Perfectionism — The Meanest Girl You’ll Ever Meet

Mean Girls

When my son Joel was six months old I got pregnant with our third child. We were living in Islamabad, Pakistan at the time and scheduled to take a trip to the town of Layyah to visit our dear friends (incidentally Robynn’s parents.) We had been tremendously busy and stressed so we cancelled the trip. Nine months later Micah Christopher Gardner was born.

The pregnancy whacked us over the head with its surprise. And then Micah was born and we and the world rejoiced over this incredibly beautiful baby boy. He was perfect. Brown eyes and a bald head, patient even from birth, our world could hardly contain our love for him.

But outside the world of our little family there were whispers of discontent. Sometimes loud, other times soft, always audible the whispers said things like “Three kids in four years? That’s ridiculous!” “What were they thinking?” “They’ll never be able to handle it!” “Don’t they know about birth control?”

The damage was slow and insidious, like a cancer that takes over in incremental but determined steps, finally resting in bone, liver, and lung.

So I made a vow. The vow went something like this: No one would ever see me out of control. No one would see me struggle. No one would be able to point the finger and say:

“She’s overwhelmed.”

“She can’t do it.”

And most of all “She has too many kids.”

My vow led to a rigid and subconscious striving for perfectionism – something I had never battled. My house would be clean. My kids would be well scrubbed and well dressed, resembling kids that could sit on top of wedding cakes smiling at the crowd. We would light candles at dinner and breakfast. We would show THEM – the whisperers. Except that we had moved on to a new place and those who whispered were no longer a part of our lives.

Vows we make can damage our souls. At heart my vow was to be perfect. But perfectionism is a fickle frenemy.

Perfectionism is the mean girl. The one with the pretty hair and the even prettier teeth. The one who you feel so inferior to, but you are overjoyed that she wants to be your friend. You spend time with her but at the end of the day, when you go home to your true self you realize you have compromised and you hate who you have become. Perfectionism is the mean girl, the ‘plastic’ that you will never be able to please.

The imperfect? The mess? The real? They are your true friends. Because you realize you can’t do it on your own, you do need help. You need help from community. You need help from God. You need someone to laugh with, cry with, confide in, voice anger with.

Like so many things in my life it took some time for me to confront the vow, to confront the lie that had grown into an ugly weed, rooted deep, and taking away the beautiful. 

I am free of this vow – it took a long time and some humble moments of soul-searching, some confrontation from people who recognized the mean girl in my life and begged me to break free. While it occasionally comes up during periods when I am over tired and insecure, for the most part I recognize it for the weed that it is and pray that the great Gardener of my soul will pull it, even if it hurts.

And I am grateful — grateful for growth, for honesty, for recognition that the mean girls in my life have to go.

So I ask you now – what are the vows you have made that take over your life, and need to be confronted for the lies that they are? 

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4 thoughts on “Perfectionism — The Meanest Girl You’ll Ever Meet

  1. I so can relate, especially the time of having 4 little boys in tow, twin 2 years olds in that group and great with child. Yes, there were words said and whispered, but also some “God Bless yous”. But it did create in me, too, that need to prove myself, or do a good job in other’s eyes, especially as a pastor’s wife. How we rob ourselves of being real and experiencing true love and acceptance when Miss Perfection is our friend.


  2. I loved this. I struggle with this as well. I feel like I must have everything in order all the time. I also struggle with the feeling that I’m not accomplishing enough. So silly this pressure we all have on us to be superhuman.


  3. 1947 my parents (mother in particular) had third child (all boys) before my third birthday – I am first-born.


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