Month: June 2018

071 – The Lie of Perfectionism

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young The Lie of PerfectionismPerfectionism is one of those things that seems like a good thing, but in reality it’s far from good. In fact, perfectionism destroys those who strive to achieve it. None of us is remotely capable of being perfect. And when we try to be so, it too often stems from pride and/or fear. Come learn why perfectionism is so dangerous not just to your writing, but to your spirit and peace.

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Perfectionism

When we talked about self-doubt, we touched on the idea of perfectionism. But it’s such a common and damaging problem that we wanted to give it its own episode. As Christians and as writers, we want to pursue excellence in what we do. But where do we draw the line? What’s the difference between a healthy pursuit of excellence and an unhealthy striving for perfection?

Let’s start with a definition of perfection: Merriam-Webster says it’s “the quality or state of being perfect” such as the “freedom from fault or defect” or “the quality or state of being saintly.”

When we think of it that way, most of us are self-aware enough to realize we aren’t flawless, nor are we saintly. In fact, we’re often pretty darned far from it.

Yet, when I read in an article in Psychology Today called “9 Signs That You Might Be a Perfectionist” I was surprised by them. I mean, for sure I recognized some of those signs in me, because I already know that I struggle with perfectionism, but somehow I hadn’t necessarily connected those signs to perfectionism.

What does perfectionism look like in our lives?

  1. You have trouble delegating because you don’t trust others to do the job correctly.
  2. You often fixate on the things you messed up.
  3. You avoid or procrastinate doing tasks where you may not excel. For example, those of you who haven’t finished that manuscript some editor or agent has expressed interest in because you’re afraid the ending won’t be as good as the beginning, I’m talking to you.
  4. Or you don’t ever complete your manuscript because there’s always something “more” you can do to make it better.
  5. Your self-confidence depends on what others think about you and/or your book. It’s about your accomplishments, not your true worth in God.

Why is perfectionism a bad thing?

Perfectionism, and the things we do to attain it, can hold us back from being the kind of person and the kind of writer God designed us to be.

Another Psychology Today article talked about perfectionism being toxic because “those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure, so theirs is a negative orientation.” We live in fear of failure, of doing something wrong. Instead of in freedom. We covered this more in depth in the episode on self-doubt so go back and listen to that if you struggle in that area.

And yet another article defined perfection as…

  1. “The relentless striving for extremely high standards (for yourself and/or others)” that typically, to an outsider, seem unreasonable
  2. “Judging your self-worth based largely on your ability to strive for and achieve such unrelenting standards.”

It’s good to have standards, it’s good to have goals, because it helps you achieve things. But the article goes on to say, “…when these goals are either unachievable or only achievable at great cost, it makes it very difficult to feel good about yourself. This is when perfectionism can be problematic.”

An article from Western Seminary had this to say about the dangers of perfectionism: “When we strive for worldly perfection what we’re often actually striving for is to be better than those around us. Our pride and sinful flesh make us want to come out on top when we compare ourselves to others. Our insecurities cause us to feel shame and embarrassment when our comparisons reveal our inadequacies.”

What about “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect?”

The same article goes on to say, “It’s true that the Bible calls us to be ‘perfect as [our] heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48). The Greek word for ‘perfect’ here is telios. It means ‘brought to its end, completed, or perfect.’ So, to be ‘perfect’ in this sense is not how perfectionists so often imagine it. Rather, it is to be completed in Christ. Philippians 1:6 says that completion is the work of God. He created us, saved us, and is faithful to perfect us.”

What is the healthy pursuit of excellence, as compared to the unhealthy striving for perfection?

1. Recognize that pursuing excellence is about God—about serving Him well, about submitting ourselves to His work and refinement, about relying on Him to equip us for the work He’s asking us to do. Perfection, on the other hand, is about me—how I measure up compared to everyone else, how I never make mistakes, how I’m able and capable because I’ve worked so darned hard, and so on.

2. An article on DesiringGod.org has this to say about the healthy pursuit of excellence: “When we pursue excellence, we’re determined to do something as well as possible within a given set of talent, resource, and time limits.” Recognize that God has equipped you in certain ways. If you need to study to refine your skills, such as your writing, go for it. It’s biblical to work to refine ourselves. But the moment you start obsessing or comparing yourself to others, stop. You’ve crossed the line into perfectionism. When that happens, submit yourself to God, asking Him to let you see yourself through His eyes. And consider setting time limits and allow yourself to do the best you can in that amount of time—and then let it go and move on.

3. A healthy pursuit of excellence is understanding that perfectionism isn’t possible. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Give yourself permission to not be perfect. You have to be willing to think about yourself differently.

4. Let go of control. That belongs to God. You can pursue excellence in a way that leaves results up to God. You aren’t the center of the universe, God is. It’s not about whether you do everything right, or do enough. It’s about your relationship with God and embracing His truth and grace. Trusting His grace. Knowing that He’s not surprised when we fail. He made us. He knows we’re not perfect. And He still loves us. In other words, make your focus about loving and getting to know God better. Not about being perfect.

5. A healthy pursuit of excellence means we work hard for the Lord, but we work out of passion rather than perfectionism. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Passion produces a good feeling, you view your work as challenging and rewarding. Perfectionism always leaves you feeling less-than. Inadequate. A failure.

6. Do your best, but make sure that’s marked by grace. Cultivate self-compassion, self-love. Matthew 22:39 says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and put your name in there. For example, Karen’s love for herself is patient, kind…and so on. And then make sure you live all that out. You can’t show others patience when you’re not patient with yourself.

7. We need to find our value, worth, and identity in God, in being His child, in being created in His image, and in the perfect righteousness He gives us in Christ. Everything else is worthless. God wants us to delight in Him FIRST, and that overflows into delighting in the work He equips us to do. But if we’re not first His child, if we’re not first resting in His love for us, in the value He places on us, we’ll always be looking to others or the world or our achievements for our validation, and that will NEVER satisfy us, because we weren’t designed to work that way.

What is the only kind of perfectionism that matters?

God has called each of us to do the work and tasks He’s given us with excellence, but He’s also there to equip us, encourage us, and refine us as we go through the journey of becoming His child. But when we mistake perfectionism with excellence, we give the enemy a foothold to distract us, to discourage us, and to derail us from serving God. Excellence puts the focus on God. Perfectionism puts the focus on me. It’s pretty clear which one is going to lead me into a life of faithful service and peace. So lay your perfectionism on the altar of obedience and walk away. Leave it in God’s hands. Leave yourself in God’s hands. And rest in His provision, direction, and refinement. Let Him make you perfect in His sight. That’s the only kind of perfectionism that matters, and He’s the only one who can achieve it.

We want to hear from you!

Do you ever struggle with perfectionism? What helps you overcome it?

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Perfectionism isn’t just dangerous, it’s a lie.

 

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070 – How to Deal with Haters with Thomas Umstattd Jr.

Thomas Umstattd Jr How to Deal with Haters Write from the Deep podcast

Haters. They’re out there, lurking. Waiting to attack. All it takes is for you to write something that they dislike, and they strike with vicious words designed to tear you, your work, your reputation—even God—apart. Guest Thomas Umstattd Jr. knows haters all too well. Hard not to when tens of thousands of them come after you for one blog post. But he also knows how to deal with them, and he’s bringing all that hard-earned wisdom to help you!

But first, help us out by taking our quick survey. We want to make the podcast better and we need your help! Thank you!

Thomas Umstattd Jr. is a speaker, writer, entrepreneur, WordPress guru, political troublemaker, homeschool graduate, and Christ follower. Thomas built his first website at the age of 13 and taught his first web design class at only 16 years of age. He has been helping authors and small businesses use the web ever since. In 2009 he started AuthorTechTips.com, a website to help authors use the web to promote their books. The site was twice featured in Writers Digest as one of the 101 most helpful websites for authors. AuthorTechTips.com is now AuthorMedia.com, a resource for authors timid about technology. Thomas is the CEO of Castle Media Group LLC, a company that builds websites for world-changers, and he sits on the board of directors for several nonprofits. As an award-winning speaker, Thomas teaches all over the world. He’s also the co-host of the popular Novel Marketing Podcast with James L Rubart, and he hosts the Creative Funding Show. He’s also the author of Courtship in Crisis, a book which came about through a viral blog post Thomas wrote.

Key quotes:

What the deep means to Thomas…

I think of roots on a tree. A palm tree, as high as it is above the sand, actually goes equally deep below the sand. When a hurricane comes, a palm tree can be blown horizontal with the earth in hundred mile-an-hour winds. When the hurricane goes by, the palm tree just pops right back up because of how deep its roots go. And so when we’re deeply rooted in Christ, our identity is deeply rooted in who he is. It doesn’t matter what the wind of the world is blowing at us, we’re able to pop right back up.

Why Thomas wrote the blog post Why Courtship Is Fundamentally Flawed… and ultimately the book Courtship in Crisis

Going way back, I grew up in the home school community and I was a big advocate of courtship. And all my friends were big advocates of courtship, which was how conservative Christians dated in the 90s and early 2000s… I even started a website called practicalcourtship.com. I even went through a courtship… There was this idea in the community kind of similar to the prosperity gospel where if you do relationships in this way you’re guaranteed to have a happy relationship…You’re guaranteed to have a good marriage. The reality, that I learned the hard way, is that it is not actually a promise in Scripture. Jesus does not promise easy times, in fact he promises hard times. Trials, temptations, and persecutions are what we’re promised. I really loved this girl, but before I could get to know her I had to commit to being in relationship with her for the purpose of getting married… Eventually I sat down with her dad to ask his permission to marry her,  and this was after I’d been on many dates one-on-one with her father, before I ever went out with her… For two hours he told me everything he didn’t like about me. This man who I’d opened up my life to and shared my financial statements with…criticized every single thing that I had done in my life…Needless to say, his daughter rejected me…But I was still a believer in courtship. But then I started noticing that most of my friends were still single. This thing that was supposed to get us married wasn’t working. And then I started noticing that some of the couples that had gotten married through courtship we’re getting divorced…Finally I humbled myself and took my grandmother out to dinner and asked her, “What did you see you back in the 90s that we didn’t see?” And she explained to me how they did dating and relationships back in the 50s and the 40s… I was like, I want to put this into practice…but there was a problem. I was Mister Courtship… If I asked a girl out for coffee, she would hear that I was asking her out for coffee for the purpose of marriage. So my goal was to write a blog post on my personal blog, and if I could get 10,000 people to read this blog post, everyone in my community will know Thomas no longer does courtship. If I ask a girl out for coffee it just means coffee. So I wrote and wrote and wrote…had discussions with lots of people…got feedback… I did a lot of research over a long period of time that culminated in this blog post and I posted it mid-afternoon. By that evening it had 5000 views. By the end of the day it had 10,000 views. And I was like, oh, I met my goal… The next day there’s another 20,000 views, and then 50,000 views. After that it had 100,000 views in one day and after that 200,000 views. And it was blowing up on Twitter… People who were seeing it were sharing it… Remember, the goal was just to reach my community and rebrand myself as “not the courtship guy” anymore. Now I was getting feedback from all over the Internet…Heartbreaking stories [of people who were hurt through courtship]… But the other thing I started getting was really angry, mean, hateful comments. And not just from strangers. These were from people we were friends with. To this day I have friends…who won’t have anything to do with me since that blog post…They hated me for writing it… They thought I was undermining the community… One friend of my mom’s said I should have a millstone tied around my neck and be cast into the sea.

Dealing with haters…

It was really hard navigating the hate. Because they weren’t all wrong. That was really challenging.  Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean they’re wrong. One of the temptations when you’re getting a lot of hate and negative feedback is to just screen them all out. The reality is that courtship does work for some people. It’s not a disaster for everyone… It was tricky figuring out the people who were hating on me for their own personal reasons and the people who have a legitimate criticism.

Coping with a sudden onslaught…

At first I was just overwhelmed just reading comments. 1400 comments came in just in the first week. At first I was just absorbing it. The one thing I realized was that I couldn’t respond to any of these people. Which was hard. Even harder on my mom…. She wanted to go after these women on Facebook who were attacking her son. The reality is that dealing with trolls is a lot like that old story about Brair Rabbit and the tar baby. Brair Rabbit is ultimately completely consumed trying to interact with the tar baby, and that’s how dealing with trolls can be… I feel so often the enemy puts humans in our paths that are tar babies, but ultimately they’re not tar babies, they’re children of God. And when we punch at them, we’re not punching a tar baby, we’re punching a child of God. God loves that hater just as much as God loves me. That perspective is really hard—really hard—when they’re attacking you.

The value of support…

It’s really helpful to have a safe home. My family fully supported me. They were not at all surprised by the blog post, some of them even helped edit it. They had my back. My church was also really supportive. And that was helpful, because the Church—with a capital C—was all over the board…Even my own mentor called me a fool.

The story of David…

I took a lot of comfort in the story of David.  However bad I had haters, he had it worse. And the guy who hated him the most, King Saul, was anointed by God…David had fealty to him… Yet when David was in the same room with Saul, Saul was throwing spears at David. While people maybe wishing for my death they weren’t throwing spears at me… How did David handle haters? The temptation is to have a tough skin. The problem with a tough skin is that it doesn’t just keep out the haters, it keeps out the love, because you’re building this wall around your heart… David kept his heart soft to the Lord, as much as he could. When he would get attacked, he would take that attack and put it at the feet of God… So we don’t just take our successes, our crowns, and lay them at God’s feet…The wonderful thing about our Creator is that he also takes our failures. He takes our hurts and our wounds and our sins. We get to throw those things at his feet as well. That is just such a wonderful thing…Hey this person said this terrible thing about me, and I’m giving it to you God. If there’s anything of it that’s true, you give it back. I’m not going to take it from this person, I’ll take it from you.

Other Scriptures that helped…

The Psalms, especially the angry ones. While I really tried not to lash back at my critics, I can’t say that I did that 100%… But you don’t have to pull your punches while you’re complaining about them to God. Like David would say… “Oh, God, crush their bones…” And I’m like, I know how you feel! The judge of all the earth will do right. And people will be rewarded and punished based off their deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil. I can trust him with that. Vengeance is mine says the Lord, I will repay. I have to remind myself that this is in God’s hands.

The value of feedback…

For authors, you get a negative review on your book and some of that’s going to be envy. Envy motivates a lot of one-star stuff on the Internet… But sometimes it’s legitimate feedback, and if you allow it, feedback can help make your work better. My book is better because of the feedback I got on the blog and on Facebook while I was writing it. Some of the people disagreed with me…One who was nice about it, I had on my research team, as a beta reader, and he was challenging me on theological stuff all along the way. It was really helpful.

Here’s a link to Thomas’s book Courtship in Crisis if you’re interested:

Courtship in Crisis on the Write from the Deep podcast, how to deal with haters with Thomas Umstattd Jr.

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We want to hear from you!

Have you had to deal with haters? What helped you cope with them?

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Got haters? Let guest Thomas Umstattd Jr. teach you how to handle them!

 

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