The Pressure of Perfectionism


I closed my eyes breathing in the clear, ocean air, listening to the peaceful sounds of waves gently crash upon the sandy shore and... "YIPEEEE!" my nephew shrieked as he ripped off his shirt and raced into the waters, 3 other hooligans running after him. We had decided that today was beach day!

After a long afternoon of hunting for deals on furniture at IKEA (our mission was successful! I found a closet, no more living out of suitcases for me!) we thought it would be a good idea to relax for the rest of the evening on the beach with my sister and her 4 adorable children.

Photo on right: Israeli & Swedish flag outside IKEA

Watch our video of our time at the beach!

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I looked on in disbelief as her middle child, Yoah, jumped around in the ocean waves. Yoah was always an exuberant, wild, thrill seeker who loved adventure and action. A few days earlier he had suffered a forceful hit to his leg while playing soccer.

He had been lugged around to different medical centers, doctors and hospitals trying to get a diagnosis on whether or not it was fractured. Thankfully it seemed to be slowly healing and wouldn't require a cast.

Nothing was going to stop Yoah from enjoying his time at the beach, not even a broken leg! We settled down on the sea shore keeping an eye on the kids dancing in the shallow end in front of us.

Photo above: Rishon L'tzion beach in Israel during February.

My sister began telling us how Yoah had been carrying (or shlepping as we say in yiddish) his backpack full of heavy books to school every day instead of leaving them there in his locker. She said that she couldn't understand why he insisted on carrying such a heavy load when it was unnecessary weight on his shoulders until she finally got an answer out of him.

"Ima!" (mom) he said exasperated. "I carry all my books on my back because I didn't want to forget any I need and I just wanted one year that I do everything perfectly!"

She said that she was surprised that her son, such a free-loving spirit would strive for perfection to such an extent. "It really breaks my heart and saddens me to think that he's putting such pressure on himself at such a young age!" My sister said shaking her head.

I watched as Yoah hopped around on one foot and thought of the song a famous christian rapper called NF released a few years ago with a line in it that said "broken legs but I chase perfection."

The song resonated with so many people that it has over 7 1/2 million views! This leads me to believe that the world pushes the idea of perfection on us and we are not built to carry the burden.

Our heavenly father didn't design us to live with perfectionism and I think that his heart breaks when we sees us loading up on heavy pressures & expectations we place on our shoulders and insist on carrying through life even when they're the very thing holding us back and breaking us down.

The message God has placed on my heart today is the call to release, let go of and lay down the pressures and weight of perfectionism at his feet. Maybe you already know that you struggle with perfectionism and it's something you're trying to overcome. But maybe you're not sure. Maybe you think "my room is a mess, I'm disorganized and I don't really care about getting perfect grades... I don't think I"m a perfectionist."

Lets look at some of the side effects of perfectionism.

- Difficulty being vulnerable & transparent. (difficulty developing close & honest relationships. Tend to distance yourself from others if they get close enough to begin to see the 'less than pretty' parts of your life.)

- Burnt out. Constantly striving, busy all the time, can't keep up with your schedule and feel an inner drive to push through exhaustion in order to 'just get that last thing done' instead of giving yourself the time and space you need to rest and recharge.

- Religion / Legalism. (used as a way to gain acceptance and approval from other people.) Caring too much about what others think about you. Thinking that if you can just do everything right (keep enough rules) you will be enough.

- Low self esteem. On a rollercoaster of emotion based on your performance which drastically changes how you feel about yourself from day to day. Struggle with shame and guilt. Feed off of others compliments and seek others affirmation and acceptance.

- Anxiety & stress. Clinging to the false believe that you are in control & enter into panic when things slip out of control.

Do any of those resonate with you? I know that I can tick off every thing on this list for myself at some point in my life!

photo above: this sign was at IKEA above a vanity for sale!

Perfectionism stems from pride. It is striving to take the place of God in our lives. Instead of relying on Him, the only 'perfect' one, we grasp onto the illusion of control over our lives.

True freedom from perfection comes when we surrender our self sufficiency, acknowledge & embrace our human weakness and lean into God's unfailing love.

Perfectionism says "I need to do it all, every time, all the time, to all people, perfectly." which is impossible. It only leaves us run down & exhausted.

When we struggle with perfectionism, we are really wrestling with a question mark on our hearts asking "am I enough?"

This can stem from a root of rejection from our past as we subconsciously think 'if I never disappoint anyone, if no one knows my flaws, they will never reject/leave/hurt me again."

I've experienced perfectionism and I've seen it in so many other people's lives and how it really holds us back from walking in our calling & purpose. Not only that but it tends to rob us of the rest that our minds, bodies and souls need.

After our adventures at IKEA we dragged the heavy closet home and stuck the parts in my room.

Avi began the task of assembling the closet, hammering, drilling and screwing together the piece of furniture.

Needing a little help in the final stages of the project he called up his friend, Zolar, to give him a hand with the completion.

They called me into the room to show off their work once everything had been done. I was so happy! It looked great. Then I opened it up. "yeah, so we only messed up on that one thing." they said sheepishly.

Inside they had nailed the back of the closet the opposite way so that instead of the sleek white finish lining showing there was brown, taped up backing. My heart sank a little. Even though I was very thankful for a new closet and all the hard work they had done the slight imperfection bothered me. I wrestled with it for hours before letting it go.

Funny how God always gives us a personal example when trying to teach us something!

The world defines perfect as 'flawless, the best, having & doing everything, all the time.'

But God defines perfection differently. The word 'perfect' in Hebrew is 'mooshlam.' (מושלם) which comes from the root word 'shalem' שָׁלֵם which means whole.

When you visit Israel and order a falafel in a pita (which I highly recommend btw) they'll ask you "do you want chetzi חצי (half) of a pita or shalem שָׁלֵם (whole.)

When we cling to perfectionism we view ourselves as 'half of a human' because we feel partially empty on the inside and strive to fill that void. We look for our missing piece or our other half in relationships, in accomplishments, in accumulation of more 'stuff.'

But the biblical view of perfection is very different.

When Yeshua died on the cross for our sins, as the perfect Passover Lamb of God, the final blood sacrifice, he cried out in Hebrew saying 'Nishlam' נִשׁלָם - "It is finished." (John 19:30)

That same root word 'shalem' שָׁלֵם also means "it has been payed in full." As believers we know that Yeshua paid the price for our sins and through his blood we can receive forgiveness and healing for every broken area of our lives, He is the only one who can make us whole again.

Yet so often we know this truth in our minds and haven't let it penetrate and sink into our hearts. There are still wounded areas in us that spur us onto perfectionism even though we know better. Until we bring those hurts to God and invite him into those areas that have caused a root of rejection to form in us we will not be able to walk in true freedom but remain in the prison of perfectionism.

This prison keeps us chained to others opinions of us, our chaotic, busy schedules, our own high standards and expectations of ourselves and others as well as the constant rollercoaster of emotion that goes up and down based on our own performance through life.

God asks us to release the pressure of trying to be perfect so he can let beautiful things bloom in our lives.

The first step to overcoming perfectionism is humility. Once we embrace that we can honestly say "God I need you, I can't do it on my own, I know that ONLY by your grace I am saved." I'm not just talking about the eternal salvation available to us through Yeshua but also the daily saving grace of his favor and power in our lives to provide for us, protect us and meet every single one of our needs.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mathew 11:28-20)

God does not expect us to carry the weight of perfectionism on our shoulders. We cannot earn enough brownie points to get into heaven. We cannot change every situation in our life by our own strength. When we come to Him, in our mess, in our exhaustion, in our battle with perfectionism and pride - we find rest for our souls.

As we spend time with Him and take the yoke of his direction & guidance in our lives He begins to shape us into His image of gentleness and humility, which enables us to flourish out of a place of soul rest.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you that it is by grace that I am saved. Thank you that you sent your son, Yeshua to die on the cross to pay the price for my sins and that I am washed clean by His blood.

Help me surrender my pride and perfectionism to enter into deeper rest and closeness with you. I can't sustain myself on my own so I invite you into my life and lay down every weight holding me down. Thank you for showing me & leading me into greater humility and gentleness towards myself & others.

Amen.

P.S. Thank you so much to everyone who continues to partner with us in prayer and support as we settle back in the Land.

I would love to hear from you!

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Shalom!


Created by: Liat Nesher