Meet seven-year-old Lindsey.
My parents raised me well. We had good family values, and they both had a strong work ethic – but spirituality wasn’t part of our lives. We didn’t even do the obligatory Christmas and Easter church services. The only exposure I had to Christianity was attending Sunday school with my Grandma. Don’t tell Grandma, but I only went sporadically when she promised to take us out to lunch afterward. Let’s get real, what kid would willingly sit through all four stanzas of “All Creatures of Our God and King,” unless there was a trip to the Piccadilly Cafeteria in the mix? They had the best homemade yeast rolls.
I had an encounter with God on the beach at the age of fourteen, but it wasn’t until around seventeen that I began to truly desire to live a pure and Godly life. While I wanted it so badly, present and future, I had no regular example to inspire me. As the younger sibling, I followed in the footsteps of older teenagers who were in and out of our house constantly. As a result, I entered into more mature relationships than I was emotionally ready for.
During my early teen years, my search for validation was with guys. But as I got more involved with my youth group, I quickly began craving the approval of my youth pastor and felt the tug of religion to be perfect. It seemed overnight, my search for approval went from making out with guys and hooking up at parties to learning what it means to fast and pray and memorize Scripture.
This was certainly a great divide.
In my early twenties, finding validation became much easier because I learned how to be perfect. Or at least that’s what I thought. In Bible college, my identity quickly became being the girl who was first into our morning prayer sessions and the last one out. During Bible class, I found immense satisfaction from impressing my teachers and peers with my great insights. My motivation in sharing with the class wasn’t necessarily to help others glean from my amazing wisdom, but much more about the pat on the back I would receive when class was dismissed.
The problem with thinking you’ve found the formula for perfection is when your damn humanity trips you up and you crumble under the weight of all that shame. Perfection is unattainable and though it cries out to anyone who has spent any amount of time invested in their local church, the pursuit of perfection will always leave you coming up empty.
I’m a people pleaser. I am also a perfectionist. And I think I’m a pretty decent person. I am not bragging, but I usually find favor easily with peers and supervisors. But in a recent job, my direct supervisor was … not my biggest fan. I don’t really think it was personal. She didn’t seem to be anyone’s fan. But it drove me crazy. More than once, I found myself in tears, as I recounted the day’s events to my husband. Even though others who knew my work praised me often, her words were cold, her responses short, and she never had anything positive to say.
I was searching for validation in all the wrong places.
I didn’t find the validation I was looking for by making out with sweaty teenage boys, I didn’t find the approval I craved by being a good little youth group kid or as a Bible college star-student. I didn’t even find that approval fix by going above and beyond the call of duty at work.
We either own our stories (even the messy ones), or we stand outside of them-denying our vulnerabilities and imperfections, orphaning the parts of us that don’t fit in with who/what we think we’re supposed to be, and hustling for other people’s approval of our worthiness.” — Brene’ Brown
Why have all of my attempts hollowed out an even deeper void inside? Why does it seem that, even when I do receive the praise from other people, I don’t feel satisfied? Why do I work so hard to impress others?
I think, maybe, it’s because we are born with a desire for connection. We crave engagement with others. But, oh man, let me tell ya, it is so easy to slip into a dangerous place. By getting wrapped up in the opinions of other people and constantly performing, we can quickly lose ourselves in the vicious cycle of looking for validation in all the wrong places.
Nowhere is this cycle more confusing than in a marriage. After several years of struggling, I’ve learned it isn’t my husband’s job to provide my ultimate sense of validation and self-worth. That’s a lot of unfair pressure on him. I once heard a pastor say, “Marriage isn’t about two incomplete people completing one another. It takes two whole people to make a marriage work.”
It’s been a long journey, but these days I am doing my best to believe what God says about me. When I look at the girl in the mirror and I see I am lacking in self-confidence or feeling unworthy or like I have nothing to give at home or at work, I ask God to remind me of His thoughts toward me.
And what are God’s thoughts toward this imperfect perfectionist? Psalms 18:19 says, “He leads me to a place of safety. He rescued me because He delights in me.” Sounds pretty validating, right? I guess I can’t argue with that.To all the people pleasers...don't forget where your true identity is found.Click To Tweet