How to Outdo Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a mindset and a stronghold.  Many are bound within it’s grasp and society encourages the pursuit of perfectionism.  It has become an idol all of its own.

In Australian culture there is a two-edged sword regarding perfectionism.  On one hand, you are expected to be the best of the best.  It’s not necessarily spoken as such, but the mandate is clear.

Then, on the other hand, there is always another person quick to pull you down if you get ‘too big for your boots’.  The tall poppy syndrome is another mindset that controls the social structure in your culture.

This syndrome is nowhere near as prevalent in societal groups as it is in Australia.  It is one of the first things that new comers to this culture pick up on and one of the least things discussed around the dinner table.

So how are perfectionism and tall poppy syndrome linked? 

Perfectionism, at it’s root, says ‘I must conquer, I must be the best at…, I must do this task without flaw, without error, etc’. Now, there is nothing wrong with wanted to be good at something, or even wanting to be the best at something.  The problem with perfectionism is that it drives a person: there is no room for failure, for error or for risk.

And so it will cause a person to behave in one of two ways.

  • 1:  they will push themselves, drive themselves to the ground in order to be the best, and they will probably succeed.  We often call these people high achievers and practically pin a medal upon their chests, or
  • 2: they will stall on everything they do and procrastination, driven by fear of failure, doubt, self loathing and indecision will be their bedfellows.  We often label these people as lazy, or ‘head in the clouds’, declaring over them that they will never amount to anything if they don’t start doing something.

Tall Poppy Syndrome, on the other hand, plays an insidious role within Australian culture.  It slips through the ‘fingers’ of society like water: it’s impossible to catch hold of for long enough to cause a cultural shift that says enough is enough.

This double-edged syndrome of perfectionism and tall poppy, has existed since the birth of colonial society in Australia and it stems from the poor mindsets that both the convicts and the soldiers had.  The convicts were determined to prove themselves and the soldiers were determined to ‘keep them in their place’, to remind them that they were just convicts – scum of the earth.

Both groups had something right but they took it too far.  The soldiers were right about some of the convicts but they labelled them all the same, making all convicts feel and believe that they were all just one big failure.  The convicts, many of them sent here for very unnecessary reasons, felt abandoned by their country, sent to the farthest ends of the earth (so it seemed) to die.  This created a culture of ‘I’ll prove to you I’m no scum.  You just wait.  I’ll become the best of everything.  I’ll be better than anyone else and then you cannot call me scum.’

The enemy must have had a field day.  He hardly had to do a thing.  Two mindsets – that is all that was needed to carry out the job of creating a double-edged mentality that would rule this nation for hundreds of years.

So if this country has a national mindset, how do you overcome that?  How do you live outside of that?  How do you rise above both perfectionism and tall poppy syndrome?

Identity.  As you abide in Jesus, and He abides in you (John 15-17), you learn about who you really are.  So simple.  Cause and affect.

But so many times, people are drawn back into a false humility spirit or back into doubting their abilities, or back into thinking they know it all… and so the cycle continues.

The way to beat it?

Obedience. Being obedient to what God’s word says about you.  Walking in it, not just talking about it.  As you continually step into the truth of your identity, you begin to recognise the symptoms of the syndrome; you become quick at responding in a new way.  You become emboldened and strengthened to choose the opposite of what it tries to convince you of.

You become strong enough to say no.

And so, one day at a time, one opportunity to slip back into it, or choose the truth of your identity at a time, you take ground against these strongholds.  You take ground for yourself and then you begin to take ground for others as you bless them with the revelation that you’ve received.  You begin to walk out the truth of your identity and when the culture tries to push you back down, you just steadily hold your ground and keep on walking.

It’s a daily pursuit.  Abide in Him.  Obey  his word, his truth about who you are.  Trust that He is true to his word and walk it out.

So how does this look in a practical sense?

When you feel that fatigue, that mental space that says ‘I’m just so tired and I can’t seem to get anything done today’:  this is a warning light.

The perfectionist will either ignore this signal and ‘soldier on’ or they will crumble under the weight of it and procrastinate about everything they were doing.

When you sense that chaos is beginning to take hold of your physical space, whether that be a work desk, a bedroom, or for some. a whole house:  this is a sign that you need to stop and take stock.  But the perfectionist will have a perspective on this that explains away the need to deal with it: ‘oh, I just have so much on, it can wait until I’ve finished this project.  I’ll deal with it all then.’ Or, ‘it’s fine, I don’t mind living like this’, and many other well rehearsed excuses.

When you hear yourself speaking in such ways, you have a choice.  You can continue in your old habits and wait for the next cycle to come along that unravels you, or you can speak to these things and practice your identity.

This is where knowing the Word comes in real handy.  Get to know who you are.  It’s all in there!  Arm yourself with the Truth and it’s like poison arrows being released to the enemy.  He has to bow to the Word.  And so therefore, his strongholds must also bow to the Word.

As you verbalise the Word of God, as you take it for your own and declare it over your circumstances and mindsets, you will see blooms of favour burst out of what you are doing.  The Holy Spirit can show you so much in these times as you release his truth over that which is causing you to stumble.

Simple hey? But again, so many become disillusioned and the enemy manages to keep them from saturating themselves in the Word.  ‘It’s just too hard to read’ or ‘It really is a heavy meal ‘ , or even ‘well, I’m not like that, so I don’t need to read that part’, etc.

None of these things are true.  It’s no less hard to read than any other book!  In fact, it should be the easiest book in the world to read because of the life that resides within it!

But many read and become confronted and the enemy uses this to falsify what they’ve read, or to overwhelm them with convincing words of ‘oh, that’s enough for today, I’ve bitten off enough of that’, or to convince them that they are not in need of that particular instruction.

So I implore you: if you are serious about overcoming the nature of perfectionism, know who you are; become familiar what God has said about you and test His word against this stronghold.  It cannot stand up underneath it!

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