How To Overcome The Pain Of Perfection.

Author of 4 books, podcaster, parent trainer, wife and mother.

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We all dream of the ideal life, and the perfect picture, when it comes to our family. But what happens when that's not the life we're living? How do you respond?

I feel the anxiety coming before it takes hold. There is always a moment when I choose to banish the feeling or surrender to it. Anxiety grips my stomach first. The familiar knot begins to form as soon as something is amiss. It could be a simple as a dust bunny under the dining room table or as complex as a child services investigation. The knot spreads and my heart begins pounding. Anxiety travels from my chest to my limbs and my hands begin to shake. I have a few moments to regulate my breathing, turn my mind and get a grip. Sometimes I do and sometimes I’m too late.

I’ve always been an anxious person. I can remember as a child feeling the full blown panic of a missing hairbrush or an incomplete homework assignment. As an adult our journey through the foster care system only furthered my need for control in situations that are beyond anyone’s control. My mind goes from dust bunny to total destruction in less than 10 seconds. I first noticed that my need for perfection was taking control when my 3 middle children were babies. We had just found out that an aunt that had never met the children had petitioned the court for custody. We had been their parents for 2 years and the thought of losing them filled me with a rampant fear. I began to clean and organize like a maniac. This became my go to whenever stressful situations arose. Perfectionism became a means to control the uncontrollable. If court was continued, I cleaned each and every tile on the bathroom floor. If my child got an upsetting diagnosis at the doctor, I frantically organized every cabinet in the kitchen. If the neighbor complained about my barking dog, I braided my daughter’s corn-rows tighter. I knew my attempt to control the little things was not gaining me the peace of mind I had hoped it would, but I just couldn’t stop.

Not only was my need for perfection causing me stress it was rubbing off on my children as well. One of my younger sons has had a perfectionist personality from the beginning. He likes everything just so. Each morning he makes his bed perfectly. He organizes his desk, folds his laundry neatly and puts on his backpack long before the bus arrives. All of this would be good except that it comes with the insatiable need for perfection. If he can’t get his sheets perfectly straight he begins to panic. If his pants touch his shoes, his voice gets high and his fists clench tightly. He can tell if anyone has touched his stuff just by looking at it. I understand him and I’ve always been a little proud of his little neat freak character. Yesterday, as I was making dinner, I caught him pacing in the kitchen with his hands over his ears. “I can’t take it, this house is trashed, we’re never going to get it clean and I will feel so bad for you mom. I just don’t want you to cry.” I knelt beside him and tried to give his ridged little body a hug. “It’s going to be just fine,” I said. “We always get it clean. I’m so sorry for crying over the house. I was being silly for getting upset about those things.” His distressed look frightened me. That’s what I must look like when I begin to panic about the small stuff. In my need to attain perfect control over my home, I’ve taught my son that life is truly out of control and that mess is something to be feared.

My daughter was a born perfectionist as well. She was speaking full sentences before she could walk, taught herself to read in pre-school and has wowed us with her ability to memorize details of complicated passages of literature. A few years ago, she opened her mouth as if on a whim, and belted out the most powerful, beautiful song I’ve ever heard a 9 year old sing. She has a giftedness that most of us could only dream of, but she is a prisoner to her need for perfection. If skill does not come automatically to her she freezes. She struggles with math and would rather turn in a paper with no answers than face the red marks of failure from a teacher. The other day she sang a beautiful song in her theater showcase. She has a breathtakingly dynamic voice. That night I noticed she was missing. I went to find her and she was sitting on the edge of the bathtub with her head in her hands, tears streaming. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “I ruined the whole thing. My voice cracked on that one high note and I ruined it for everyone.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, it had been a nearly flawless performance and one she should be proud of. In my need to attain perfect control over my self, I had mistakenly taught my daughter that mistakes are disastrous and unforgivable.

Perfection is a goal we will always fall short of.
I’m committed to turning this perfectionist personality around. I am committed to setting a better example for my children starting today. I’ve realized a few things about the disease of perfectionism.

Perfection is false control.

Perfection is fraudulent power.

Perfection is prison.

Perfection is a lie.

Perfection is a goal we will always fall short of. We live in an imperfect world filled with imperfect people. Our only perfection is found in the perfect grace of our Lord. He has taught us the grace of forgiveness and the abundance of His provision. Today, I challenge you to let go of one thing that plagues you and embrace the grace of a God who makes all things perfect in his time.

What is one thing you need to let go of today? Share it in the comment section below.

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.