The Twins, Part 2 – Perfectionism

Siamese Twins, Nuremberg Chronicles (1441-1514) (PD)

Siamese Twins, Nuremberg Chronicles (1440-1514) (PD-Old)

This post was written in collaboration with Marie Williams whose remarks are highlighted.  Marie blogs at Come Fly with Me,

We return to the topic of procrastination and perfectionism, related patterns of behavior in which many abuse victims find themselves trapped.

The part we play in creating our own dilemmas – the large and small crises in our lives stemming from procrastination – was discussed in Part 1 of this series.

Chance for Failure (Imperfection)

“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1: 7).

Apart from the problems it would generate for anyone, failure – defined by many abuse victims as imperfection, to any small degree – results in shame and self-revilement for us.  Since creating these dilemmas greatly increases our chance for failure, the question arises why we persist in creating them.

“The whole time I was procrastinating, I thought myself foolish, an idiot, a dunce, a failure, because who in their right mind, sees a fire starting or about to start, purposely hides the fire extinguisher, forgets where she has put it and then goes and reads a book, deciding to deal with the fire when it becomes bigger and more unmanageable?  Because that is what procrastination amounts to when you come to think of it in rational terms.  Yet I could not help myself.”

-Marie Williams

The obvious answer is that we do not believe ourselves capable of accomplishing the task at hand.  Putting it off defers the painful acknowledgment of our own inadequacy.  And it provides us an excuse for failure.  Had conditions been right, had we started on the task sooner, perhaps we might have succeeded after all.

Again, the question is why.  Why are we so certain of failure?  This goes directly to our childhood abuse. On an unconscious level, we create these dilemmas to replicate the abuse which is what gives them such power over us. 

We were told repeatedly how inadequate we were.  Told how ugly, stupid, skinny, fat, or retarded we were.  Told that we would never amount to anything.  Or we were ignored entirely, starved for food and affection both.

No shock that we doubt and second guess ourselves, wrestling over decisions.

“I floundered when faced with choices.  Wanting to please and be approved of ALL THE TIME, I became lost in my own lack of confidence.  This, I think, was due to the fact that I couldn’t manage the abuse.  I adopted the same response to situations which generated that same confusion in me.”

-Marie Williams

Failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Our abusers are “proven” right.  So it seems to us.  Our failure couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the damage they inflicted on us.  Nooo.

Earning Love

“Being worried and afraid provided the fillip I needed to start that essay, read and digest those facts, be prepared whatever the outcome might be:  a satisfying outcome, rejection, or possibly punishment.  That is what I learned from my early childhood on.  So it follows that I would carry that into my teenage years/adolescence.  This makes complete sense.  What you learn is what you become.”

-Marie Williams

Struggling against what seemed titanic forces, we tried to please.  We tried to achieve perfection, in the hope that would win us the love that rightly belonged to us.

Children are not trained seals.  They should not have to perform for affection.  Nonetheless, we carried perfectionism with us into the school and the workplace, where it often proved useful.  Excellence is appreciated by the world (even when not recognized by our loved ones).

But perfectionism takes a high toll.  It puts enormous stress on us, requiring endless hours.  We can never relax.  Any success we may achieve is brittle, fragile.  Surely, the next project will disclose our shortcomings.  So we fear.

And perfectionism is destructive to relationships.  It sets the bar so high, neither we nor our partner can attain it.

Proven Wrong

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4: 13).

But suppose instead we breezed through the task.  Wouldn’t that prove our abusers wrong?  Do we dare risk proving that?  Do we dare lift our heads?

Those are questions worth exploring.

Chance for Success

Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established” (Prov. 16: 3).

How then do we improve our chance for success?  How do we fight procrastination?  To do that we have to attack fear, perfectionism, and delay.

“Procrastination for me was a kind of life-line, I would say.  Putting things off until the very last moment was a way of processing profound trauma.  I can see now that procrastinating was a flawed coping device for the long-haul.  I could not know this as a child, adolescent, and young woman.  I speak in hindsight.  It is always easier to make sense of the past when you deal with it in the present.”

-Marie Williams

Our greatest fear is being found out, revealed as less than perfect.  All humanity, however, is imperfect.  We must replace perfectionism with an attainable standard.  Excellence does not require perfection.  Only God, in fact, is perfect.  Certainly, our abusers were not!

Admittedly, changing our belief system takes time.  However, if we begin early on a given task, fear is not as much of a factor.

The first draft of a report or first outline of a plan or first attempt at a project is rarely perfect and need not be.  We are, therefore, free to improvise and take chances.  Mistakes can be corrected and improvements made in the next version.  Ask MicroSoft or Apple.

The twins, procrastination and perfectionism, can at last be slain.



Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Rape, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Violence Against Women

31 responses to “The Twins, Part 2 – Perfectionism

  1. Wow!

    A lot to think about and digest.

    Thanks for the post!


  2. I remember Anna my father’s wife saying to me after showing her a drawing I had done perhaps hoping that one day I would be an Artist because with being Dyslexic I couldn’t read or write, even now it is very hard for me to write fluently unless I’m lead by The Spirit but her response was You’re not as good as my daughter and never will be, she is very clever. I tried again another time but got the same response, so I gave up drawing after all I would never be any good, yes sadly I believed that lie.

    It is very True Anna. Worldly Perfection is unattainable it keeps changing depending on what the Popular focus of the day is but we are to Aim to be Perfected in Love putting our Carnal flesh to death as the Scripture below confirms, this is not works but Obedience to God’s guidelines and all His guidelines are about His Love and good Will for us.

    Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore Perfect even as your Father which is in Heaven is Perfect.

    Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ let us go on unto Perfection not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of Faith toward God.

    2 Corinthians 7: 1 Having therefore these promises dearly beloved let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit Perfecting Holiness in the fear of God.

    2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in Righteousness: That the Man of God may be Perfect thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

    1John 4:17-19 Herein is our Love made Perfect that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is so are we in this world. There is no fear in Love but Perfect Love casteth out fear because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made Perfect in Love. We Love Him because He first Loved us.

    Daniel 12:10 Many shall be purified and made white and tried but the wicked shall do wickedly and none of the wicked shall understand but the Wise shall understand.

    2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brethren farewell. Be Perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in Peace and the God of Love and Peace shall be with you.

    Christian Love Always – Anne.

    • You make yourself very clear, Anne. That you struggle with dyslexia to accomplish that only demonstrates your courage.

      I am truly sorry for the discouragement your stepmother’s lie about your artistic talent caused. Satan deals in such lies. The damage inflicted on us in childhood runs very deep. Thankfully — as you and I know — God’s love runs even deeper.

      You may be aware that scientific research increasingly suggests a link between dyslexia and artistic talent. See, for instance, “Beautiful Minds”, and “The Artist and Dyslexia” Perhaps you can reclaim your gift.

      Either way, the gifts of your faith and your heart you’ve already shared with the world.

      With love,

      A. ❤

      • Thank you Anna, I always feel like I have been hugged when I visit and share with you, to me you are a very dear Blogging Friend that I Thank God for.

        Yes I’m very creative because I’m on that side of my Brain you are on both, you may have noticed on my Blog I use a lot of Animation or Graphics, some I have created myself but mostly my Power Points show my Creativity

        At School I was hopeless with Maths and I can’t spell ( thank goodness for Firefox) I don’t understand Grammar and Punctuation either. I would have come Dux in the School and not just in the year but I failed in Maths, they never had anyone do so badly in the whole History of the School but I did well in every other subject, they gave me an exception for spelling etc so I still did well in English. I don’t have much coordination though, I could not play Sport, Dance and I was hopeless driving a car and I can’t understand Help Manuals, I have to see someone doing it, Yes I’m a cracked Vessel! but Thankfully God is the Super Glue.

        Thanks again – Christian Love Always – Anne.

      • It’s funny the things the world uses to measure us by. I earned advanced placement credit for calculus in high school. Unfortunately, I cannot remember a bit of it, and have trouble balancing my checkbook. :))) You definitely have a friend in me. God holds me together, too. Sometimes with scotch tape, I think (LOL).


        A. ❤

      • I meant to thank you Anna for the Link, I will take time to read it tonight and respond.

        Just a little more history about my life with Dyslexia, I hope it gives understanding.

        I was 13 before I learnt to read and write and to also talk properly, they didn’t know what they do now about Dyslexia, at first they thought I was retarded until I had an IQ Test.

        I was told to read constantly which caused problems later as a Christian, I will leave the link below, you may find why interesting or at least informative.

        Confusion –

        I also did Elocution & Vocabulary Training which included Acting but I decided to care for Children in an Orphanage instead of becoming Famous Lol but seriously my Elocution Teacher was disappointed, she said I had Talent but I have never been sorry, I Love Children and although, I have 7 of my own in Heaven, God has filled my heart and Arms with other peoples and I have known much Joy.

        Blessings – Anne.

      • Oh, Anne. Your struggles have been so severe. You make me think of Helen Keller. How wonderful that you’ve shared your life with children. I know you will meet your own children again in heaven. It is a privilege knowing you.


        A. ❤

      • Thank you again Anna for the Link and yes I have been told about my Creativity before and know others who are the same, we are also very Analytical and can see outside the Box. Dyslexia does bring disadvantages but blessings too which I Thank God for.

        Christian Love Always – Anne.

      • If only we could all appreciate one another’s differences, Anne. It would be a better world. ❤

  3. From a psychoanalitical point of view one could conclude that parents´desires and expectations can become a burden to their kids. Some could use this pressure in a positive way, being the outcome a good one… But that´s quite exceptional, as most times it could lead to defective performances. In this sense,procastination is a way of delaying results, which could be related to the fear of failure.
    Excellent post dear Anna… best wishes and happy week 😀

  4. Thank you very much Anna for sharing great post

  5. Anna,

    What way have you found most effective to minister freedom from the bondage of perfectionism within your circles?

    What aspect of His nature have you found needs to be applied the most to begin to change the mindset?

    Great read and thank you. Very insightful.

    • I don’t really think of it in those terms, David. Not that they aren’t valid. It’s just that God extends His mercy to me, and I try to extend it to others.

      Logic (and laughter) are two of the tools God has given me to cope with pain. But my knowledge of Him is not analytical. It is experiential. The dictionary defines that as knowledge gained “from a long and eventful life”. That about describes it.

      I am not Lady Bountiful. In many ways, I am the typical abuse victim. The struggles I describe are the troubles I’ve endured. I know what it is to be caught in the brambles, a lost lamb thrashing against the thorns. And, by the grace of God, I know what it is to be rescued.

      For victims, God’s mercy is powerful. It is the kindness we were denied and continue to deny ourselves. The forgiveness for which we are desperate, though we were the ones sinned against.

      Not only is God’s mercy offered freely. It is boundless. That fact is nearly incomprehensible. Victims test its reality again and again. Each time, we heal a little more.

      Since God does not require that we be perfect to qualify for His love, we need no longer strive for that unattainable goal. We can allow ourselves to breathe, can begin to accept ourselves as the flawed — but deeply loved — human beings we are.

      That, at least, is how I view it.

      • Yep, that makes perfect sense, Anna, and is what I suspected you would say.

        I often reiterate to others, that we can only give to the degree we possess the experiential love of the Father.. and to that limit we can let it flow out to others if we chose to not bottle it up.

        For me, it was being unconditionally accepted in the eyes of anther that helped me to begin to grasp the reality of a Heavenly-Dad who also loves and accepts me in the same manner.

        Makes perfect sense. Thank you so much for sharing, Anna.


  6. Reblogged this on ComeFlywithme and commented:
    This is the second part of Anna Waldherr’s brilliantly written post on the twins: procrastination and perfectionism. Again thank you Anna for inviting me to collaborate on this – not only was it a joy, but it also helped me to see why it was so important for me to be perfect in an imperfect world. Now I know that I don’t need to be and I hope others will see that they don’t need to be perfect either. We are worthy just as we are.

  7. Thank you for this, 🙂 So many times as children we are told what we can not do or what we shall not be.. and we grow up believing we are unworthy…

    Many thanks for your collaboration with Marie.. And for a chance to say hello.

  8. A moving and interesting perspective and collaboration! Thank you for sharing Anna and Marie. 💕

  9. This post provides a clear frame of reference that countless can relate to. It untangles the overthinking that fuels both procrastination and perfectionism.–thereby, clearing a pathway for a clearer way of looking at things. How very impressive, inspiring, and generous! Thank you both for sharing your gifts 🙂

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