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Fear of failure: the inner life of a (recovering) perfectionist

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I started this blog with my “On the importance of…” series. Just to change things up, I’m starting a new series which will be called “Fear of ____ : the inner life of a (recovering) perfectionist”. I think that all of us have different fears that are borne out of our perfectionistic tendencies. I know I’m not the only one who suffers from this dreaded disease and so I wanted this to be a forum where people can hopefully be honest and vulnerable about any struggles we may have in this area… and to remind each other that we don’t have to be perfect! So, here’s the first post of this series. Hope you enjoy!

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Hi! My name is Sid and I’m a perfectionist. There. I said it. I’m really trying hard not to be a perfectionist. But just like how some can slip from time to time, so, too, can this recovering perfectionist!

I guess in many ways, the odds were stacked against me. First of all, I’m Asian. I also have very Asian parents. My mother is the original Tiger Mom who constantly reminds me that I have to be the best in everything. Not only do I have external influences that constantly demands for perfection, somehow, along the way, those values (vices?) were so ingrained in me that I took it as my own. So now, even without the voices from the outside telling me I have to be perfect, the voice within screamed even louder for the very same thing.

When I tell people that I feel like I’m the biggest failure in the world, I know many of them scratch their heads and wonder “Why?” On paper, I look really good. I graduated cum laude from University of Ottawa (Honours Psychology) and even won the academic excellence award when I graduated from McMaster University with my Masters of Theological Studies degree. I lived overseas for two years in my desire to listen to the call of God in my life to help and serve others in such a way that my life would be a testimony to God’s love and compassion. I’m surrounded by great friends and a family who have always provided for my wants and needs. I am well liked by others. A life like that looks like a success, doesn’t it?

But that’s the horrible part of being a perfectionist… nothing is good enough! It is greedy, compulsive, and leaves behind a wide swath of destruction in its wake. I have gone through most of my life thinking that I was not good enough, not smart enough, not attractive enough, not financially stable enough, not Christian enough… and the list goes on. It manages to take things that should elicit joy into apathy. I have actually explained away a lot of the success I have achieved in life as either “dumb luck” or “weak pool of candidates to choose from”. Let me tell you, living like that is not fun at all.

The thing about trying to be perfect all the time is that it makes you risk-averse. It stifles you into making safe decisions. You do that long enough and it can suffocate you and prevent you from trying to achieve your dreams. In my attempt not to make mistakes, I end up making the biggest mistake of all: not living. Living is full of mistakes. That’s how we learn. That’s how we grow. My fear of failure has become my straightjacket that hinders me from turning my dream into reality.

So I write this to remind myself (and you, my dear reader) that it’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay to be human and make mistakes. It’s okay to get bruises on the way to realizing your dream. In fact, if you are not making any mistakes, I would argue that you are not living at all. So go ahead and feel free to make mistakes. I know I will.

Has your fear of failure ever stopped you from pursuing your dreams?

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Friendly Friday: On Marriage, Identity, and the One Who Called You By Name

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Welcome to Friendly Friday! If this is your first time here at my website, thanks for checking it out! Basically, this is my way of highlighting my friends who I think are pretty awesome and are doing great things in the world!

Today’s post is actually an experiment of sorts. This is the first time that I’m cross posting! What that means is that my friend, Ricki W., is a guest blogger at my site at the same time that I’m a guest blogger at her site. We even write about the same thing! =)

I’ve known Ricki for a couple of years now and one of the things that I really appreciate is her desire to be an encouragement to me and to others. It’s a great quality to have in a friend. She is also smart and very down-to-earth. And she’s real… very real. I think that it is that very thing that really shows up in her writing. It is real. It is authentic. And it is vulnerable. As a writer, our life experiences are the fodder for the things we write and she is not an exception to that truth.

Marriage is something that is often on the minds of many people, especially the single variety. In both secular and Christian circles, there seems to be this unspoken, but very tangible, message that singleness is a bad thing. Especially in Christian circles, there is this weird message that if you’re single, something must be wrong with you. It’s almost as if you’re a second-class Christian if you’re not married. While I think that marriage is a great thing to have and to experience, we need to be careful not to idolize it. Jesus, after all, was single. Paul, a key figure in Christianity, was also single. So think on that!

And now, for your reading pleasure….

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My brother is getting married on Saturday and I am SO excited for him. I have never looked forward to an event so much as seeing my brother wed his lovely bride. His enthusiasm has somehow rubbed off on me… at least enough to write this.

Marriage is a wonderful thing. It is God-ordained… it was written into the very fabric of this earth. God himself said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” So He set about to create a helper for him. I love marriage. I love love. I am pro anything that God created good. Yet, sometimes I ask myself– what is going on in my life? All my friends are getting married… everyone seems to be pairing off. What’s wrong with me? Am I not beautiful enough? Am I not kind enough? Am I not good enough?

I think we all struggle with these questions. Whether or not you admit it, you likely struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Perhaps as a child you were made fun of. Or maybe you’re overweight. Maybe you weren’t good at things in school. Or maybe like me, you have accomplished a lot and just haven’t seem to “land” the right one. Maybe, like me, you have relatives that ask you why you aren’t looking harder or tell you that you just need to “get out there more.” Maybe you’ve stuffed down that perfectly horrible retort to their answer one too many times– and like a volatile feral cat, you’re feeling like you could rip their heads off.

Here’s the thing.

Marriage will not fulfill you the way you hope. It will not fill that God-sized hole you have in your chest. Yes, it may stave off loneliness. It may bring you great joy. Marriage is a wonderful thing. But let me say this. It will not fix your problems. Your problem is an identity issue, not a mate issue. You must find your identity in Christ before “finding yourself” elsewhere.

So note this:

You are beautiful. You are wonderful. You are specially made. Tonight, I was taking a walk as the sun was setting and I just said to God, “Wow. You must be really proud of your work here.” And you know what He said? “I’m really proud of you.” I almost burst into tears because there I was standing in the midst of his glorious creation, and the thing he remarked upon was me.

“You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” God knit you together in your mother’s womb. He knows you by name and he LOVES you. Can you believe it? Do you believe it?

Yes, people will always talk. That’s what we seem to do as humans. But whose voice should you be listening to?

 

Ricki is a self-described hillbilly with a literary flair. Passionate about Jesus, books, botany, hiking, and teaching, she desires to inspire the world with love, laughter, and timely doses of her own ramblings.

Twitter: @rickiblueeyes7

Blog: rickiblue.wordpress.com

I would love to hear your thoughts on marriage and singleness. Feel free to post a comment! Just remember to be nice. =)