Do you struggle with perfectionism? Many of us wonder, “How can you be your best without getting tangled into the perfectionist mindset?” As a recovering perfectionist myself I understand that challenge between being a goal setter and natural leader and not allowing the perfectionist mindset to take over.
My guest today, Becky Keife, and I sincerely know this story of recovering from perfectionism. Becky shares her own story of how she has struggled with this challenge and has explicitly felt that tension around needing to be perfect, consistently achieving, and people-pleasing.
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:
- [4:59] Becky Shares Her Journey As a Recovering Perfectionist
- [13:02] God Dismantles Becky’s Struggle With Her Perfectionist Mindset
- [18:52] Finding Humility and Balance Without Getting Stuck In Seeking Perfectionism and Achievement
- [21:52] The Freedom Comes From Not Relying On Your Own Strength and Power
- [26:14] Becky’s Encouragement to Counteract the Desire For Perfection and Achievement
- [31:24] How Does Obedience Relate to Finding Our Worthiness in God?
- [32:51] Resources to Be Your Best and Leave Perfectionism Behind
[4:59] Becky Shares Her Journey As a Recovering Perfectionist
Becky shares she is recovering from what she likes to call the triple “Ps”: people-pleasing perfectionism, and performance issues. She said when she looks back, she believes part of her journey is part of how God wired her. Becky is an Enneagram Type 3, known as the achiever, and she has always loved a checklist.
As a young child dealing with her parents’ she applied her naturally driven personality toward getting good grades and being a high achiever. She discovered that if she could be “perfect”, she could feel valuable and worthy.
She also shared how striving for perfection was her way of keeping peace and normalcy in this time. She was determined that she would try to gain stability in another way by pleasing and impressing her teachers, friends, and coaches. She became the one to receive all the awards, always got straight A's, and she took on this identity of “I don't want to be the kid from the broken family.” It became less about rocking other people's boats and more about a desire to feel safe. Becky had yet to learn that God could do that for her and was relying entirely on herself for her safety and security.
Becky shares how she was willing to sacrifice everything for perfection and the shiny gold star. Her journey with a perfectionist mindset has taken a lot of heart work. God has helped her unravel that tangle of misplaced identity and helped her honor her personality as someone who is wired for excellence without finding her value in perfectionism and achievement.
[13:02] God Dismantles Becky’s Struggle With Her Perfectionist Mindset
Becky has learned that one of God's great kindnesses in her life was not giving her what she thought she wanted. She shares how, on paper, all of her achievements, committee service, test scores, and grades, should have easily got her accepted to Stanford, her dream school. But Becky didn't get into Stanford, and as an 18-year-old who had built her life and identity and security on what she achieved and other people's approval of her, that was a crushing moment.
Instead, she found herself going to a not highly admired state school, where God provided a full scholarship for her, and when she stepped foot on the massive campus, she realized nobody knew her. Nobody cared about what she had done right in high school. And it was at that school she got plugged in by God's grace to a campus ministry. Becky shares: “That was the beginning of those four years of Jesus dismantling the fact Jesus didn’t love me because of the things I did. He loved me because he made me. That was a long, slow, complex dismantling process.”
But now she sees that as a marker of God's kindness that she didn't continue on the path she thought was best. She says that God brought her to a place of humility, of realizing that the labels weren't going to be the thing that defined her. She also shares about the life-defining experience of being a part of a Christian community that taught her how to pray and read her word.
During this process, she discovered in the Bible that Jesus kept elevating people who society didn't. He kept loving the people who seemingly didn't have enough. The other big part of her journey was realizing that it's in moments where she doesn't feel enough, or when she can't rely on her excellence or striving, that it's in those times that God's power has the opportunity to shine brightest. And that's what she wanted her life to be about.
[18:52] Finding Humility and Balance Without Getting Stuck In Seeking Perfectionism and Achievement
Becky shared that the root of her perfectionism was about trying to get the credit for herself and she wasn't even ashamed of this. She thought that was what she was supposed to do. “ I thought I was supposed to win the race and ace the test and beat out the competition, and always be the best,” she shares.
Now, she sees that she still wants to honor who she is and work with excellence. She sees that part of what makes her a good teammate and leader is the desire to push for her best. Although there is still a part of her that's driven, and it’s a delight for her to do things with excellence, she shares that she feels free from the perfectionist mindset that held her captive for so long.
Because she recognized her propensity to strive and her history of wanting glory for herself, she started praying, “Lord, would you do things in my life that are directly reflective of your power and not my striving?”
Becky says it's not saying she was going to stop trying or stop doing. But when she told God, “would you work in my life in such a way that I have to point back to You when people say, ‘How did you get here?’ or ‘How did this happen in your life?’”
Instead of striving for perfection and being stuck in an achievement mindset, she wanted to be able to say any accomplishments she had were because she was faithful to partner with God and devoted to obeying Him.
[21:52] The Freedom Comes From Not Relying On Your Own Strength and Power
Becky says, “A lot of freedom comes when you stop relying on doing everything with your strength. There's still the opportunity to be proud of yourself, to say you did a job well done without thinking that's a bad thing. It's not wrong to sound like you, and you worked hard. The critical question is, ‘Where's our ultimate focus? What's the end goal?’ Is the end goal so that you will garner more praise and that you will feel that you have control and stability because of your own effort?”
Because ultimately, she says, we don't want more followers for ourselves; we want more followers of Jesus. And so it starts with that motivation and that recognition of whose power is really at work in our lives. Becky said if she didn't know Jesus, her life would probably be successful, and she would probably look happy and like she had it all together and things would be fine.
“But I know the internal weight that happens when it's all up to your striving and when you are driven by a perfectionism mindset. God gives us a sense of freedom from our striving and allows us to work with excellence but to be recovering perfectionists. She describes it as, “God, I can't do this day of motherhood. I can't make it through to this deadline. I don't want to navigate this relationship. I don't want to seek this next step in my career alone. God, you direct my steps, and I'll be faithful to follow.”
“The key is knowing it's not all up to you,” she shares. “We're still a super-sharpened knife that God uses to help us do the things we're called to do. But we are not responsible for what the knife cuts. We are just a tool for God to use. This doesn't mean we don't have to take responsibility for our actions, but we don't have to carry the crushing weight of perfectionism which says ‘this must work out this way’ because that is the burden that drags us down.”
[26:14] Becky’s Mantra to Counteract the Desire For Perfection and Achievement
Becky’s advice to counteract the desire to be perfect and achieve is daily prayer. She likes to pray, “Lord, just show me the next thing you want me to do.” She also tries to remember something a friend of hers says: “Mundane faithfulness is the stuff of miracles.” She’s found that these two things help her avoid getting trapped in a perfectionist mindset.
Another thing she reminds herself of is that she is responsible for her obedience, but God is responsible for the outcome. She is responsible for her ordinary faithfulness and is accountable for doing the next thing God calls her to do. “But God is responsible for the result, and that is where freedom lies,” she says.
“When you believe that you are responsible for the outcome, you end up disappointed. It did not work out how you thought it would unfold,” she says, noting the connection between struggling with perfectionism and feeling responsible for the outcome. Instead, she encourages us to be responsible for our obedience to God”. Let God be responsible for the outcome of your life. And in that way, you can be who God has created you to be. You can value excellence without hanging your worth on your perfection,” she adds.
[31:24] The Work to Find Our Worthiness With Our Obedience to God
There is so much lightness that comes, and we can achieve the gift of obedience and the joy of doing what God calls us to do versus the need to feel worthy or want to try to control or find stability in what's happening in life. This slight mindset shift away from perfectionism and toward obedience results in significant changes.
So, how do we get to that? How do we move from saying, “I want to just obey God and release my responsibility for the outcome?”
I encourage you to go back to the thoughts behind what's keeping us holding on to the outcome. What are the things we're saying to ourselves that are making us feel the weight of what we have to do? What's going to happen here? What are those expectations we put on ourselves? We must come to terms with knowing the lies we believed around that, the circumstances in our past that have led us here and how it makes sense, discerning the truth from the lies, and taking responsibility to confess the parts that are ours to own.
We must acknowledge that we have found stability in some of these perfectionist mindsets and desire to achieve for worth. We have found some sense of control through these toxic mindsets. Admitting this is the first step to finding freedom from achieving and releasing yourself from the perfectionist mindset.
[32:51] Resources to Be Your Best and Leave Perfectionism Behind
There's deep work to do to uncover what your struggle with perfectionism is rooted in, and that is the work we do in the Christian Mindset Makeover. It is a powerful nine-week course that includes on-demand teaching that will carry you through that process of literally rewiring your mind from the inside out. We will discover the root of these negative thought patterns that you may be struggling with, the thoughts that keep you stuck even though you may want to escape perfectionism. These subconscious thoughts keep us stuck in these patterns. We get to the root of all of that.
The Christian Mindset Makeover is designed around neuroscience and the Bible, and we use a specific brain science technique called brain priming to rewire those deep subconscious patterns to be in line with the truths of scripture. It’s fantastic because we're using science to put God's Word in our minds. After we do that work, we put up the boundary fence, so to speak, around how to protect this mindset. Because we don't move forward in a bubble we talk about how to establish boundaries and healthy patterns to help ourselves keep these Christ-centered mindsets strong.
So if that resonates with you, here are a couple of things I encourage you to do; first, I encourage you to check out the free training we have around mindset and understanding these negative thoughts and how to get to the root of them. Go here to access that free workshop!
And if you've listened to the podcast for a while and know that the Christian Mindset Makeover is something you need to do, then I challenge you to consider that this is time to take action! Sign up now for the Christian Mindset Makeover here. This course was designed to help you get to the root of what's happening and to get the help you get the healing that you're looking for.
I'd love to continue this conversation; let's discuss this more on Instagram. I would love to connect with you there and hear about how this episode encourages you to step out of perfectionism and find freedom in Christ from living with a perfectionist mindset.
Connect with Becky:
OTHER PODCAST EPISODES ON PERFECTIONISM:
- Ep 156: #1 Mindset Question: Self-Sabotage: “How Do I Stop Doing What I Don’t Want to Do?”
- Ep 125: How the Hustle Culture + My Need to Achieve Nearly Took My Life
- Ep 126: Confessions of a Recovering Workaholic + Perfectionist
- Ep 141: How to Cultivate Self Compassion When You’re a Perfectionist
- Ep 81: Releasing Perfectionism + Becoming Enough with Mazi Robinson
FREE WORKSHOP: How to Break Free from Feeling “Never Enough”
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