If you’re struggling with perfectionism

Originally appeared online in the teen series Your Healings -  April 4, 2023

I felt overwhelmed by all the things I had to do. I had a lot of homework, several deadlines for big projects, and some issues with friends I’d been worrying about.

One night, it all became too much. My mom asked what was bothering me, and when I told her, I also mentioned that I didn’t want to pray about it because that just seemed like another task and a lot of work. 

My mom agreed that if I were dealing with a long list of problems, that really could be overwhelming. But then she shared an idea I hadn’t thought of. Maybe it seemed on the surface like a lot of problems, she said, but underneath, perhaps the issue was the same for all of them. She explained that when we’re able to get to the root of a problem, it becomes much simpler to deal with. And we can also pray more effectively because then we’re dealing with the underlying issue rather than whatever is appearing on the surface.

So, I thought about what might be going on deep down, and one thing stood out to me. For a lot of my life, I’d struggled with self-confidence, and it was hard to just be myself at school. I’d constantly worried about everything I was doing and how it might affect what others thought of me. I realized I had been striving for human perfection, which meant I was putting a lot of pressure on myself about my academics and friendships. I also wanted to be recognized as “perfect” by my peers, because I thought people would like me more if I didn’t have flaws.

One thing that my mom and I talked about was that Jesus is a great example of how to think about perfection. He lived love and didn’t worry about what the world thought of him. Jesus was concerned only with doing what God had given him to do. He had confidence in his spiritual individuality because he knew so clearly that it came from God. 

I wanted to be recognized as “perfect” by my peers, because I thought people would like me more if I didn’t have flaws.

Jesus even fearlessly broke some of the rules of that time period; he healed on the Sabbath day and helped people whom no one wanted to be associated with—outcasts who were shunned by society. If Jesus had the highest standards, why would he associate with these people? It’s because he saw the good qualities in them—who they really were as God had made them—and their desire to be healed. If Jesus had been worried about how his actions would affect his image, he wouldn’t have healed these people. On the other hand, the people seen as "perfect" by many in society were church officials, yet they were often arrogant and hypocritical. 


This helped me see that showy achievements, popularity, and status don’t equal perfection. Jesus’ example showed me that perfection is connected to reflection—specifically, to being God’s reflection. Mary Baker Eddy describes the nature of this reflection in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures as “perfect God and perfect man” (p. 259). I know that’s who I already am, even if I don’t recognize it in myself 100 percent of the time. But I can always do my best to know and express my God-given individuality.

This is why it’s important to follow God’s guidance and to know that God is the source of our identity, inspiration, and actions. By not focusing so much on the image we think others have of us and focusing instead on all the ways we’re reflecting God, we can shift from human perfectionism to living Christlike perfection, which will leave us feeling satisfied and fulfilled.

These insights brought such a change for me in relation to all the things I was struggling with. I’m  not trying to be the best at everything anymore. Instead, I understand better that everyone, including me, is an individual expression of God with different gifts that I can recognize and appreciate.

Now I’m not as worried about what people think of me, and I’m more focused on being a good example of God’s qualities. Instead of trying to perfect myself humanly, I’m focusing on my spiritual growth, because that’s what’s most fulfilling.

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