you create a safe zone for others around you to do the same. Putting down the mask and being 'real'. It can seem like an incredibly, risky move to bare your soul, but it's also the only way to really, truly come alive. 

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