Perfection. It is an intimidating word for sure. One which can be the cause of discouragement and anxiety for many who might feel they are constantly falling short of achieving it. I know because there was a time in my early adult years when I was one of those many feeling intimidated and discouraged that I would never be able to achieve perfection in my life. I was a single working mother with two small children to care for. I was constantly feeling the guilt all day at work of not being home with the kids, and then coming home at night to my kids and feeling the guilt of everything I needed to get done at work. I felt like no matter how hard I tried that I was failing in every aspect of my life because I didn’t know how to be everything to everyone that needed me. It was a difficult and discouraging time for me because I felt I was giving everything I had to give, yet it was never quite enough.
To fully understand today’s blog you have to first understand that I was raised by parents who constantly encouraged me to live my life in the pursuit of perfection. I was also taught by all of my church leaders to be in the pursuit of perfection. It was engrained in my from the time I was a small child. I have a strong belief in God and I believed with all my heart that God wanted me to live my life in the pursuit of perfection. Perfection was an expectation that I was trying to live up to. It was a word that I judged my every action against, and when I fell short of it, which was every day, I found myself feeling like a constant failure and totally inadequate.
Then one day something changed. I think it came from the combination of reading multiple books on self-improvement, a great deal of self-reflection, and working with a fantastic counselor who helped me cope with what had been an incredibly painful marriage and divorce. What changed was my understanding of how I had been interpreting the challenge to live my life in the pursuit of perfection. I had been so focused on trying to achieve “perfection” that I failed to see that I was measuring myself on a truly impossible scale – perfection is impossible to achieve in this lifetime. None of us are, or will be, perfect in this lifetime, no matter how hard we try. So to hold ourselves to that standard is truly setting us up for failure. And I realized that God would never set us up to fail. Nor would God want us to feel inadequate. There were a lot of things I didn’t know in my life at that time, but what I knew for sure was that God loved me and wanted me to succeed. So how could I reconcile my upbringing of being told to live in the pursuit of perfection with my belief that God wanted me to succeed?
That’s when I figured it out. I had misunderstood entirely the teaching to live in pursuit of perfection. I had focused in on the “perfection” and completely overlooked the “In pursuit of” portion of that sentence. All those years I had been interpreting what I had been taught completely wrong! Neither God, nor my parents, nor my church leaders had been trying to tell me I had to be “perfect” – they had all been trying to tell me that “perfection” is all about the “In pursuit of” portion! The expectation on me in this life was that I live my life “in pursuit of” perfection. There was no expectation that I achieve it, only that I pursue it to the best of my ability each and every day. And for the first time in my life, I finally understood it. All God expected me to do was to pursue perfection each day of my life, and then when my time on this earth was completed, if I had done all I could do to pursue perfection in this life, that God (through the Atonement of his son Jesus Christ) would make up the difference for my shortcomings, allowing me to finally achieve true perfection.
That realization was like having a blacked out window suddenly opened and it allowed the sunshine to come pouring in. “The pursuit of” was something I could control. “The pursuit of” was something I could succeed at. “The pursuit of” was a measurement scale I could totally live up to. Coming to realize the correct interpretation of what I had been taught made all the difference in my life. I no longer had to feel inadequate or discouraged – I could feel capable and strong and empowered. I could do this.
My life has been very different since that time in my early adult years when I finally got it. I became happier, more successful, and at peace with my life. Getting rid of the impossible measurement scale and replacing it with a measurement scale that made far more sense and was far more in line with what I knew of a loving Heavenly Father’s desires for my life made me a much happier person. It was at that time that I set the goal to someday start a charity called the IPOP Foundation, which would stand for In Pursuit of Perfection and I wanted it to be dedicated to helping people to achieve their potential and raise their self-worth through the “pursuit of perfection” and not perfection itself. In 2012 I was able to realize that goal and www.ipop.org became a reality.
I will never forget the life lesson I learned about the “pursuit of”. And I have spent every day of my life since that time focusing on the “pursuit of” achieving perfection, which has helped me to go further and farther in life than I would have ever dreamed possible.
I hope that sharing my story will help those of you out there who might have misinterpreted the expectations just as I did, and who have been feeling inadequate and discouraged. I hope that you will recognize that all you are expected to do is to live “in pursuit of” perfection and know that the “pursuit of” is enough. You are enough.
Have a great weekend.