If I could summarize my life in one word, that would be the word. All my “issues”, all my troubles, have stemmed from my perfectionistic tendencies. In school, I was always the girl that would cry if I received a 99. At home, I was the kid who tried to “show off” my value by attempting to do everything just right. At work, I was the employee who felt like I had to surpass everyone else’s efforts to show that I mattered. Behind the scenes, I was the girl who couldn’t stand imperfections in her appearance, so I went to extremes to “fix” those slight imperfections.
I used to think that being anything less than the best meant that I was no good. If I couldn’t be #1, then what was the point of being anything at all? Second place wasn’t good enough. Average did not make the cut. I wanted everyone to know that I was the best, the perfect one.
Then my world came crashing down, and my imperfections were spread out for the world to see.
The thing about perfectionism is that you never win. You may be the best for a day. You may be at the top for a year or two. But eventually someone else is going to come along and knock you from your pedestal. Eventually you won’t be able to keep up the demands of being perfect, and everything will start to unravel. Eventually you will see that perfect isn’t all that it is cracked up to be.
I had a run-in with perfectionism the other day. I was driving to work, minding my own business, when I came upon a traffic light. I just missed the green arrow, so I patiently placed my foot on the brake and waited my turn to cross the intersection. I watched one car, two car, then three car, pass by. I listened to the radio. I thought about how tired I was and about how much I had to do for the day. As the third car passed by, I looked across the intersection and-to my joy-saw that no cars remained. I could cross with time to spare!
So I gunned the engine, and as I crossed that white line of safety, I looked up.
The light was red.
Knowing that I couldn’t back up now and retreat once again into the safety of the white line, I took the only option left: I ran the red light.
Now, for most people, this might not be a big deal. Some may even live for this moment of breaking the rules.
I have always been a rules girl. I never cut in line, even when my friends told me I could. I never cheated on a test, even when everyone around me were so obviously cheating. Yes, for the most part, I have lived a life within the boundaries of all those white lines.
But on that day, I crossed the line. I broke the rule. I broke the law.
And I couldn’t let it go.
I walked into work literally shaking. I felt like I was going to be sick. I thought that the police were going to come find me at my office and arrest me on the spot. I remembered every car that saw me run the light, and I sunk into a very long moment of mortification. They saw me. There were actual people that sat in their cars and watched me run the red light.
I was convinced my life was over right there.
That day passed by like a blur. I did what I needed to do, but inside I couldn’t feel anything. Things passed by, but I took no notice. All I could think about was that bright red traffic light. All I could focus on was the fact that I had failed in a big way.
I eventually got over that incident. I look back on it and laugh now. I’m still waiting on the ticket (praying that it doesn’t come!). I learned my lesson though. I learned that failing isn’t always such a bad thing. Sometimes I need it to remind myself that I am human. Sometimes I need it to knock me off my pedestal. Sometimes I need it to show me that I do not have to have it all together, all the time.
Today being beautiful is about imperfection. It is about letting the small things go. It is about not caring that your face has a blemish. It is about laughing off the mistakes. It is about not crying when you get the dreaded 95. Today it is okay to fail. You don’t have to have it all together all the time. It’s not only exhausting…it’s unrealistic.
But please- if you embrace failure today- try not to run the red light.
Verse: “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24)