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Self-Medicating the Pain of Perfectionism

In an article in The Atlantic, Ann Dowsett Johnston writes honestly about what she calls "the tyrannical myth of perfection." Here's how one of Johnston's friends described the harsh demands of perfectionism:

At one point in my life I was trying to be the perfect woman … I was involved in so many community efforts—it was that feeling that I was never good enough. That whole perfectionist thing was driving everyone: you could bust your [butt], and it wasn't good enough … I think we're living in a culture that's so demanding … People are exhausted at the end of the day … A lot of people have to self-medicate because it would be hard for them to look in the mirror otherwise.

Johnston admits that she has often tried to self-medicate the pain of her perfectionism with a glass of wine—or two, or even three. She writes:

With two parents who had their own serious troubles with alcohol, alarm bells should have been ringing. But my habit seemed relatively harmless. Common, even. A glass or two seemed innocent enough … Alcohol smoothed the switch from [my hectic work schedule] to my [role at home]. It seemed to make life purr. I could juggle a lot. Until, of course, I couldn't.

She adds a statement that applies to many of the ways we try to numb perfectionism's demands: "That's the thing about a drinking problem: It's progressive. But for a long, long time, alcohol can step in as your able partner, providing welcome support—before you want to boot it out."

Possible Preaching Angles: (1) Perfectionism; Performance; Escape; Addiction—Everything Johnston says about alcohol often applies to the other ways we try to escape from perfectionism. (2) God, grace of; Justification; Justification by Faith—This story also shows our need to find true rest in the grace of God. (3) Christmas—This is a great way to remind people that the essence of this busy season isn't our perfection, but God's grace.

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