Perfectionism & the Saboteur

In some ways, Kim Hyland and I are different. She’s soft-spoken, and I’m loud. She’s lovely, and I’m a little looney. 🙂 But at our core, Kim and I recognized each other as sisters right away. She’s one of us! She’s a reforming perfectionist who is finding deep joy in letting go. Please welcome my friend Kim, author of An Imperfect Woman, to the blog today. (And make sure to leave a comment to enter to win a copy of her new book!)

It was one of the first plays I’d ever auditioned for.

At sixteen, I was a college freshman, and my introverted self was struggling to connect socially. Drama wasn’t my thing, but I thought it would be a fun way to get involved and make some new friends.

The audition went surprisingly well. I reached down deep and drew out my inner diva (believe me, it took some digging). A few days later, I made call backs for the musical part of the audition! This should have been easy for me. I’d spent my high school years touring with our church choir and had even sung a few solos. I loved to sing.

But I bombed the audition.

I could feel it even as I sang the simple selection. I wasn’t giving my all. Shoot, I wasn’t even giving my mediocre half-best. Something in me was quitting before they could cut me. My fear of vulnerability and failure combined with my need for control were making me self-sabotage—the ugly underbelly of perfectionism.

It’s been called the fear of success, and it’s a bit of a mystery. Why would we fear succeeding in our pursuits? It doesn’t make sense. That is unless we think success means maintaining some vague standard of perfection. Then the fear of success makes perfect sense. We should be afraid of it.

Perfection is too heavy a burden to carry, so we undermine our own efforts and self-sabotage.

The connection between perfectionism and self-sabotage is subtle. The real saboteur is Satan, and he’s always been good at disguising his strategies. He knows well the truths that can so easily escape us:

  • Our dreams are planted in our hearts by God.
  • They bring energy, meaning, and purpose to our lives.
  • They’re a place of deep intimacy with our Father.

Is it any wonder Satan goes after our dreams? They have the potential to bring us closer to God, so our enemy does all he can to sabotage our efforts. And he’s more than happy to let us do his job for him.

That’s where perfectionism comes in. It’s Satan’s tool to keep us from acknowledging our deep need. Instead, we pursue endeavors and dreams with the destructive and dynamic duo of self-reliance and unrealistic ideals. When that burden inevitably becomes too heavy, we either press on to our own harm or we give up and quit.

Perfectionism denies the reality of our weakness.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Weakness is part of God’s intentional design for us. He could have made us jars of titanium but instead he chose clay, so we would know where power truly comes from. We might be weak, but God is more than enough.

He doesn’t call us to pursue our dreams because He thinks we can do it alone. He calls us because he wants to manifest His power through us and to let us be a part of what He is doing in His kingdom.

When we humbly acknowledge our constant need for God’s strength, it silences the saboteur. Free from the burden of perfectionism, we discover the security, power, and generous heart of our perfect Father.

 

Kim Hyland is a writer, a speaker, and the founder and host of Winsome, an annual retreat for women that celebrates authenticity, diversity, and truth. She also speaks at national retreats and conferences, where she encourages women by sharing her imperfect path and God’s perfect plans. Originally from the DC metro area, she now lives with her family on a mountain overlooking the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. Connect with Kim at WinsomeLiving.com.

 

In An Imperfect Woman, Hyland offers women a stirring manifesto for acknowledging their limitations and embracing the perfection of God through his grace. This is a book for every woman who gives 110% and yet feels shame when one little thing goes wrong.

To enter to win a copy of An Imperfect Woman, leave a comment. If you’re living life on the fly, simply say, “I let go of having it all together!”

 

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  1. “I let go of having it all together”……………I said it, now doing it is two different things. A work in progress for this chic. Thank you Amy and Kim. ~Lisa~

  2. I let go of having it all together!! I have been praying about what I should sacrifice for lent. Really praying and really working on something God has for me to work on. It’s not about giving up chocolate and exercising every day. It’s not about the challenge of giving something up for 40 days but I’ve asked him what I really need to give up and work on and seek Him for. For several days – actually weeks – I’ve been struggling with anxiety and pursuit of perfection (I need to re-read Amy’s book) and two things that I have read today have involved sacrificing our need for perfection and drawing close to the Lord and relaxing in His arms and trusting Him. TRUST. LETTING GO OF HAVING IT ALL TOGETHER. I think you have led me straight to the heart of Jesus. My lent sacrifice is spending more time with Him and letting go of every single thing that leads to perfection – holding on only to those things that lead to trust in Him. Thank you so much for today’s devotion!

  3. Thank you for addressing perfectionism and self-sabotage. It’s nice to know that I am not alone in my struggles.
    Lucy

  4. I gladly let go of having it all together. Would love to read more in Kim’s book. I just have to say I love the image of the cracked teacup on the cover that is still able to hold the weight of the cup stacked above it! Despite feeling chipped or broken, we are still strong and resilient!

  5. What a great reminder! Needed those words as I head off to work this morning, in God’s strength instead of my own! Blessings!

  6. I (will try to) let go of having it all together! (Obviously I have some work ahead of me LOL)
    Thank you for the reminder about “self-sabotage”….it’s the way I have been living my life and it’s time to work on changing that!

  7. I’ve allowed the saboteur to keep me from trying things I the past. Age has shown me fear of failure or appearing dumb is just plain ridiculous. I choose to live.

  8. “I let go of having it all together” in Jesus name! Wow… Self-sabotage as the underbelly of perfectionism…Thank you Kim for allowing God to truly minister to others through you! I needed this today along with Amy’s devotional, “How to Rediscover Joy in Your Work”.
    God I Thank You for hearing my cry and sending me an encouraging word today AMEN!

  9. Self-reliance and unrealistic ideals – oh how I can relate!! My goal for this year it to be easier on myself and receive God’s grace in everything. I like the title of Kim’s book – letting go of the need to have it all together –
    and for me, to have to do things perfectly. I would definitely benefit from reading this book.

  10. I so needed this today as I am pursuing a dream and I am self sabotaging my success because I am afraid of failing. I never looked at my dream as a way to draw closer to my God who gave it to me. Ready to press on and to attain my dream!

  11. Wonderful post! I think most of us need to read this daily for the reminder! I would love to read this. Ok! I let go of having it all together!

  12. THis truly speaks to me I had a huge event with a client recently, group project really. But I started pulling back from the group and feeling incapable of completing the task. My anxiety and worry drew me away and I then I started blaming others for not including me more. Wow it was self doubt attacking me and the devil speaking negatively of my true talents. Never thought those feelings could be my need to be perfect causing fear. Your blog has me truely digging deep to find out more

    • Cleo, I think that perfectionism is one of many faces of fear of failing. But when we find our identity in God’s love, failure doesn’t have the same impact. Our failures become part of living as imperfect women in an imperfect world. They’re still hard, but they don’t define us. I’ve found that knowing that makes it a lot easier to take risks.

  13. It’s been too long since I’ve read Amy’s gems… So oooo glad I did today, as this hit me right where it should. I am going to reflect on it more and share with many others.
    Thank you!!

  14. Great connection!– Self-sabotage is the underbelly of Perfectionism. I see the enemy’s fingerprints all over my history of self-sabotage and it’s time to trust my good, good Father and let it go! Thank you for your message.

  15. Oh, this one gets me! The truth is I don’t have it all together, but I’m constantly striving to keep all my ducks in a row and to stay a few steps ahead of the game. It’s crazy how this mentality keeps me from stopping and resting. This is definitely an area where I need improvement.

  16. Slooowwwwwly learning to let go of perfectionism. I still recognize self-sabotage in regards to my dreams, so this is hitting a tender spot in me today. Thanks for sharing!

    • Shawna, I think slowly is best. Perfectionism’s grip on our lives isn’t something we can shake on our own. The closer I walk with God, listening to what He has to say about me and my circumstances, the easier it is to silence the saboteur.

  17. OOPS! I even proofread my comment but didn’t catch the “eat” for “at” until my comment was set in stone, so to speak. The perfectionist in me demands that I correct that mistake, but I can’t; I can only post another comment to explain what I meant to say! 🙁

  18. Are we talking about being perfect in the spiritual realm or in our surroundings? Or both? I have always been a perfectionist wannabe but seldom achieve what, in my psyche, that would look like. I’m talking about perfectionism in my surroundings. Yesterday, for example, my pastor stopped by (the first time he has ever visited me in the nearly two years I’ve been attending this church). If only he had called first! Even 15 minutes would have made a big difference for me. I was tempted to tell him I was not receiving guests today. But, instead, when I opened the door, I blurted, “You’ve caught me in a mess! I think pastors like to visit unannounced to see how people really live!” I instantly regretted saying that, but it was something I’ve always wanted to say to a pastor. In all my 45 years of attending church, no pastor has EVER called first! I find that rude. With only a few minutes, I could eat least whip the living room into a semblance of order and , yes, “perfection.” It is hard for me to be civil, much less polite and hospitable, when I’m “caught in a mess.”

    Well, my pastor said, “You think THIS is a mess? You ought to see my office!”

    So, why don’t I always make sure my living room is not a mess? You tell me! I’m not a real perfectionist; I’m just a perfectionist wannabe.

    • Grace, there are no “real” perfectionists . . . we’re all wannabes! Perfectionism is an illusion. My daughter says that lovely places in our house are signs of order and beauty, and the messy parts of our house are signs of life . . . just like real life! God loves us so well right in the middle of our messes, and it sounds like your pastor knows that truth too 🙂

  19. I would LOVE to read this book!!! I know all too well the self-sabotage of perfectionism and more than anything I do not want to pass that on to my kids!!!! I want to let go!

  20. This is what I truly needed to hear! Thank you for this blog- I’m continuing to learn of Gods deep love for me!
    I doubt myself too much, today I’m praying strength to change- learning to Lean on my Everlasting Father!

    • “I’m continuing to learn of Gods deep love for me!” THAT is everything, Katie. Returning to His voice everyday and letting Him remind us again of WHO we are in Him kills perfectionism!

  21. I love you, Amy, and the work that you are doing! God is so faithful and so good to have our paths to cross in this life. I look forward to getting to know Kim, as well.. I would love to start by reading her book!

  22. I am letting go, I am tired of being an thinking I have to do it all. Thank you an thank God for this post.

    • Connie, isn’t it amazing how God will meet us right where we are and with a message that feels like it’s just for us?! I’m so glad I got to be His messenger for you today, friend. He adores you and wants you to live in His freedom, grace, and love!

  23. I’m definitely trying to let go of “having it all together”! Perfectionism and self-sabotage…..I can SO relate!

  24. Thanks for the devotion. I copied down the verse 2nd Corinthians 4 : 7 and several thought towards the end of the devotion. I have dealt with perfectionism forever. God is helping as you said for me “to become free from the burden of perfectionism.” It is definitely a burden. “Burdens are lifted at Calvary.

    • Yes, Elsie, Calvary. What joy it must bring our Father to see us embracing the freedom Jesus bought us there. Our flaws and failures can burden us or bring us to the cross again and again for more of His grace.

  25. “This is a book for every woman who gives 110% and yet feels shame when one little thing goes wrong.” This is totally me and continue to struggle with it. I would love to read this book.

  26. I wouldn’t say I let go of it all. I would say I am good with trying my best on a daily basis and accepting my efforts. We are not designed to be perfect, but to always work at it.

    • Peggy, not “all” . . . just “the need to have it ALL together”! If we let go of it all, that would be scary! Taking a daily approach, giving our best, and accepting our efforts is so wise.

  27. Thank you for introducing us to Kim Hyland.

    Especially appreciate these comments…it’s as if we walked in the same shoes.

    “‘something in me was quitting before they could even cut me’- the self-sabotaging is the underside of perfectionism.
    “Our dreams are- Planted by God in our heart; Bring us energy, meaning & purpose; Are a place of deep intimacy with our Father.
    “Perfectionism denies the reality of our weakness”.

  28. This is a book I truly need to read. I have been made a perfectionist and I do give up so I don’t fail. I would love to read this book!

  29. Thank you for an inspiring devotional. I love the analogy of the jar- God did not make us Jars of Titanium, but jars of Clay so we would know that our power comes from Him and we were formed “perfectly” by Him.

  30. I let go of having it all together! I definitely have ocd tendencies but I want to shine for the Glory of God!

  31. I let go of having it al together! (That was frightened difficult to say/type!) You have truly made me stop and think about the relationship between perfectionism and self-sabotage. Thank you for that!

  32. Very thought provoking. I had never considered self-sabotage as the underbelly of perfectionism. Thank you for writing ! I am going to check out your blog !

  33. Thank you for this post! It is definitely something that I need to be reminded of daily!

    I let go of having it all together!

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