Overcoming Perfection, Performance, and Pretending

What every parent needs to know

I'm convinced that a merciless critic lives in every parent's head.

Mothers who are still in the trenches of early parenthood and mothers who are sending their youngest off to college all hear the same daily message from the merciless critic in their head: Other moms are doing this parenting thing in a far superior way. You have one shot to get this right and you're blowing it!

This merciless critic, it whispers, Perfection: Strive for flawlessness and don't dare fall short of those excessively high expectations you have of yourself and those around you. It whispers, Performance: You are what you do. So do a lot to prove you are worth a lot. And it whispers, Pretend: Wear a mask to hide behind the more likable version of yourself. The real you isn't enough. The real you isn't that loveable.

This critic keeps us in a vicious cycle trying to do more, be better, and try harder in order to be the perfect mom raising perfect kids.

I speak from experience on this one.

I spent most of my life trying to achieve unachievable perfection. Somewhere along the road I began to link accomplishment to acceptance, so I desperately wanted to get it right—whatever "it" was. And, of course, that's impossible. I got it wrong, a lot. Terribly and horribly wrong. So while shame was brewing on the inside, perfection, performance, and pretending was reigning on the outside, and my worth was becoming more and more dependent on who people thought I was instead of who God has claimed I am in Christ.

And when I became a mother, my quest to perfect, perform, and pretend only intensified.

Perfection was no longer just a goal— it was an idol. And it was stealing all of the joy, adventure, and wonder right out of my parenting.

Even though I had surrendered my heart to Jesus during my childhood years, I hadn't been living in the freedom of his grace, which meant I was incapable of parenting my kids in the freedom of his grace.

God's grace, his unwavering love and unrestrained affection for us, and his unconditional acceptance and unending forgiveness of us, because of the person and work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, was lost on me.

How did I drift so far from the lavish grace of God and sink so deeply into the lies of the merciless critic? Why was I so determined to pretend like I had it all together on the outside when I knew I was a hot mess on the inside?

Because grace is countercultural. Grace is counterintuitive. Grace can't be earned and isn't deserved.

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May 25

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