Practically Perfect in Every Way – Three More2Life Hacks for Overcoming Perfectionism


In the age of social media, self-criticism and perfectionism are more prominent than ever. We continue to become increasingly focused on being “perfect”: having the perfect physique, having the perfect job, or keeping the perfect house. In reality, however, this striving for “perfection” simply makes us increasingly unhappy as we lose focus of what we are really working towards.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve ourselves, but both theology and science show us that it is a mistake to believe that we can somehow mentally force ourselves into perfection.

Theology of the Body reminds us that God’s plan for us is written in the design of our bodies. Brain science shows that the more self-critical we are, the more our brains lock down and become resistant to change. It’s actually self-acceptance that creates the chemistry necessary for new neural connections to form.  Ultimately, it’s important to remember that while none of us is perfect, it is God’s love that perfects us.  We are destined to be, as Jesus puts it, “perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect” God does not expect us to get there on our own.  TOB teaches us that it only by cultivating a receptive posture to God’s love and grace that we are able to be transformed from the inside out through an authentic encounter with God’s love.  Perfection doesn’t come from flogging ourselves to be better. It comes from letting God love us and learning to see ourselves as he sees us–works in progress, certainly–but on the road, by his love and grace, to becoming the whole, healed, godly, grace-filled people we are meant to be.

Here are three More2Life Hacks for preventing perfectionism from taking its toll on you:

Mind Your Mind–Beating yourself up, feeling “not good enough,” engaging in  self criticism are all signs that your brain is overheating. Brain science shows that giving into these behaviors actually makes the brain resistant to change as it locks down in the face of a perceived threat.  When you hear that inner-critic ramping up, don’t try to challenge those thoughts directly at first.  Instead, remind yourself that self-criticism is just a symptom of the real problem–trying to do too much, too fast.  Give yourself permission to slow down, to create more realistic goals, and make a more realistic plan.  Remind yourself that jobs take the time they take.  Getting mad at them, or yourself, doesn’t alter time.  It just makes you less able to make good time by making you less efficient and less effective.

Deadline and Done–Perfectionistic people have a hard time just walking away. They always feel like they have to add just a little more or review it just one more time. A better approach is to pretend that you are on one of those reality shows where you have a certain amount of time to complete a task and when the clock runs down you have to step away and be done.  Whether you are working on a particular project or trying to plan your day, give yourself what you think will be a reasonably generous amount of time to accomplish your tasks, but when that time hits, walk away.  You can always come back to it some other time if you need to.  But for today? Be done! Perfectionistic people tend to get lost in the details and lose sight of the big picture. Setting an arbitrary deadline allows you to step back and gain perspective.  If a particular project really needs a little more effort, then it will still be there tomorrow. For now, move on to other things–like taking a break to connect with the people who love you and can remind you that you are a person, not a machine.

What’s the Point?  Perfectionism is almost always a faulty means to achieve some deeper end.  We WANT love, approval, validation, acceptance, peace, but we PURSUE being a perfect employee, a perfect parent, a perfect homemaker, a perfect…whatever.  But the harder we work at being perfect, the further we get from satisfying the real emotional need driving our perfectionism.  Ask yourself what the point of your perfectionism really is.  Take some time in prayer to reflect on what you are trying to accomplish–emotionally and spiritually–by being so self-critical and task oriented?  When you find yourself giving into the temptation to perfectionism, remind yourself what you are REALLY looking for, and ask yourself what you would need to do to get that?  If you honestly don’t know, then it’s time to seek some help so that you can step off the hamster wheel and start getting your needs met instead of constantly running but never getting anywhere.

For more information on how to strive to be the person God meant you to be, check out Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart, and tune in to More2Life Monday-Friday 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 139.

Silencing The Inner-Critic: 4 Keys to Loving Yourself

Image via Shutterstock. Used with permission.

Image via Shutterstock. Used with permission.

It can be hard to love ourselves.

Many of us are afraid that loving ourselves will make us narcissistic and selfish.  Many others of us have too hard a time getting past our inner-critics to even try to figure out what it means.

Despite popular fears to the contrary, loving ourselves is an essential ingredient in being a truly moral person.  As Jesus, himself, observed, the Golden Rule states that we must love others as we love ourselves (Mk. 12:31). Perhaps the reason the people seem to struggle so mightily to love one another is that most people don’t have an adequate sense of what it means to properly love themselves

Love Defined

To love someone means that we are committed to working for their good.  To love ourselves is to be similarly committed to working for our own good.   St. John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body teaches that authentic love must be free, total, faithful & fruitful.  This usually refers to the love between man and woman, but I think these terms can also be applied to a healthy love of self as well. The following description of the four keys to loving oneself properly are taken from my new book, Broken Gods:  Hope, Healing and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart (in stores June 2, PRE-ORDER TODAY!).  I hope you find them helpful in your journey toward greater self-acceptance.

4 Keys To Loving Yourself

I will love myself freely.  I commit to working for my good without reservation, without grumbling.  I will not hold back in my efforts to challenge myself to open my heart wide to receive the transformation God wishes to give me and to cooperate to the best of my ability with his grace at all times.

I will love myself totally. While there are parts of myself that are hard to like, I will not turn away from them.  I will celebrate the fact that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14), that I am good (Gen. 1:31), and that God has great things in store for me (1 Cor 2:9).  I will fearlessly cooperate with God’s grace and strive for greatness so that every part of me, especially the parts of me I like the least, may be transformed and bear witness to the wonders God can do.

I will love myself faithfully.  Even on the days I want to give up on myself I will continue to fight the good fight (2 Tim 4:7).  I reject self-criticism and false guilt and any movement of the spirit that tries to separate me either from the love of God or his ability to  fulfill the incredible plans he has for my life (2 Cor 10:5).    On the days I can no longer believe in myself, I will cling to the knowledge that God believes in me.  On the days that I cannot count on my own strength, I will rely on his.  I will not beat myself up for my weakness.  Rather,  I will boast in the power of God (1 Cor 1:31) to raise me up from weakness to glory.

I will love myself fruitfully.  I will rejoice in the good things God does in and through me.  I will look for ways to be a blessing to others.  I will share the blessings God has given me and I will proclaim the good he has done for me (Ps 116:12) that others might be inspired by the wonders God is working in me.

 Be Not Afraid!

This is the attitude we aspiring mystics must adopt as we face even the darkest parts of ourselves and our frustrated efforts to heal.  Not fear, anger and condemnation, but the free, total, faithful and fruitful Love that enables us to rejoice in our failings because of God’s immeasurable mercy and love and, in turn,  be transformed by the power of his infinite grace.    To learn more about how you can learn to love yourself as God loves you, check out Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart.

Popcak masterfully reveals how even our darkest desires ultimately point to something beautiful, to a destiny beyond our wildest dreams, and he offers a powerful, practical plan for readers to fulfill God’s ultimate vision for their lives.  A must-read for anyone who wants to live the redemption Christ won for us!”  -Christopher West, Founder & President, The Cor Project  Author, Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, & the Universal Longing