Stop Letting Perfectionism Steal Your Joy

If I had to name only one writer who is as genuine and honest as they come in their writing, then I would tell you about Emily. Not only is she someone who stays transparent in her writing but she is someone whose insight and opinions about writing I value. Since we both have two littles within 2 1/2 years of each other, we have found ourselves at times messaging each other in the middle of the night. Of course they are mostly from me asking her for some writing advice!

When I asked Emily to write about motherhood and faith, I was excited to see how God would speak through her. And just like the last two guest posts we’ve had here this month, God comes through and Emily comes obediently with an open heart. Her words today have once again ministered to me during a season when I needed it most. Head over to Emily’s site for more of her writing. You won’t regret it one bit.

Do you let perfection steal your joy? For those who struggle with perfection and let it steal their joy.

My tired, temporary eyes can’t find something soothing to rest on. It’s too early, too dark, my brain too sleep-starved. The plates from last night’s dinner are in an unsteady pile by the sink, the full dishwasher asks to be emptied while my children ask to be filled, and so I serve oatmeal from a spaghetti-splattered microwave and breastmilk from my aching body, rubbing my eyes.

My eyes: they’re in this moment, which sounds like a good thing, but right now it feels like a trapped temporality—I’m stuck here. Stinging eyes see undone laundry, toys that I should repair, pantry appallingly disorganized—a household mismanaged, I suppose. Look deeper; you’ll see trim that wants painting, kitchen without backsplash (still), chairs with screws slowly loosening—a household always under construction.

Imperfection everywhere. If I’m honest, these trapped moments feel frequent and all-consuming sometimes. Raising babies comes with plenty of imperfection because babies don’t care about clean houses. Working from home and staying with my children enclosed by these same four walls gives my eyes too much time to study the drywall cracks on the bathroom ceiling and the slowly deteriorating paint on my living room furniture. Perfectionism wags its finger at me, showcasing my housekeeping (and other) failures like a nightmarish Vanna White. And the category is… how Emily is failing and has failed, circa 1990-2017.

I want things to be perfect. I want my house perfect, myself perfect. According to my Instagram feed, anything less is off-brand.

Now it’s dark again, but it’s the dark of growing colder, not getting warmer; the clock and my exhaustion announce the time when I climb into bed and pass out. But tonight, my closed eyes still see imperfection, and I can’t find rest. I’m gritting my teeth and making lists of projects and planning how to hide the mess when people visit on Thursday. An hour passes in sleepless anxiety, the list growing: it’s not just my house, after all, it’s my work-life balance, my parenting style, my interactions with friends—me. I’m the problem, right?

In the darkness, a clear word: Stop. You’re looking with temporary eyes. I don’t see what you see. Look again, and this time, think beyond Thursday. What has eternal significance?

I exhale. There it is: when I look without my time-bound eyes—when I look with an eye toward eternity—my home and life are entirely different. My house: a cozy construction of wood and plaster that is the safe place for my children to learn, grow, and make mistakes; their jumping-off point that we improve not for style points or to land a spot on HGTV, but to give them that tangible experience of an intangible feeling—home. Four walls that have sheltered friends and have hosted groups and are always open. My parenting: flawed but betting on love, prayer, and Saturday morning pancakes. My life: care-for, important, meaningful beyond my postpartum tummy and my mistakes.

When I flip my lens and look with eternity in mind, everything changes. My goals for the day are rewritten: less fruitless cleaning, more fruitful connecting. I’ll never stop craving order and beauty, but I can stop letting perfectionism steal my contentment and sour my motherhood.

James talks about perfection, and he does say we should strive for it. “Count it all joy,” he writes, “when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4, ESV). His brand of perfection has nothing to do with lack of flaw—instead, it’s a wholeness that makes us complete. It’s a maturity that grows out of trial (and boy howdy are dishes a trial), and it’s a “perfection” that can make your insides full of order, beauty, and contentment, regardless of the state of your home or your life.

I wake up, willing the sleep from my body. It’s the same house, but it looks different this morning. It’s eternally significant. It’s perfect.

Emily Fisk swore she’d never be a mommy blogger, so now we all have something to laugh about together. From a cozy valley in Idaho, Emily writes between work deadlines and toddler tantrums. Follow along at or on Instagram (@emilyafisk) for attempts at sanity, humor, and faith. 

4 replies
  1. Meg
    Meg says:

    What a beautiful reminder. “I look without my time-bound eyes”…we would do well to look at things this way a little more often. I get so caught up in TODAY that I forget to focus on the things of eternity sometimes. What a gift to be able to see with eternal eyes.

  2. Davi
    Davi says:

    Love this quote: “Look again, and this time, think beyond Thursday. What has eternal significance?”. Such an inspiring article, especially for the hard days of motherhood.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *