Lessons from a Recovering Perfectionist

Amy at UT
A proud Longhorn, standing outside the Texas Football locker room

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was my very first day of college at The University of Texas. I was 18 and ready to take the world by storm at UT.

On my first day of college, I had to take a math placement exam to determine which math course I was eligible to take. As salutatorian of my high school, I was putting so much pressure on myself to perform well on this exam. 

I honestly wanted to get a 100, and basically for the university to call me and say, “Wow!!! You are beyond capable! We are so glad you are here at our university! What a treat for us!” Ha! I was so anxious about this test. 

In reality, the stakes were very low. If I passed, I’d take a more advanced math class (Calculus), and if I didn’t, I’d take a less advanced math course. 

It was really a drop in the bucket; but in my mind at the time, I truly thought this test was going to determine my future at UT.

I found myself thinking, ““Am I really cut out to be here? Do I have what it takes?”

I called my art teacher from high school in a panic. She taught me all four years and we had gotten quite close. I told her the whole story. 

Unlikely Advice

She listened patiently, and then said to me, “Amy, I hope you fail.”

Excuse me!?!?

Her purpose in this shocking comment was to get me to question why I was putting so much weight and significance on this one small thing. 

She essentially said, “So you have to take a lower math class, big deal!”

Do you know what happened that day when my stomach was literally in knots over a silly test? I totally missed out on having fun and enjoying my very first day of college.

Instead of meeting new friends, exploring the beautiful campus, and basking in my past accomplishments that afforded me the opportunity to sit in those classrooms, I was stuck on a silly test. 

I allowed it to ruin my whole day.

Letting things go and enjoying the moments around me will be a lifelong battle, I’m afraid. It is just a product of my flesh.   

Perhaps this rings true for you as well.

amy in high school

Do you remember that children’s bible song, “He’s got the whole world in His hands?” What a reminder! When I put things in my own hands and determine it is only through my own abilities, work ethic and talents that something will succeed or fail, a mountain of overwhelming stress pours into my heart.

Ephesians 2:10

"For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."

Ephesians 2:10

God has everything in my world and yours in His very capable hands. Everything that happens in my life and yours must first filter through the loving hands of an Almighty God. We are His masterpiece, and He has great plans for us!

We can live freely, unencumbered by the pressure to achieve a certain status or success level in life because we know the truth: God is in control, and He has a good plan.

God is far more concerned with our growth than our perfection.

And I hate to break it to you, but you will never be perfect. So, let’s just throw that pipe dream out the window, shall we?

I ended up passing the exam and was eligible to take Calculus, but after some thought, I decided to take the easier math class! I wanted to enjoy my first semester at UT and not feel too bogged down by a difficult course.

I was so stressed about something that really ending up not mattering at all. But isn’t that the case so often in life? We put all this crazy pressure on ourselves over something that in the end has very little significance.

So, I hope you fail (😊) … and through failure succeed in learning a more important lesson.

I hope you try something outside of your comfort zone and allow God to come into that space and be free to explore and enjoy every ounce of our messy and thrilling lives.

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Amy!!! I loved reading this! So many golden nuggets of truth. As a perfectionist myself, I fully plan to start saying to my ego, “I hope you fail.”

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2023 Amy VanHoy