Confessions of a Stumbling Recovering Perfectionist

As a recovering perfectionist can I just encourage you that sometimes we get caught up in a pack of lies that makes us feel like we are unworthy? What if we choose to see those times when we are stuck and in a holding pattern as an opportunity that God is using to grow and move in our lives? Because He does work like that.

Periods aren’t exactly dinner table talk. And yet for the last six years, I’ve found myself talking about them with everyone from friends to family to coworkers. I’ve had to explain that “no,” I don’t have a period. And “no,” I don’t know why. And “yes,” I’m seeing a doctor about this medical mystery.

For six years, I hoped and waited and prayed and sought out answers. Answers to why. Why was my body not doing what it should do? Why had my cycle gone missing in the first place? Why was I stuck in this period of waiting? And answers to what. What did it mean to be healthy? What did I need to do to get my cycle back?

It was as though my period was off exploring the world somewhere, and it was my job to figure out how to bring the wanderer back home.

During this time, I started a blog called Waiting for the End of the Sentence, which was a tongue-in-cheek reference to searching for my missing period and simultaneously searching for wisdom in the midst of the waiting.

Except, I wasn’t very good at waiting. Waiting was foreign and uncomfortable. Searching on the other hand … that I knew how to do. I was striving – not waiting – for the end of the sentence, for resolution.

So, I went on the hunt. I saw a handful of doctors, hoping one of them would lead me to the answer for my missing period. Under the care of these physicians, we explored all possible causes, ordered a battery of blood tests, and sent me in for an MRI of my brain. I took at least a dozen different supplements, started doing yoga, and saw a nutritional counselor in an attempt to gain weight.

That last bit was the hardest. I did not want to gain weight. I was adamant that I was fine at my current size. I thought, “Women skinnier than me get their periods, so what gives?”

But, as it turns out, that’s exactly what had to give. I had to let go of my need to be super thin.

But I didn’t want to let go of my thin-ness. I liked the way I looked. It had become a part of who I was. It was very much a source of my identity. And I didn’t want anyone to tell me to give that up. I didn’t want to sit still enough to hear God speak to me.

So, instead, I searched. But in the end, all I had were a bunch of medical bills, a heavy heart and a worn-out body.

Finally, I reached the end of my rope. I thought I’d been climbing toward the answer, toward the light. Instead, I came to realize I’d been climbing down. Down into a dark pit I couldn’t find my way out of. There was no searching now. I was stuck.

I’d reached the point where my heart and body were burned-out from a life of perfectionism. The constant striving and calorie-counting and image management had taken its toll. It was as though my body, mind and soul were fragmented and misaligned. I longed for wholeness and rest, but I also wanted bodily perfection. And the two couldn’t coexist.

A number of trying circumstances brought me to my knees in dependence on God. A broken engagement. Anxiety and insomnia. Fainting spells that sent me to the ER. I had to be emptied and humbled until I was truly willing to pursue wholeness instead of perfection.

I didn’t know where to begin, except in prayer.

“Lord, I’m willing. Help me.”

That’s all I could do. Pray and wait and be willing. Willing to give up the pursuit of perfection in order to find healing. Over time, I slowly opened my hands to release my tight grip on thin-ness. I stopped searching myself crazy and learned to wait well. I started to crave stillness instead of constantly running around in search of “more.” And I’ve learned so much in the process of God writing my story.

The lessons He’s taught me, the ways in which He’s been present with me, the love He’s revealed to me … that’s the period at the end of the sentence. That’s the point for each and every one of us.

While my cycle has returned – prodigal daughter that she was – I know this isn’t the end of the sentence for me. The waiting doesn’t stop here. This is simply a comma, a dash, an ellipse. An opportunity to pause, take a beat, breathe and thank God for the healing work He’s done over the last few years.

And here’s what I value most from this period of waiting: I’ve learned that even when I feel stuck, I’m not stagnant because God is moving. He’s speaking and working and producing good fruit in my life. The waiting, which at one point felt unproductive, is actually just slow-producing.

Now, when faced with the unknown, instead of turning first to “searching” and asking why? and what?,I’m asking how? How is God growing me? How does he want to speak to me? How can I listen better? And how can I share what I’ve learned along the way?

How God has revealed His deep love for me, the way He’s healed my relationship to my body … it feels like a miracle. And it is. It’s a miracle I didn’t stay stuck in a cycle of perfectionism. It’s a miracle of waiting for God to bring life back to things that were once dead.

It’s a miracle of grace.

So, whatever you’re waiting on – whether it is physical healing, a repaired relationship or the fulfillment of a deep-seated desire – I want to encourage you, you’re not stuck.

Things will change. You will grow. Start with a prayer. Keep it simple. Keep it honest.

“Lord, I’m willing. Help me.”

And He will.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24)

Laura guest bloggerA Bay Area native, Laura now plants her feet in San Francisco where she manages communications for a healthcare startup. She loves sharing a meal with friends, seeking out sunshine, and running in Golden Gate Park. Through her writing, she aims to help people overcome fear and experience life fully. She’s currently working on her first book Enough: Lessons in Life & Love from a Recovering Perfectionist.

 

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Here at Middle Places we LOVE a good story. Everybody is making their way through the middle of something and we'd love to hear about yours. Please send an email to editor@middleplaces.com or check out our Contact page if you'd like to share your story with us and our readers.
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About Guest Blogger

Here at Middle Places we LOVE a good story. Everybody is making their way through the middle of something and we'd love to hear about yours. Please send an email to editor@middleplaces.com or check out our Contact page if you'd like to share your story with us and our readers.

  • “Wholeness instead of perfection”, that’s the best discovery we can make. It is true. Thanks for sharing your story, Laura. I was encouraged by it.

    • Laura Richardson

      Thanks, Debby! So glad it spoke to you.

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