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Dear Perfectionist, “I’m breaking up with you”

My daughter wrote a song called “Dear Anxiety”. It’s a breakup song. I’ll post it at the end.

But my “bad boyfriend” is Perfectionist.

Recently, I was processing. I think I have a book in me. But every time I try to write it, I hit a wall. My friend, Connie, a published author, encouraged me to give myself permission to just write. Write raw and unedited. Spew on paper (my words, not hers). Write till you’ve put down everything. Only then do you go back and mold it.

I realized that I hadn’t even blogged in months. So I gave myself permission and began to write.

I’m sharing this first writing session because I just don’t think I’m alone.

So jump in my journal.

Here’s what I wrote to break the silence:

Why am I so blocked? Why do I get so close to what I want and stop running? Why do I walk up to the wall and not climb it?

I haven’t given myself permission.

See, I grew up trying to please a perfectionist who grew trying to please a perfectionist before them, who grew up trying to please the perfectionist before them. You get the picture. Perfectionist’s opinion mattered more to me than anyone’s. Perfectionist made me feel like I walked on water, as long as I performed to perfection.

And the thing about perfection is that the definition changes faster than the stock market only the floor never closes for the day, so there is never any closure. Ever. Achievements, yes. Closure, never. There is no “there”.

Why do I feel like even writing about this makes me want a drink of wine? And I don’t even drink.

And why, just thinking about it all, did I just eat two servings of cookie dough Haggen Daas ice cream?

And why, because you identify with me, are you planning what you will do to numb out if I ask one more probing, guilt inducing question – even though you have not done anything wrong!?

But, unless you find freedom, you will. Because you feel guilty and yet, I repeat, you haven’t done anything wrong. But you must have, right? Why else would we feel guilty?

So you’ll do something mildly rebellious – against yourself ­– because, like me, the person you really want to rebel against you wouldn’t hurt in a million years! In fact, we love that person and they even love us as best as they can.

But if we don’t do something we can scold ourselves for, then the guilt has no place to go. There’s no reason for it. But it must belong to us, this guilt thing. We’ve felt it for so long it must belong to us.

You and me. And our guilt thing.

Guilt demands a reason. Guilt is just bossy like that. So if guilt can’t pin an action on us, it moves to the hit below the belt.

We certainly wouldn’t give ourselves permission to use our gifts unless it could be for some extremely sacrificial cause. Certainly not for enjoyment. That would make us shallow.

We children of Perfectionist do not play.

We take part in productive, educational activities that enrich our minds and bodies – and make our personal Perfectionist look successful.

Our Perfectionist is often generous. They give us their very best - so that they might appear to be the best (even though they don't even know they are doing this.)

And we perform and they clap and smile. And then they say, “That was an amazing achievement. You deserve that trophy! I’m so glad I was able to play a small part in it. (wait for it) Oh, and next time you should…”

Because if we are enough, then they lose their hold.

This life long “you’re not enough” thing. This knowledge that at any moment we’ll be told we’re not enough again, even if we’ve just knocked ourselves silly doing wonderful things just to get acceptance. This is our tightrope.

We are guilty and we don’t deserve anything wonderful unless we perform for it. We certainly wouldn’t ever give ourselves anything wonderful. We can only receive undeserved gifts, but never do we pursue what we really would love. That would be self righteous on one hand, or completely self indulgent on the other. And either one would provide guilt and even public censure!

We give ourselves enough private guilt already, thank you very much! We certainly do not need any help from the outside!

Perfectionist is a shape shifter. He can clone himself to look just like your teacher, your parent, the queen bee in your peer group, your boss, your boyfriend…

Maybe we leave home. Maybe we even scream, “I don’t want to be like you!” But that only makes us feel more guilt. So maybe we find some vice our Perfectionist particularly hates and we do that. “If they are going to criticize me, then I may as well do something to earn it, right?”

But then we stop just short of “over the line” because secretly we know that if we perform just as they want, Perfectionist wins. However, if we go completely over that invisible line, they win there too. Why? Because they said it would make us miserable and they were right and ready to tell us so.

There’s no winning with Perfectionist.

So how to we beat them at their game so that we can be free?

Um, we don’t.

HOLD ON, PLEASE! I’m about to tell you that you CAN be completely free!!!

But the first step is to walk away from the game.

You and I can’t win at a game where the rules change. We assume there’s some fairness there somewhere, but there’s just not. It’s like being given a baseball bat and then being placed on a personally owned golf course. Nothing we do is right, no matter how we improve our grip. No matter how many hours we practice. It’s just not a game we’re equipped to play.

We have to say, in essence, “Hey. This is a lovely personal golf course, but I’m just not equipped for this game. I’m going over here to the baseball field. I’ll be playing by a different set of rules, but I’ve finally discovered this thing in my hand is a baseball bat!”

It’s not a perfect analogy, but you get the point.

You can’t win if you make Perfectionist the opponent at their privately owned game.

They’ll just redesign the course and move the holes.

So how do you win freedom?

Ah. There’s the question worth asking.

We assume that, by definition, freedom is a thing to be grasped.

But all the while, Freedom, like Perfectionist, is a “who.”

And Freedom loves you, just like you are. In fact, Freedom got all beat up and bloody for you because He loved you when you were your absolute most imperfect you.

Freedom got killed so you wouldn’t.

Freedom saw you buried under that heavy rock and busted that tombstone away.

Freedom walked right out of that grave and teaches you what to do with that grave cave you’ve been living in. You see, Freedom says, “follow me.” And when you say yes, it means you’re free! Because to follow Freedom means you’re following Someone who walked away from the death house and never looked back. He swallowed your grave in victory. He did it for YOU! (And yes, I'm talking to myself here buried inside that corporate "you".)

And right now, Perfectionist is for sure whispering, “You can’t have that. You don’t deserve it. Get your act together first and make yourself presentable. Maybe then…”

But Freedom says, “Come as you are. I’ll trade you all you’re weighed down with for a hug that heals you… forever!”

Yes, I’m going to say “Jesus” now.

Because that name carries something. No one else’s name can do that, because no one else did what Jesus did. His name carries authority, healing, hope, freedom.

His name carries… you.

And you know what He says you have to do to get to Him?


That’s it. Find a Bible or google Matthew 11:28-30. See if you can find any ticket price on coming. There was one, but He paid it.

Right now, Perfectionist might put up a fight, or try to play the victim. But Freedom wants you free.

Just come.

Here's Laina's awesome song:


PS Perfectionist doesn't stop talking. Perfectionist just told me that my signature is way too big. I just said, "I know. I'll learn how to do it better, I just don't know how yet. But if I wait till I get it all perfect then I'll never hit the publish button." NEW GAME!

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