The Cripple of Perfectionism

Ever since I was young, I consistently teased my sister for being such a perfectionist. Little did I realize that I was pointing out the splinter in her eye and missing the wooden beam in my own. I was a perfectionist as well. If I wasn’t perfect, then, by golly, I just wasn’t good enough. I began basing my self-worth on my accomplishments without even realizing it. I had a genuine love for God, but it became easily distorted by my perfectionist standard. I began doing good things to try to earn God’s love.

Doing as much good as I was able to fit into my day became my obsession for awhile. Life became a list of things that I thought would fulfill me. I would easily become burned out and fall into despair when I realized that no matter how hard I tried, there were still many, MANY things that I couldn’t accomplish. Sometimes I just wanted to hide away from the world. My intention was off, and my perfectionist standard started to skew my view of friends, family, and my relationships. I could only see people for what good characteristics they were missing. I became discouraged that no one was consistent and that we were all failures.

Thankfully, God opened my eyes to His goodness once more. I eventually recognized that I could not save myself and that I had lost sight of who my Redeemer was. I received the grace to acknowledge that no one is perfect, except God, the one whom I had fallen in love with and the one from whom my perfectionism was keeping me. I received some good advice from a priest in Confession, “strive, but don’t strain”. He explained that, yes, I should strive to be like Christ, but I should not beat myself up when I don’t measure up. It’s merely impossible to measure up to His goodness.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Our Lord enlightened Saint Paul saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” St. Paul responded, “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). One day I was reading my Bible, and those words hit me like a ton of bricks. THAT is the key to dealing with my perfectionism. I must gladly accept my imperfections, and, therefore, allow Christ to heal me and live in me. Although I cannot do anything on my own, He can do all things through me. I am truly perfect but only because of Him.

If you are struggling with pride and perfectionism, ask for God’s grace to see through His eyes. The devil is always going to whisper, “you’re not good enough”. Reject those words because we know that God is good enough, and God is inside of you. Remember, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

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Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

fearfully and wonderfully“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139: 14. This verse confused me for years, but now it’s one of my favorites. I couldn’t comprehend what it meant to be “fearfully made”. How can someone be fearfully made? It’s not like God is fearful when making us, is He? I can’t really imagine God trembling as He knits us together in our mothers’ wombs, but maybe He knows we’re going to mess up and that makes Him nervous? That never seemed entirely plausible. Another theory of mine was that we were made to be in fear. Could that be true? Aren’t we made to stand in the face of injustice, at the gates of Hell and speak the truth? That doesn’t sound like it involves being fearful; it sounds more as if we are meant to be courageous. I had always heard that religious people were supposed to be “God-fearing” and that befuddled me. Of course God is all powerful. At any moment, He could destroy the world, but He is benevolent, He loves us and He wants what’s best for us. So why should I be afraid of God?

Eventually, I decided that the only resolution to my confusion was to do some research. So being the millennial that I am, I procrastinated excessively and then finally Googled it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that when the bible was translated into English, “to fear” didn’t just mean “to be scared.” It meant “to respect.” Respectfully made. I am respectfully and wonderfully made. Ahh, that changes things.

So now what does it mean to make something respectfully? God is an artist: the ultimate Artist. So what would it be like for a normal human artist to make something with respect? Well, if an artist just throws some paint on a canvas would that be respectful? Probably not. If an artist is painting something respectfully, he or she is taking time to plan, think out each and every step, and make sure it’s well done. The artist will make a sketch for what the painting will eventually look like and devise a specific statement or emotion for the painting to convey. The artist will plant subtle messages that make people think about society, or a bold message calling viewers to change, or create artwork just to make people smile. It is all planned.  Once the painting is completed, it won’t just be thrown in the trash; it will be intended for a specific place to accomplish a particular purpose. Just like a masterpiece, God makes each person with a specific plan to accomplish certain things and convey certain messages.

Not every person is meant to have the gentleness of Mother Theresa, or the boldness of MLK Jr. These two people were very different and were put in this world to glorify God in very different ways. Both were human rights activists who accomplished amazing things, and the world would look very different without them. However, they weren’t the same. We sometimes forget that in our search for holiness. At least, I know that I can get caught up in seeing the holiness of others and thinking that I have to be exactly like them. I am unique and weird, and that’s okay because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God’s plan is so perfect that it not only allows for my weirdness, but requires it. No one else can follow God’s plan for my life, because no one else has the same strengths, weaknesses, and quirks that I have. His plan wouldn’t work for anyone else.

I do know a little about God’s plan for your life and for mine: He wants us to love. Love is self-giving. Jesus giving His life for us is the greatest act of love that ever has or ever will take place. He calls us to follow Him and give ourselves in love in whatever ways we can. But the thing is, we can’t do that nearly as well if we don’t embrace who we are. We are all called to give deeply of ourselves, but if we are fighting ourselves, then what are we supposed to give? Instead, we must all learn to embrace who we are and be at peace with that so that the love we give comes from our inner God-given peace, which is a sanctuary for His love.

So be weird, even if it goes against what society tells you to be like! There are societal pressures to conform, to fit in, to do what everybody else is doing, but God tells us to do the opposite: stand out! You see, being religious and following God is not about fitting into a mold. It’s not about acting the same way, dressing the same way or having the same routines as me or as your friends or anyone else in the world. In fact, it’s following God that will make you more you, because He created you fearfully and wonderfully and He has the perfect plan for your life that will bring you joy, fulfilment, adventure and peace. Following God, and so becoming yourself, and then proceeding to respect your awesome self makes you stand out.

You might think of things you’ve done or things you don’t like about yourself and doubt your wonderful nature. Of course, we all turn away from our wonderful nature. That’s called sinning. Sins go against God and against ourselves. We have free will and are born with original sin, which causes us to be more prone to sin. Sin is not who we are, though. God defines us. Our fearful and wonderful nature defines us. The more we reject sin and the more we strive to be wonderful, the more we become our true selves! Following God really just means being yourself, but in the truest form. It involves breaking the bad habits and bonds of sin that have been created over time. To do this, sometimes we have to deny ourselves certain worldly pleasures.

It’s tempting to look at those around us and wish we had their gifts. I seem to always be thinking “if only I was as good at math as my brother, I could use my skills to understand accounting and business to run a non-profit. That would glorify God,” or “If only I was as good at photography and writing as my friends, I could report on poverty around the world to bring awareness to it. That would glorify God,” etc. But God has a purpose for my life that only I can fulfill, and that is beautiful. Even when I forget about my talents or fail to see how they can possibly be used for God, He knows how they need to be used. That makes having a close relationship with God so important! He can see and understand the whole picture. Every last inch of it. He sees our problems, our joys, our rejection, our nature. In all the world, He knows exactly where the strengths, weaknesses and quirks He gave me can be used the best. Sometimes we wish that God would give us big flashing neon signs that say “GO HERE AND DO THIS!!!”. He doesn’t scream across the room what He wants us to do, but rather, He whispers it to us. In order for us to hear that whisper, we have to be close to Him, anticipating His words and reading His words in Scripture.

Embrace who you are, because you are fearfully and wonderfully made!

3 Tips for Magnifying Biblical Beauty in Your Life

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

My spirit rejoices in God my Savior

For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

The Almighty has done great things for me,

And holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

In every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm;

He has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

And has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

And the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel

For he remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

To Abraham and his children forever.

(Lk 1:46-55)

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The Magnificat is my favorite Bible passage. There is something about Mary’s life reflected in beautiful praise of God that is captivating. Although we could spend years meditating on her Magnificat, here are three points to ponder.

 

  1. Mary Reflects God

When Mary says, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my Spirit exults in God my Savior,” she was not speaking in vanity. She was not drawing attention to herself, but using her words and her soul to mirror praise and awe back to God. Mary is a mirror of love. She magnifies His greatness and mercy, which is why her prayer is called the Magnificat. We are all different reflections of God’s love. We all have different strengths, which are hints of God’s almighty goodness. Like puddles that reflect the sun after the storm, the puddle cannot reflect the whole sky- only a portion of it. We cannot possibly reflect the entirety of God’s goodness, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to be the most perfect reflections of God that we can be. Modesty is recognizing the splendor and beauty with which we were made, but also realizing that none of the credit is due to us.

 

  1. Mary does not compare herself to other people

Although Mary is sinless, she never thinks highly of herself, but thanks God for His goodness that affects her life. Mary was made sinless by Christ; her soul was redeemed by the Blood of Christ, just like our souls are. Because Mary was to be the Ark of the Covenant and carry God made Man in her womb, God bestowed on her the grace of an Immaculate Conception, or a sinless soul. Mary knows that only by God’s grace in her life will she be remembered as blessed in future generations. “From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.” Mary’s focus was exclusively set on God and she saw that it was not by her own power that she was holy, but by God working through her. If we kept our eyes on God, we too would realize that we are not as righteous as we perceive ourselves to be, for we are truly incapable of doing good on our own. We need the grace of God. Mary maintains her modesty by holding herself up to God’s standard, never to the world’s. How often do we say things like, “Oh, well, I don’t drink as much as Katie” or “yeah, we shouldn’t have gone that far, but Matt and Sarah have gone even further.”? This is measuring ourselves up to the world, not to Heaven. We will not be judged on how we behaved in comparison to Katie or Matt, we will be judged on how we behaved in comparison to God’s commandments. When we look to God for direction and approval, we can see very clearly our faults and shortcomings. When we look to people for justification, however, we become desensitized to our own weaknesses. This can be compared to staring at the ground when we walk. I am in the habit of looking at my feet as I walk, and I think that I am being careful not to trip on anything. But, in reality, I am preoccupied with what is directly in front of me, losing sight of where I need to go. “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). Modesty is choosing not to put ourselves above others, but opening up our peripheral vision to accept both our shortcomings and redemption in Christ.

 

  1. Mary is genuine

From Mary’s opening statement, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my Savior”, one would expect that she would spend the rest of her canticle proclaiming the goodness of God and exulting in Him, which is exactly what she does. She is true to her word, completely, and entirely genuine. Modesty is knowing who you are in all of your weakness, and yet still recognizing yourself as a saved beloved son or daughter of God, worthy of respect. This is freeing and allows us to be genuine and real like Mary. There is value in the old saying, “say what you mean and mean what you say”. When we are honest, we tell the world that we are confident enough to expose our true selves, even with the possibility of ridicule.

 

When we recognize our worth in Christ and act freely in that reality, we mirror Christ, like Mary did. I am glad that I am able to share my thoughts on the Magnificat with you, but I encourage you to read and meditate on it as well. We can draw so much from the words of Mary and this article only scratched the surface.

Swimsuit Season

The weather has been amazing lately! My winter wardrobe has been replaced with my spring wardrobe. This spring, however, I am looking for a new swimsuit. Dressing modestly during swimsuit season isn’t always the easiest thing. There are so many stinkin’ cute bikinis that I’ve seen. However, after watching Jessica Rey’s talk on the evolution of the swimsuit, I’ve seen that the bikini is not the most modest choice. 

I’ve chosen to avoid bikinis this spring, will you join me?

Not everyone has the same standards of modesty, especially when it comes to swimsuits. I understand that what I think is modest, some people may consider immodest, and what I consider immodest, others find completely acceptable. I’m not saying that everything goes when dressing modestly. I think we should, however, strive to reveal less of our bodies and more of our dignity.  Here are a few cute swimsuits that I have stumbled upon in my search for a new swimsuit this spring.

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The first image is a boyleg swimsuit from anthropologie.com This one is perhaps my favorite one of all. It is by far the most expensive, but it is a great modest swimsuit with a classic and vintage feel. I think I will be saving up for this little gem!

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The second image is a one-shoulder tankini top from limericki.com. I liked the one shoulder look and the bright fun pattern. I recommend checking out their website because they offer some very cute and reasonably priced modest swimsuits!

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The third image is a romper swimsuit from target.com I thought it looked very flattering, beachy and fun. Plus, I have yet to see a romper swimsuit that is cute and intended for a younger crowd, until now. 😉

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The fourth image is a tankini top from swimspot.com. I liked how it looked a little more athletic, but still flattering and feminine. It reminds me of the running tops that are very “in” right now.

These are just four of MANY cute swimsuits that I have stumbled upon this season. And many are cute MODEST ones too! Jessica Rey offers modest and classy swimsuits as well (reyswimwear.com). Hooray for that refreshing change.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20