I confess I am a perfectionist.
I find that life can be simplified if we understand ourselves and our strengths. When we come to a solid understanding of who we are we can walk in that and create a life that makes sense for us instead of trying to be someone we aren’t or copy someone’s life that is not realistic for us.
Recently I took an Enneagram test which is used to determine one’s primary personality. Of course, mine came back as a Number 1 – The Reformer/Perfectionist.
At first, I was upset because I’ve worked hard to not be a perfectionist – even calling myself a “reformed perfectionist” to avoid the stigma associated with being a perfectionist.
What I learned from this personality test is that I can’t not be a perfectionist, it is who I am hard-wired to be, it’s my core personality.
What I can do – and have tried to do – is be in harmony, balance, and peace so the core strengths of my personality are exposed in a positive and helpful light.
Perfectionists get a bad rap and take a lot of flak.
Since perfectionists are already incredibly hard on themselves, constantly listening to an inner critic critique every aspect of their being, it’s overwhelmingly painful when others add to that pile of criticism or make fun of the perfectionist.
It can become a huge burden that can lead to despair or complete shutdown.
My discouragement at being labeled, yet again, the perfectionist almost defeated me.
But then I listened to one of the Enneagram podcasts discussing the Perfectionist.
How comforting it was to hear the presenter acknowledge – with compassion – the difficulties of living life as a perfectionist. He even said it’s probably the most difficult personality to be because the pressure is enormous and the root of our criticism is always shame.
“I should have, I could have, why didn’t I.”
The barrage of these constant thoughts creates an onslaught of criticism that threatens to steal the joy of living in the moment or looking to the future.
The perfectionist can get caught living in the past – second-guessing, reworking scenarios and decisions looking for a better outcome. They often spend time looking to place blame, because they live out a sense of justice – everything must be explained and accounted for!
But There is Good News!
But here is where the perfectionist can take joy in who they are: the perfectionist is all about integrity – a sense of doing the right thing, doing their best ALL the time, as a reflection of who they are.
While that can be quite a burden, at the heart of it it’s truly a beautiful thing because the root meaning of integrity is wholeness, intact, or complete.
The perfectionist desires that all things and people be made whole or complete!
That’s a godly quality and at its heart, a helping personality.
We see the flaw, the hole, the mistakes, and we desire to help that person or situation be made whole, better, complete – fulfilled and healthy!
Ultimately isn’t this what God desires for all of us and why He sent His son – so we could be made whole?
“I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” ~ Jesus (John 10:10 NKJV)
“…and you are complete in Him…” (Colossians 2:10 NKJV)
“…that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11 NKJV)
In the flesh (working in our own strength) the perfectionist is just a critic.
We can easily assess any situation or person and see the flaws, identify what’s missing, and because we assume others want to ascend to wholeness, we generously share our critique and analysis.
Without wisdom, discernment, and love, this type of help is guaranteed to be received as harsh or negative, often resulting in not only the rejection of our advice but even the rejection of our friendship or presence in other’s lives.
We all need to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, daily surrendering to the Spirit, but perhaps the perfectionist more than most needs to continuously place herself under the authority of the Holy Spirit.
The risk of speaking and acting in the flesh for us can be too great and result in fractured relationships, offended sisters, and wounded spirits.
Working With God
But, the good news is, the perfectionist can be a partner with the Holy Spirit in bringing healing and wholeness to the broken and wounded.
The critical nature is not one of disdain but rather flows from a heart of love.
I criticize because I care. That sounds wrong to our ears, but it’s true. I desire so deeply to see things made right, wrongs corrected, and wounds healed that I am always in a relentless pursuit to end suffering or prevent mistakes that can lead to harm.
If I see a need, a hole in someone’s heart, a misguided belief that’s led them to a place of sorrow or unfulfillment, I want to shine a light on it, expose it, and help restoration take place.
If you love a perfectionist and you feel picked on or criticized, please know that person is well-intentioned.
If you are a perfectionist – rejoice – you have an amazing gift!
A gift of healing, a gift that can transform situations and bring hope and direction to those around you.
A gift that partners with the Father of Lights, the Maker of the Universe, the Savior of the World whose desire is to make His creation whole, to restore what evil and sin have stolen.
For the Perfectionist
Dear perfectionist, humble yourself under God’s hand, be relentless in your submission to the Holy Spirit because you have a powerful sword – one that can cut down the enemy and make paths of freedom.
But when wielded in the arm of the flesh it’s a weapon that can pierce and wound – creating collateral damage where you intended healing.
Seek God continually, pray without ceasing (be in an attitude of prayer) asking God “What would you have me say or do?”
Ask if you should speak or act or simply pray.
But – when the Holy Spirit releases you – speak boldly, articulate carefully, and love with integrity. Then you will be a powerful tool in God’s hands, setting wrongs right and clearing paths for His healing to enter situations and hearts.
“When you are whole and consistent, there is only one you. You bring that same you wherever you are regardless of the circumstance.” – So Young Kang
This is like the character of God with whom there is no shadow of turning (James 1:17 NKJV) or simply put in The Message: “There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle.”
As perfectionists, we have the opportunity to show a broken and disappointed world the consistent love of God. Because we represent God in our integrity walk, those who distrust or have been deeply betrayed learn they can trust God as well.
I can’t think of a better gift to give others than to be able to represent Jesus to them in a way that helps them trust the dependable God.
Wear the Badge With Honor
Now I’ll wear my perfectionist badge proudly, no longer allowing shame to deter me from seeing my personality as a divine gift to be used for His good in the lives of others.
Fellow perfectionists, reframe your vision of yourself in light of this understanding, submit to the Spirit, and then let’s step out in faith and ask, “How can I help someone find wholeness today?”
And you will be like a tree on the bank of the river of life where others can find nourishment and medicine. (Ezekiel 47:7-12)
Man, that lights a fire in my belly!
Step out of the way, inner critic, I’ve got some holes to fill!
If You Are a Perfectionist
- Don’t take criticism to heart or internalize it. This is deadly to the perfectionist and can crush your spirit. Take everything with the perspective of who gave it, their motives, their relationship with you, their biases, etc.
- Timing is important! You may see a “fix” for someone but they may not be ready to move. Wait for the right timing.
- Ask before offering advice or wait until the person reaches out. Even then tread lightly and gage their receptiveness.
- Remember other personalities receive advice differently. You may deliver what you think is timely and supportive help but a more sensitive personality may take it as criticism and avoid you.
- Pray and think before speaking and acting.
- Just offer the next step. We tend to see Big Picture and far out – where that person can go or what they can become – but that’s overwhelming for most. Don’t give them a list of things to do – just offer the next obvious step – no matter how small or insignificant that may seem to you.
If You Love a Perfectionist
- Please don’t make fun of the perfectionist. This might be funny on TV but not in real life. We’re not thin-skinned, it’s just that we care much and when you poke fun it hurts. It is an insult to our integrity.
- Tell the perfectionist that you appreciate the help/advice but…be specific. My husband always says, “It’s not what you are saying that is making me reject your advice, it’s how you are saying it.” This reminds me that my intentions are good (keeping my integrity intact) but I need to work on my bluntness or tone.
- Tell the perfectionist when they’ve been helpful. Don’t worry, we won’t get conceited or offer you more advice, we just need to know that we’ve been truly helpful so we can digest the feedback. And it’s what we live for – helping people!
- Refrain from asking the perfectionist for advice or help if you are not prepared to receive it or follow through. We are problem solvers so we’re not going to give you pate answers or spiritual platitudes. We are going in the trenches with you and we’re not afraid to call out the hard things or offer tough love. Because we love you and we want what’s best for you.
- Help the perfectionist when she’s overwhelmed. Ask what you can do to help or what she needs. She’ll tell you because she’s good at pinpointing needs but often needs permission to attend to her own.