The Grace In Imperfection
By Anna Holtby
I used to wear the badge proudly. “I’m a perfectionist,” I would say, falsely self-deprecating, pretending like my worst flaw was simply an addiction to being Type A.
For so many years, I lived for the approval of others – performing and people-pleasing my way through life. I walked through my days with a white-knuckled grip, insisting I could control and categorize my way to happiness. I followed all the rules – working to make my family proud, to excel in academics and even to be the best possible Christian; if only by pure determination.
I subconsciously lived by one philosophy: if I worked hard to be good, then maybe one day I’d actually feel like I was good enough. And for a time it worked – the papers stamped with As and the affirmation of those in authority offered a momentary high of confidence and worthiness. But soon my quest for approval became completely insatiable. Nothing would fill the echoey void of unworthiness, and no pretty wrapping of perfectionism could mask my ugly insecurity, reckless pride and utter soul exhaustion.
I’d spent a lifetime believing the lie that I could somehow work my way to what my soul was so earnestly seeking – unconditional love and acceptance.
And, suddenly, I realized, I was not alone in this lonely belief. There are so many of us walking around with our crushing want for control and burning desire to be liked, and deepest, barest, rawest need to be loved – trying to earn our way into the good graces of a God who is all goodness and grace.
Slowly, the loving God taught me what He is actually like. In His embrace, I found the grace to be imperfect – a new foundation for life, built on the knowledge that I am wholly loved, adored, and delighted in. Not based on anything I have done but merely because I am a beloved daughter.
As He drew me in, I learned to be vulnerable with Him. To stop covering the mess and pretending to be perfect. Now, I feel God calling me to share that same vulnerability with other women. We live in a world, especially in the media industry, where we are expected to be in control, to be successful and to be put-together from our handbags to our hand towels. Does that ever feel unrealistic to anyone else? Sometimes, even when we’re encouraged to be vulnerable, it’s still with a filter – whether one on Instagram that blurs our flaws or a real-life filter that softens and diminishes the actual pain of a broken life.
I’d like us all to give each other space to unveil our mess. To get real about our ugliness, and in doing so, give and embrace grace for ourselves and one another.
In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
Let’s look at one another and say, “Yes, me too. I am also imperfect. I am also afraid. I am also chased by this relentless not-enough-ness.”
And in voicing that fear, we take its power and find strength in Him, and in one another.
So, to every one of us who has wished we were just a little more, clinging and controlling our way through life – let’s become a little less perfect together. We all need space to be plain old vulnerable and ugly and terrified. And plain old loved.
Anna Holtby is a writer living in Edmonton, Alberta. She centres her work around the motto that “words are worth giving away,” and publishes her original poetry on Instagram, @anna.holtby.