I’m always a smidge scared to write my story, but our stories, they leak out, don’t they? Like the little Dutch boy, we realize our finger’s no match for what God’s stirred up.
No, I don’t just love talking about my struggle with anxiety, depression, and disordered eating, but what I do “just love” is seeing God move, and break shackles and chains of perfectionism. Getting texts and messages from other women that begin to awaken to His simple truth: Perfectionism makes for an awful master.
All I want is for perfection-addicts like me to taste the freedom I’ve found.
“Chasing perfect” as a Christian doesn’t always look like legalism.
In the midst of the storm, I could have won a gold medal in chasing perfect. For years, I thought perfectionism was a virtue. I thought that “eating weird” was a quirk. I thought everyone that worked in high-stress jobs struggled with chronic anxiety and insomnia. I thought my friends would be horrified if I told them about it all, that I would lose my job if I took medical leave of absence to recover.
My most prevalent thought? I thought I wasn’t a good woman of faith for being anything less than 150% at all times. I definitely wasn’t a good Christ follower for wondering what it would be like to not exist. So no one really knew this was my struggle.
Perfectionism somehow was braided into my faith. The wires got crossed. For me, perfectionism wasn’t interchangeable with legalism, which is how many in church circles associate perfectionism. No, the Enemy was more sly than to paint it so simply. Perfectionism, for me, was the standard set by Christ-following friends (and not-friends) scattered across my Instagram feed. It was this crazy standard of work and dedication to the gospel that rendered me unable to see the Lord’s deep desire and call for us to sabbath.
Our Great Physician knows where to place the knife.
Seeking to control anything in my busy exhaustion of work and speed and media, I created this food bank in my head. Miserable idea, but I ran the books on that bank, decided if a withdrawal or deposit was allowed each day. Everything could be spinning out of control, anxiety and depression could start knocking on panic attack’s door, but I, I could control what I ate.
And the whole time, I Jacob-wrestled with the Lord in the night. Why was I so sad, God?
In His infinite mercy, the Great Physician knew where to place the knife. Where the festering, oozing mess of control, pride, and perfectionism was wrought in my life. I glared at Him confused and agonized and He looked back lovingly. “Oh, if only you knew My love, daughter. This has to go. This isn’t the freedom I have for you.”
In my life, yielding to His knife to cut out perfectionism—something for years that I’d thought was just my personality. He pulled me out of my job as a publicist, on medical leave, and into safe cocoon of the clinic and consistent therapy for my disordered eating and thoughts. A warm little cocoon where women whose minds had the same twisted neural pathways: it made me feel less ashamed about panic attacks and disordered thoughts.
Through it all, I learned that recovery from chasing perfection doesn’t mean cured as much as it means equipped. Fallen, we’ll always be on the lookout for the next way to play God, for the next way to control something. But because Jesus came to give us freedom, His truths and desires for us beat perfectionist tendencies time and time again.
He frees us to walk into our calls.
A writer is all I’ve ever wanted to be. Now, there was a deep-seeded ballerina stage, pockmarked with tutu-dreams begetting late teen years of summer study and bloody toes, but at the core, I’ve wanted to call myself a writer. And until He took me to the brink of giving up perfect control of my life, I was afraid. “But God, there are too many writers.”
He called me to trust Him. To be a voice for the voiceless.
In His ransom of souls, He saved our gifts, too. Commissioning us and the talents in our pockets as part of us to usher in His kingdom. To go love. To go tell. To bring light to dark places.
What is it you’re called to do that chasing perfection doesn’t allow?
With freedom from perfection to walk into our calls, we call out lies. We give up control and chasing perfect, learning His battle plan for us to speak into others: Life is worth the fight.
We have freedom to be messy mommys, friends, employees, and daughters. We have freedom to kneel in our closets and steady our marriages and relationships through garbled prayers spilled out over wood floors, imperfect prayers penned over emails and texts. We have freedom to show others how we’ve fallen miserably only to be saved by grace. Finally, we have freedom as recovered perfectionists to be on mission to find rest and peace.
Freedom is what He came for.
Ashlyn S. Carter is a calligrapher and copywriter for creatives, helping simplify storytelling for creative women. She came alongside clients like Delta Air Lines, Chick-fil-A, Orkin, and Woodruff Arts Center to tell their stories at a full-service PR firm—and then worked as a publicist, branding for celebrity chef Ford Fry. Now? She strings words copywriting websites for creativepreneurs, and slings ink as a calligrapher. When not writing about herself in third person, she’s usually trying to scratch the ink off her fingernails or grabbing tacos with her husband.