by Heather Bock
I know I just posted yesterday, and I usually don’t post two days in a row, but I’m moving up next Saturday’s post to make sure all of you know about an opportunity you might not want to miss. Keep reading to find out about it–you’ll know better whether you’ll want to take part in it once you’ve read my review. I actually have a book giveaway for this one, too, so look for that as well!
If you had asked me my definition of a perfectionist before reading Breaking up with Perfect by Amy Carroll, I would have said someone who tries to do everything perfectly or not at all. A perfectionist in this definition will often procrastinate because the thought of doing something perfectly can often be overwhelming. This type of person is often afraid to try anything new or difficult because he/she might fail, and small failures often result in the perfectionist quickly abandoning the task. When this type of person does determine to try something difficult, he/she is prepared to put a lot of effort into the task so that success will be inevitable. I haven’t studied about perfectionism, but I am a recovering perfectionist myself, so I can speak from experience.
This book, however, broadened my view of perfectionism. In her view, many women who love perfect have a “Good Girl Syndrome.” As Amy says, “These women are rule followers by nature and bask in earning the pleasure of the people surrounding them” (pg. 3). Other women who love perfect have maybe tried being a good girl and realized they can’t live up to that standard, or perhaps they’ve been told or shown by influential people in their lives that they don’t measure up, so they become “Never Good Enough Girls.” Amy says about these girls, “These women use their flawless exterior to cover the wounds and shame of their pasts” (pg. 3).
The perfectionist Carroll writes about works very hard to always look like she has everything together, like she has no flaws. She wears a mask. This damages her relationship with God because she believes God will only love her if she is perfect. The “Good Girls” try to be perfect so God will love them. The “Never Good Enough Girls” realize they’re not perfect, so they assume God will never love them. Carroll breaks through these beliefs with the truth that God is the one who has the job of perfecting us (Phil. 1:6). She says we need to rest in the love of God, which is unconditionally there for us no matter what we do or don’t do. God will give us all we need to help us grow: we need to “freely receive God’s help rather than [work] to earn His help” (pg. 115).
Carroll also writes about how relationships with others can be damaged by this perfectionism as well. She writes about several ways, but one that resonated with me was when people mess up our perfect plans, and we blame them for ruining the perfection. This is easy for me as a mother to do. I might have a perfect plan in mind, but my daughter throws a major fit, and I blame her for ruining everything. I love this quote by Carroll: “Often, we perfectionists cause great harm by clinging to carefully constructed images rather than embracing our beautifully flawed realities” (pg. 59). I sometimes feel anger at my children stemming from disappointment that my perfect plans have been ruined, rather than sadness about their character. We can have conflict with people because we “loved [our] plan more than the people the plan was designed to serve” (pg. 69). She talks about this issue in other places in the book, about how we need to prioritize people over tasks, no matter how task-oriented we are or how much we love lists.
Most of the perfectionists Carroll writes about seek approval and acceptance from others. If we can just shift our desire for approval from others to God and realize that He accepts us no matter what we do, we can find healing. In addition, it’s true we can’t be good enough, but He is enough in our place and works through us, as Carroll writes (pg. 180).
Online Book Study
If what I’ve described above sounds like you and your own struggles, you should read this book. It already has a lot of ways to go deeper with questions at the end of each chapter and questions at the end of the book for discussion or deeper thought. However, if you want more accountability and depth on this topic, Amy Carroll is holding an online book study starting TOMORROW, which you can find at Carroll’s website (link provided).
Drawing for a Free Book by Amy Carroll
If you want this book for yourself for free, I’ll be giving away one copy of Breaking up with Perfect, although you’ll have to be ready to break up with perfect before you read it. The copy I received to give away came bent, so it’s not perfect!
Here’s how you can enter to win: If you haven’t yet subscribed to my blog by email, you can win one entry by clicking the button “follow” in the above right corner and typing in your email address. If you’ve already subscribed, or if you just want more entries, you can earn entries by sharing this book review post via social media. Remember, though, you have to be subscribed for your shares to count as entries. Each share to a different social media venue earns you one entry (up to three). Be sure to let me know in a comment if you’ve shared in a place where I won’t be notified and be sure to let me know your name so I can announce the name of the winner. I will announce the winner next Saturday when I would normally have posted this book review, so look for it! Thank you!