Perfection Infection

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s February 2017 issue. Never miss an issue, check out SFM’s digital editions, here

By Jamie Beeson, featured photo by Beth Beeson

It’s rapidly spreading throughout America across all people groups and is not gender specific. It haunts all people of all social statuses and finds itself infecting people of all ages, stages, and places of life. This infection kills slowly and hides secretively in deep dark places. It is contagious and has a slow onset often beginning in childhood. If we don’t stop this epidemic by diagnosing, quarantining, and treating it, this infection will eventually take over you, your calendar, household, and your social, professional, and geographical spheres of influence. It will become your norm.

What is this epidemic I am referring to and are you susceptible to it? It’s the ‘perfection infection’. The ‘perfection infection’ leads to the ‘disease to please’, which takes us right into an overwhelmed schedule, and an underwhelmed soul. In all seriousness, please don’t write yourself off thinking that you are immune to this infection. I’ve become more and more aware of this disease and am now recognizing it in all of its forms. This recognition started by first finding it in myself and then by hearing about different “strains” of it in my family and friends. I’ll describe some scenarios and you can determine whether any of them sound familiar.

The mom who wakes exhausted because she was up so late the night before creating the most beautiful treats for her daughter’s classroom party. She stumbles into the bathroom and fixes her hair and make-up before taking the kids to school because it’s she often sees her neighbors and friends there and doesn’t want them to see her exhaustion. Her house is chaotic in the morning as the kids get ready for school and she stresses about what her kids picked out to wear. She hates when they wear holey jeans or wrinkly shirts to school. And no, they are not allowed to go to school with messy hair. Not a chance. She fixes a perfectly balanced meal for her kids using all organic fruits and veggies, local farm eggs, and dairy free, gluten free, GMO free, preservative free, high fructose corn syrup free, sugar free, chemical free, pesticide free ingredients. This same mom often yawns, sighs, and cries because she is overwhelmed and stressed about her life. She never feels like she is a “good enough” mom. She never feels “fun enough”, “organized enough”, “involved enough”, “patient enough”, “disciplined enough”, or “loving enough”. She could name someone else that is fun, organized, involved, patient, disciplined, and loving. In conversation, she’d say she “loves being a stay at home mom”. You’d never guess that she often feels trapped. Her schedule is too full, but her heart has many holes. Do you know her?

The dad who works two jobs so that he can provide his wife with the SUV she wants and “needs” to drive their kids around in. He is often working late or very early and looks for ways he can make more money to support his kids’ activities and give them “opportunities” that he didn’t have and a fair chance in this competitive world. He notices when his co-worker gets a new vehicle or new motorized “toy”. He senses a bit of ache when someone else talks about the great family vacation they are taking their crew on this year. His ache stems from a wondering whether or not he’ll make enough to give his family those kinds of experiences. When he feels stifled in his work and doesn’t see hope in any forward momentum, he feels discouraged and calls himself a failure. People that know him think he’s incredibly successful because that’s how he walks and talks, but inside, he often feels worthless. He hears his kids say, “Why are you working so much?” ”Will you please play with me? You never play with me.” ”Are you coming to my game or are you working again?” This man is spending his soul on his work so his family can spend more money. Do you know him?

The young professional woman who appears to have it all together. She dresses with impeccable taste, carries herself with confidence and everything she does is with excellence. She eats incredibly healthy foods, works out daily, her house is spotless, and she is always posting pictures on Facebook of her newest Pinterest DIY project. Where does she find time for all of this? She is always smiling, has so many friends, and is one of the most beautiful, successful people you know. Or so you think. She often cries herself to sleep at night because she is lonely. She feels like she will never be pretty enough, skinny enough, or attractive enough for someone to love her. She hates herself for eating a cookie and strategizes how she will burn it off. When she looks in the mirror, her eyes well with tears because even though she has the best skin care line, eyelash extensions, beautiful thick hair, and perfect nails, she still has visible fat that she hides by using Spanx and other tricks of the trade. She weighs herself incessantly because she fears being fat or fatter. Her mind and her days are consumed, but her life still feels empty. Do you know her?

Is this ‘infection’ making more sense? Do you see how the infection can drive your decisions, actions, schedule, and life? It can start small and you may not even have much emotion about it, but it grows. Pretty soon, our focus, time, money, and attention center on these things above. We are always in a state of striving and our value becomes attached to how much we do and how good we are at it. If we don’t stand out in some way, we feel average…and that’s bad.

Do you know where this leads long term? It leads to anxiety, depression, self-hate, divorce, loneliness, anger, bad habits, sickness, stress, and even suicide. What’s the solution? How do we get rid of it once it’s diagnosed? Expose it. Get real and acknowledge it. Finding a new way of making choices and decisions will take time and practice.

Think of our priorities as accounts in which we want to invest. We have resource banks of time, money, and emotional energy. Start making decisions to draw from your resource banks and invest in your priority accounts. Choose NOT to withdraw and invest in things for the wrong reason. “No” has to become a part of our vocabulary and a new belief and definition of success needs to be our mantra.*bubble quote A full schedule does not equal a full heart. More does not equal enough. No decision, commitment, or obligation is an isolated choice. It’s a string of events that pave the path to your future. As Lysa Terkeurst puts it, “Today’s choices become tomorrow’s circumstances.” Aligning our commitments and obligations of today ensures a future where, we can look back with satisfaction and contentment knowing the things that were of the greatest importance received the greatest parts of us. Invest in your priority accounts and your life will bring satisfaction and fulfillment in abundance.