Giving Up the Perfection Hustle

A few days ago, Dr. Christena Cleveland posted this:

Perfection is a white patriarchal tool designed to prevent us from true intimacy – with ourselves, others, and the Divine.

Dr. Christena Cleveland


Perfectionism is a hustle. A hustle designed to make us doubt our self-worth and spend all of our energy in a useless pursuit. If we are worried about being perfect, then we aren’t worried about challenging those in power. If we are worried about being perfect, then we aren’t worried about whether the power structures are good and right, we are consumed by whether we are good enough. If we are worried about being perfect, then we blame and shame ourselves rather than injustice and oppression.

I’m giving up the perfection hustle.

Actually, I gave it up halfway through seminary after a year and a half of separating from my evangelical upbringing to pursue my calling to become a preacher. I actually can remember the moment. I was driving my hour and a half to my 8 am Hebrew II class knowing that I was not going to do well. The tears started to flow and I remember thinking, “I can’t do this anymore.”

I didn’t do well on the quiz, but the revelation I gained was well worth it. My thoughts immediately came to the conclusion that I couldn’t do something…unless it was perfect. In school that meant getting as many As as possible. In church that meant showing up again and again as the pure, proper, and perfect model to younger girls. In the quiet that meant lots of internal struggle knowing I didn’t meet snuff and wondering when people were going to find out.

This perfection hustle is harmful to our souls because it means we can’t be human. We can’t let down our guard, but more than anything that we can’t be ourselves.

Thanks be to God, this is not the only option and there is freedom from saying no. No one is perfect and seeking something that was established by the white patriarchy is not something I will spend my time or energy pursuing.