If I were to tell you what I’m most afraid of, it’s this: doing something wrong.
Perfectionism runs deep inside me, cutting deep canyons, and though I once thought I could call myself a “recovering perfectionist” but the truth is the trait doesn’t ever shake itself off completely.
It sickens me to think I might pass along this harsh critical eye to my little son. As part of the war-effort on perfectionism, I made a post-it note that I fixed to my fridge with the circle with the line through it that you usually see along with a smoldering cigarette to tell people they can’t smoke here, but I replaced the cigarette with the word perfectionism. It’s a good reminder for me, and I get it multiple times a day.
My fear of messing up currently takes the form of my ridiculous desire to follow all of the advice and counsel I get from people who know more than me. There’s hours and hours worth of wisdom and tips and advice out there, and it’s laughable to think I can follow it all, but I try to because I’m an overachiever and a perfectionist. (I somehow manage to forget how much advice disagrees with other advice that’s out there.)
My perfectionism makes me a very bad listener. I try so hard to do everything right, there’s no time to pause and pray and see what God might want me to do. There’s no space to let myself stumble and screw up and disappoint people and step into freedom or explore because doing things “right” requires so much mental effort and it doesn’t allow for experimentation.
I wish I knew how to think myself out of this one. I wish I wasn’t this frightened to lose control of my life, even when the threat of losing control is nowhere on the horizon.
This is my counterstrike: In the morning, before the sun rises, I light a little round candle in a blue ceramic bowl. I focus all of myself on listening before the buzz of the world deafens me. I am striving to hear what God wants me to do, what he wants me to know, what he wants me to hear, rather than chasing the hundred other voices that are also trying to advise me.
In those quiet morning moments, there’s nothing perfect or imperfect. There’s a stillness of waiting. And in that gentle respite, for a few minutes, I’m not afraid.