For the Perfectionist in You

Perfectionism was a stranglehold that was showing itself in all kinds of destructive ways in my life. And God dealt with them one by one, and being honest with and accountable to others was a part of that process for me.

– Amanda Jenkins, author of Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist (learning to be free)

I was immediately drawn to the title of this book. While I’m not exactly a raging perfectionist, I have sometimes spent way too much time searching for exactly the right word to finish writing a sentence, or insisted on re-washing a mug from the dishwasher that wasn’t quite as pristine as I wanted it to be. So when Amanda Jenkins describes her drive for perfection, I can well understand what she means.

The strength of her book is the story of her own experience, told so informally and personally that I feel I can call her Amanda even though we’ve never met. Amanda shares freely about vanity, money, recognition, parenthood, and a host of other occasions for perfectionism. I hear about her friends and some of their struggles, about raising a child with special needs, how she and her husband also adopted a child from Thailand.

Amanda intersperses her personal story with related stories and verses from Scripture, and her personal faith and relationship with Jesus shine through. She clearly writes for an audience of primarily evangelical Christian women, and does so with the prayer that God will use her story to further their journey.  As she learns to let go, as she learns to accept herself and the imperfect reality of this world, she tells her story in an engaging and helpful way for her readers.

Discussion questions for each chapter are included at the end of the book as one way of putting into practice the accountability that she describes in the quote above. If you’re reading the book on your own, consider journaling through the questions as an alternative.

Confessions of a book reviewer: Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. Here is the intro and first chapter.

Another book for recovering perfectionists is Good Enough: Stop Seeking Perfection and Approval by Bryan L. Hutchinson. This is an e-book for writers available as a free download for subscribers to Positive Writer, but it applies more broadly too.  Here is one choice quote:

Perfection is not for us mere mortals.
People like you and me make mistakes.
We must learn and improve as we go.

Writing/Reflection Prompt: If perfectionism is an issue for you, how do you deal with it?


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7 thoughts on “For the Perfectionist in You

  1. Thanks, April. These are books I need to look into. In an email conversation with a fellow perfectionist the other day, I noted that we Mennonites, especially, are sometimes programmed to think that “good enough” is not acceptable, because it leads to the sin of pride. 🙂 Fortunately, we’re learning to unlearn that fallacy.

    1. I find it helps to think of the big picture–that in terms of the next week, or the next 5 years, or eternity, some of the things I might obsess over are really not a big deal. Good enough is actually good enough 🙂

  2. I got to your blog from your guest post at Katherine Willis Pershey’s Women in Ministry series. Did I read this post just accidentally? Or was I meant to click that link? Hmmmm. Just this week, Wednesday, I was praying/pleading for God to rid me of my perfectionism. I know its wrong, wrong, wrong. Was I born that way? It seems so. But perhaps I was molded that way by my upbringing. In some ways, I can see it as a self-preservation measure when I was a child. Do things just like mom/dad/teacher wants it done and I would not get into trouble. And I hated getting into trouble. But now, serving at a church that is loosey-goosey and does not strive for excellence in everything (!), I need to be transformed.

    1. Welcome – I’m so glad that you stopped by! I can relate to your experience since sometimes it seems that what I might work toward as perfect is actually not perfect for others–where perfectionism can be a “stranglehold” as Amanda Jenkins describes in her book. From what you describe it sounds as if God may use you and your church to transform one another. All the best in your personal journey and in your ministry.

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