After eight hours of painting my daughter’s room, I stood back, tilted my head, and squinted my eyes. On the little swatch from Sherwin Williams, the color “Dunabe” was the perfect blue. But now it just looked all wrong. It was bold and abrasive and hard to look at. I wanted a calm, soothing, moody color. I sent pictures to my artsy friends and asked for their opinion. I was trying to convince myself that I loved the color because I didn’t want to use up another day painting or spend more money on galloons of new paint. I was nervous my husband would roll his eyes and be bothered by my indecision. When I finally admitted how truly awful the color was, I said to my friend, “I feel like a failure.” I had to start from scratch. My mistake was exposed. My failure was painted on a wall visible for everyone to see.
I know I’m not a failure because I made a poor design choice. I was just so disappointed in myself. I let myself down. I failed. If you saw inside of me, you might see a lengthy list of my impossible standards. When I don’t reach them, I crush myself like an empty soda can under my foot. It takes me so long to recover. Sometimes it’s as though I cut parts of myself off as punishment. I cut down my feelings if they aren’t “right.” I cut down and overanalyze my actions if they aren’t good enough. I can be my worst critic.
When I can’t reach my potential, I’m tempted to try harder. If I could just work more diligently, I could be the person in my imagination. I could be the perfect version of myself. For so many years, I’ve wanted to be superhuman. But when I fail, the cycle starts again. I fail, beat myself up, work harder, try again, fail, repeat. I war between my self-inflicted wrath and receiving grace. Honestly, it is more difficult to receive grace and help than my own judgment.
Criticizing myself comes easy. Receiving grace is torture.
I want to earn it, prove it, and show how competent I am. I want to be the woman who does it all. When I fail and fall on my face, I have a choice. I can beat myself into being better or I can accept grace. I can reach out to the hand reaching for me or slap it down.
I walked into my husband’s office and buried my head in my hands. I sputtered on and on about how wrong the blue color was. I was prepared for his judgment of me to be harsher than the one inside my mind. Instead, he said, “If you hurry, you can pick out a new shade of blue before the store closes.” I was ready for anger. I was waiting for him to come down hard on me for my costly mistake. I was ready to prove, defend, and bargain for his grace. Instead, he just gave it. Grace is never earned. It is always a gift.
I wonder how to break my cycle of perfectionism. Perhaps experiences like this one with my husband help, but I don’t think it’s enough. I need grace moments like this all the time. I need to live in it, walk in it, dance in it. I need to immerse myself in it like a long, warm shower cleansing not just my body, but my soul.
I’m not sure if my internal critic will ever be silenced, but I am learning there can be a louder voice, a loving voice that whispers grace over my critical voice. Both can co-exist, but only one will ever love me in return. An intimate relationship with Christ comes when I let His perfect love receive me in grace. I repainted my daughter’s room in a deep sea blue. Grace covering all my mistakes made me smile.Leave a Comment