Authors Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory encourage women to stop striving for perfectionism and to cling to the truth that God accepts them for who they are, not what they do. (Part 2 of 2)
Kathi Lipp: I had a daughter who said, "I miss you." And I'm thinking, how do you miss me? We live in the same house, but she didn't have the time with me, because I was working so hard to try to provide for her, to try to do the things that I thought were important to our family, you know. And I mean, it was simple as I have to clean the kitchen floor, otherwise nobody in the house is gonna be happy. You know the only one who wasn't happy when the kitchen floor was clean was me.
End of Recap
John Fuller: Quite a confession from Kathi Lipp about the priorities in her life and the time when she realized that her expectations about perfection in the home were really getting in the way of meaningful relationship even with her daughter.
This is "Focus on the Family" with Focus president, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: I'm assuming so many of you listening are saying, "That's me." You can connect with that already and today we want to continue that discussion with Kathi Lipp, because it's connecting with you and we're seeing that through the response, through the e-mails that you're sending from last time. And we want to delve a little deeper today into this subject.
We're reminded that God loves us for who we are, not for what we do. And we can say the right things and John, I think act the right way, but I don't know that we always believe that. We say it, but I don't know if we believe it. And that's what we want you to hear in today's conversation with Kathi.
John: Uh-hm, yeah and last time we talked with Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory. They're the co-authors of The Cure for the Perfect Life and we discussed how women can get out of that trap, as you were saying there, Jim. This is a mind-set that affects all of us. You know, if I could just get more organized or be better in the kitchen as a cook or be a better mom, then ... then I'll be happy and I'll be more accepted and life'll be great.
Jim: That's it, John and now more people are leaning in and you know, they also began to discuss the four bullies of this type of living and I think that's a great analogy for us to think about. And they got to only two of them and today, we're gonna hear more about the other two.
John: And if you missed any of that conversation, you can get it on CD or as a download, along with details about the book that our guests have written, The Cure for the Perfect Life: Ways to Stop Trying Harder and Start Living Braver. You'll find those at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio .
Jim: Well, let me welcome both of you back.
Kathi: Thank you.
Cheri Gregory: Thanks, Jim.
Jim: Last time, I was really connecting with what you were saying and Kathi, even the emotion you had in that um … sense of sacrificing your relationships for the sake of the house—
Jim: --and keeping it clean.
Kathi: Or the job or …
Jim: Yeah, it just—
Jim: --it connected and I think a lot of people connected. If you didn't hear the broadcast last time, get it. You can get it on your SmartPhone, your iPhone. You can go to the website and download it, get the CD. I mean, this is what we do to help you, you know, do better in your walk with the Lord, in your relationships, in your marriage, in your parenting. And what we're talking about last time and today I think will really help you see things in a clearer way. So, it's great to come back to the subject. We talked about the four bullies that women particularly, but it applies to men—
Chery: It does.
Jim: -- these four bullies that really pick on you each and every day. I want to hear from your hearts about how these bullies operate, so give us the four again. We've got two more to cover, which we'll do, but how they work in tandem to beat you down.
Kathi: Yeah, so we call the four bullies, they are perfectionism, "performancism," procrastination and people pleasing. And they do really work as a team. And both Cheri and I went into this project, which has been over a few years, thinking that we had primary bullies.
Cheri thought her primary bully was perfectionism, because she's a perfectionist. And you know, that's something she has to struggle with. For me, it was procrastination, because my mom's motto in life was, I work better under pressure. And so, I grew up thinking that. But we both came to realize that we had underlying other bullies. And our biggest bully for both of us really was people pleasing. And when we saw how all four of these work together and that when you take one down, it really affects all four, to take them …
Jim: It diminishes them all.
Kathi: It diminishes all of them. I get something in my brain about, I want something to go perfectly. And what I'm doing there is usually because it's people pleasing or there's performancism. I think about this Father's Day a couple of years ago, where I told my husband, we were gonna have the perfect Father's Day.
Now I know better than that, right? But we decide that we are going to go to Starbucks, 'cause my husband has very simple needs. He wanted a certain kind of donut and he wanted a Starbucks. So, we get to Starbucks and we've driven up to wait in line. It's one of the drive-throughs. And it's merging lanes. And we wait in our space and it's our turn to go and somebody cuts in front of us. Now I don't consider myself an angry person, but I lost my mind.
Jim: You're talkin' my language now.
Kathi: Oh, yeah, you get it now? Okay, I lost my mind. I leaned out the car window and I screamed, "Unbelievable! (Laughter) Who raised you?" And I'm just seething, because in my mind, we're gonna have the perfect day and this woman who just pulled in front of us took away our perfect day. And I'm sitting there silently seething.
Jim: (Laughing) I'm sure he's shrinking in the seat.
Kathi: Yes, so he said, "Kathi, I need you to calm down." And I'm like (Laughter), "Wait; I'm calm now. I screamed out the window and now I'm calm." And he goes, "Well, then why are you unbuckling your seat belt?" And (Laughing) I …
Jim: Just in case.
Kathi: I was having an out-of-body experience. We get to the front of the drive-through line and the barista's there and he said, "I don't really understand what's going on here, but that car in front of you just bought all your drinks and told me to tell you that they were raised by wolves." (Laughter) And …
Jim: That is good.
Kathi: And here's the thing. I don't consider myself an angry person, but you know what drove me to anger was the perfectionism. And it was because I wanted to please Roger. I wanted to have a great story of how we had a great day and we did everything. And so, not only the perfectionism, but the people pleasing take me to places and take me to behaviors that I don't want to be a part of. So, Cheri's gonna talk more about people pleasing, 'cause that's really where she's done a lot. She's done a ton of work over the past couple of years, so she can explain that bully better than I can.
Cheri: Well, people pleasing is focused on getting the right read, response from other people where …
Jim: The response you want.
Cheri: The response I want and the response I need in order to feel good. It's not about serving other people. It's not about being in a good healthy relationship. And again, this isn't conscious. This is the bully working in the background, you know, kind of a process in the back. When I think about people pleasing, the example that's just been really kind of astonishing to me as I reflect on it, is I spent 10 years in direct sales with a party plan company. And I wasn't ever gonna sell a dime. I wasn't gonna recruit anybody. I just was gonna sign up and buy the kit. A lot of women do this. They'll find …
Jim: 'Cause you get a little discount or something.
Cheri: You get the discount, that kind of thing. And when the kit came and I looked at the materials inside, I realized, wait, they offer recognition and incentives. And there was this cute little charm bracelet with 15 exclusive charms. And I'm like, hang on a second. They even tell me how to earn those.
Jim: And they're tappin' right into your psychology. (Laughter)
Cheri: I'm on that and so (Laughter) absolutely. And I'm not placing any blame on the company. I'm just saying, I happened to fall right into it. So, I went to the national convention that year and I had women …
Kathi: I love that you signed up for the toy kit and then the next sentence, you're …
Cheri: Oh, absolutely. (Laughter)
Kathi: And then I'm at the national convention.
Cheri: Oh, yes (Laughter)
Cheri: And I had—
Jim: --a little bit of work in between.
Cheri: --women stopping me in the halls and they would touch me, which was cool, 'cause being somewhat on the intimidating side, I don't get touched a lot and they would grab me and look me in the face and say, "How did you do it? How did you do it?" And to me, it wasn't odd. You just followed the instructions that are in the incentive booklet. You recruit this number of people. You sell this much; you get the bracelet.
And I went from thinking that wow, those bracelets would be cool, to what does it take to make the women do this in the hallway? Then I met the company president and she grabbed me and she looked me in the eyes and she said, "You are remarkable." (Emotional) I'd never heard those words from my mother.
Cheri: My mother was always saying things like, "I don't understand you. I don't understand why you would want to do drama. I don't understand why you would want to go to parties." She wanted me to keep my room clean. She wanted me to practice my piano. And she's a wonderful woman, don't get me wrong. We both fight the perfectionism bully together. It's taken me years, but because of the process we worked on together, I realized we're both on the same side. For years I thought we were enemies. I realized, no, the two of us were on the same side; it's the bullies that are our enemy.
But when the company president looked at me and again, touched me, I was like, I will do whatever it takes to make this woman (Emotional) proud of me. And so, for eight years I sold and I recruited and the incentive booklet would come and whatever it took to make sure I got an invitation to her table, I would do that.
And so, I would spend all year working hard and let me take the flip side. If somebody is in a company like this and they're enjoying it and the product is meaningful to them and there is joy in their life and there's balance, that's a beautiful thing. For me there was no balance. There was no joy. It was, I was killing myself all year long for that moment on stage.
I mean, I still remember one time when I went on stage for major recognition and she gave me a huge hug and she said, "Now when you turn around, you're gonna see what a standing ovation looks like." And I turned and there were 2,000 women, who in my mind thought I was wonderful. Now of course, they didn't. They didn't know who I was. They didn't value me as an individual. But for that moment, I mean, the amount of adrenaline and dopamine that courses through at least my brain under that situation.
And it took me years, it took actually a back injury to get me out of that level of living and then to be able to look and go, none of that was real.
Jim: And I want to hear your heart on that aspect of it, the good and the bad.
Jim: I mean, talk about the damaging aspect of that. What need were you trying to meet through working yourself to death?
Cheri: I wanted somebody to see me and touch me and tell me I was worthwhile. (Emotion
Jim: So many people are in that spot, Cheri. You're not alone.
Cheri: I know that now.
Jim: And you know—
Jim: --for a lot of men—
Jim: --we're in that spot. We are highly performance—
Jim: --oriented. We have to measure up.
Kathi: And they desperately want somebody to say, "I'm proud of you."
Jim: Every little child--
Cheri: It's their … yeah.
Jim: --wants to hear that. It's the yearning of our heart.
Cheri: Though we're afraid that we're gonna make children egotistical if we say things like that to them.
Jim and Kathi: Yeah.
Jim: I mean, your back injury, how did you begin to evaluate who you were inside and what was goin' on with the needs that you were needing to be met?
Cheri: There were two huge reality checks. One of them was, that year I wasn't able to meet my recruiting goals and there was some bling I wanted to earn. And it was never the bling because I liked it. It was the bling, because women would stop me and—
Jim: And notice.
Cheri: --talk to me about it. It was always about being noticed. And so, I did something that I never would've dreamed I would do. I falsified records. I faked Social Security numbers and sent in paperwork for people who were not even in existence.
Jim: That's how driven you were.
Cheri: I was that driven. I violated values that I hold dear and it seemed perfectly reasonable to do at the time. I didn't even question it. It was the next step. I was the thing that had to be done and I'll take complete personal responsibility for it, but I will say, the bullies were bullying me. But I'm trying to say that it wasn't my fault. It was my responsibility, but I was so far gone and the company dealt with me very redemptively when they discovered that's what I'd done. But that was the first time I went, whoa; how did I get this far off?
Jim: It almost sounds like an addiction.
Cheri: Oh, it was. I was—
Jim: An addiction to—
Cheri: --completely addicted—
Cheri: --to the recognition--
Cheri: --and what I thought was love that came through the recognition.
Jim: Well, in that brokenness, I mean, I think the reality is, to whatever degree, we all suffer from sin.
Jim: And I so appreciate your transparency there and recognition of falling short. How did you redeem that with God? How did that conversation go with the Lord, I mean, to say, God, I have failed You?
Cheri: It's been a long conversation. I mean, many, many years ago when I originally gave my heart to Christ, it was from Psalm 18, you know, that He reached down into the murky waters and rescued me, because He delighted in me. And I had to say, oh, my goodness. There is nothing delightful about me at this point. I had to tell my husband what I had done and he's a very upright person. He was also very gracious with me, but he was stunned that I would make choices like that.
But for me to realize that God still took delight in me and still loved me and still wanted to put me in a spacious place, I was putting myself into this ever-closing box.
Cheri: I was trapping myself with the way I was dealing with this desire, this addiction, you correctly said, for recognition. And He pointed out He had so much more for me. And that it was gonna involved real friendships with people who really would be there for me when I needed them and that didn't just stop me in the hallway because they saw that I had achieved something that they wanted my secret information and then, you know, they were gone.
Jim: And the redemptive nature of it, listen, if you're dealing with things that are tearing you down and you're having to hide from your spouse or from others, man, call Focus on the Family. We have counselors that are there to help. Take that first step like Cheri had to take and show honesty.
Jim: That's what it's about. Talk to somebody if you don't feel safe with an immediate family member. Call us.
John: Yeah, our number here is 800-A-FAMILY, 800-232-6459 and please do call if you need help. And because of call volumes, we have a lot of folks that are getting in touch these days, we might have to take your name and number and please know that we'll be back to you just as soon as we can.
Jim: Cheri, I do want to ask you about the next couple of steps in that part of your life, because God's in the business of redemption.
Jim: And you said something last time that really caught my attention about wearing the mask and projecting perfection, which we in the Christian community, we do it. And you said it in such a powerful way, that as long as the outside looks good, it doesn't matter what's goin' on in your heart. And it's the greatest, I believe, the greatest weakness in the church today, is that we've got this backward. We think if we project an image, that people can hook to, then we're okay.
But all of this chaos is going on, rather than reality, that we all suffer from things, we all can talk about 'em and let's spur each other on in the faith to do better in our walk with Christ. That would be a far healthier place to be. And you've had to live that. How do you communicate when you see a fellow wife and mom, that you can see it, 'cause you've been through it? You know that, that woman is living in a dark spot. How do you even approach talking to her?
Cheri: Sometimes you can ask just how are things going, with enough of a pause and with enough of a look that she'll start talking. And if she goes off on the, "Oh, everything is great and everything is fine," um … really?
Jim: Yeah, kind of tether—
Cheri: How about really—
Cheri: --going? I can sometimes tell, but a lot of times women are ready to talk to somebody that they think understands. I mean, Kathi has this happen in retreats, I think we both do to some degree. People will make a beeline to us and the mascara's already running down their cheeks.
Cheri: And they're like, I had no idea.
Kathi: Yeah and I think one of the best things we can do as the body of Christ, is be really brave. And that's what our whole book is about, is taking brave steps and saying, "Here is what I have been through." You know, with Cheri, it was the records. With me, it was a messed-up marriage. With me, it's adult kids who are messed up. And you know, saying this is what I'm going through and God still delights in me. God can delight in you wherever you're at.
Jim: He does.
Kathi: He does, absolutely. He does delight in you.
Jim: And let me say it this way and I would like your reaction to this. What you're saying in so many words is, feeling God's love—
Jim: --that He loves you.
Jim: And that has to be hard when you're not in a better place, Cheri, what you described. How could you feel or believe that God could possibly love you, 'cause you weren't perfect?
Cheri: For me, the back injury was huge. I mean, the pain was no fun, but at some point realizing everything I had attempted to do, I could no longer do. I could try to clean the house for five minutes of every hour, I was in so much pain. And I had a lot of time to sit and think and to read. I read books. I read my Bible. But more than anything, I had time to sit and think and just listen. And God speaks in the stillness. He doesn't shout. He doesn't force. And I discovered a lot of people will say, "Oh, I don't hear God. I don't hear God."
I have never yet had a time in my life where I have slowed down and been quiet that God has not spoken to me in some way. I don't mean a verbal voice. It could be through something on Facebook. It could be through a friend. It could be through Scripture. But when we are attentive, God will speak and reassure. And for me at least, it took failure, massive, massive failure and realizing I could survive it and I couldn't fake it anymore.
Jim: I would like you to speak directly to that woman who's feeling the guilt, who knows what she's dealing with.
Jim: You two have dealt with a lot. My wife, Jean has dealt with a lot. It's every human's being's, you know, issue in this life. You deal with a lot of stuff. Women have particular issues though, that sense of guilt, that sense of not measuring up. Speak to that woman who's in a dark place right now. What would you say to her?
Kathi: I would say what you are going through is not a surprise. It may be a surprise to you, but it's not a surprise to Cheri or me or any of the women that we talk to, because we all know that we go through this. And it is worth working on eradicating some of those things that we're talking about here and being brave and saying, maybe my life could be different. Maybe I can trust God a little more today than I did yesterday.
And maybe if I find a friend who is also in a tough place and we can be praying for each other and we can be honest with each other, 'cause that's what Cheri and I have done and the growth that has happened. It's not that bad things stopped happening to us. I wish we could give you that. But the way we react to them is so different than it would've been five years ago. God is the first option, not the last ditch choice.
Jim: Let me ask you this. You've identified these four bullies. We'll post those on the website.
Jim: And you know, people can get the resource, get your book, all of that. But do you continue although diminished; do these bullies ever go away?
Kathi: They're like "Whac-A-Moles." They really are. You know, when something happens, you know, the fourth bully is procrastination. And can I just say, that is my go-to every day. You know, Cheri's fond of saying, "Virtue is its own reward." No, it's not. Procrastination is, because you get to avoid pain. So, of course, you know, avoiding pain is what we naturally want to do and procrastination is perfect at that.
But you know, there's a point where you start to grow up a little bit and you say, you know what? The pain is gonna be bigger and it's gonna be down the road. I'd rather have a little pain now and go do that workout than have to have heart surgery in 10 years. I would rather put my project that seems so pressing off for a little bit and spend time with my child, than have to restore that relationship five years from now. Procrastination hurts us and it pops up. It's something that we naturally want to do. But as we get older and wiser a little bit, especially the wiser, you can get older without getting wiser (Laughter).
Jim: Getting … that's kind of naturally.
Kathi: But as you get wiser, you start to realize that while they pop up, I don't have to lean into them.
Cheri: Well, and for me, I have started seeing so many areas of my life where perfectionism has impacted me that I didn't realize. And it's been both shocking, but I'm also very grateful for it. Kathi is aware, well, we're in a group called the "The Bad Moms Club" together.
Jim: (Chuckling) The Bad Moms Club.
Cheri: We've been for about the last year and it's because of just needing this kind of support that Kathi's been talking about for our adult children, who've made choices that drive us a little crazy. Well, about a year and a half ago, I discovered a picture on Facebook of a young woman, well, at first, I actually thought it was guy who had massive tattoos all over. And I thought, wow! And then I looked at the picture. It was my own daughter.
Jim: Oh, my.
Cheri: And the last time I'd seen her, she had no tattoos and …
Kathi: She was away at college and—
Cheri: Away at college.
Kathi: --she was on the college—
Cheri: --and well, we weren't talking about a butterfly on the ankle. I learned the phrase, "full—
Kathi: Full …
Cheri: --from you know, talking with Kathi and friends. And I was able to realize that the reaction I was having was unhealthy and that I needed to process it. And I was able to go, okay, this is the perfectionism bully. Oh, this is the people-pleasing bully. I'm a pastor's wife. What is everybody gonna think? Okay, but that's unhealthy and I was able to go, okay. I need to take these to God on a regular basis. I need to take these to friends.
And as I've been working through this, I realized that my issue with her tattoos for me personally is not a moral issue. It's prejudice. I grew up hearing phrases like, "Well, she'd be so pretty if she wasn't so heavy." And I grew up with phrases like, "Well, at least in our house we don't …" And "Well, at least we don't …" And God's been taking me to places in my personal past, in my family history and doing cleaning up house.
Because my level of concern over that is those external tattoos, was so huge, I wasn't asking her where her heart was. You know, I've had to have people tell me. I've actually been blogging about this, how to love your daughter when you hate her tattoos, 'cause I figured I might as well go open with it and get as much input as I can and people telling me, okay, there are people who see their body as a canvas. Oh, well, I didn't see it that way, but that was good for me to realize, 'cause of course, in the '80s and the '70s, when I grew up, tattoos meant one thing. They seem to mean something else now.
But they said, just talk to her. Can you talk to your own daughter and ask her about them? And oh, you know. But if I had let perfectionism and people pleasing really rule, it would've been, just keep it all closed; keep it hush-hush. Keep the jacket on, rather than realizing, I am battling with bullies, but I'm not gonna let them destroy my relationship with my--
Jim: --and it gets back to the point of looking at the log in your own eye—
Jim: --before you look at the speck. And I think—
Jim: -- we're losing that ability—
Jim: --as believers. And you know, I'm just generalizing, I get that. But I think even in the cultural battles and other things, we're becoming more pharisaical--
Jim: --if I could be so blunt. Can I ask you to pray as we close for that woman and there's probably many, but it will speak to a particular handful of people who are really in a dark place and they're identifying with both of you and what you've shared with us. Pray for her right now.
Cheri: Jesus, right now for the woman who feels like she has tried harder and harder and harder, maybe than anybody else, but she knows and still can't get anything right. For the woman who just wants everybody to be happy, she doesn't care if she's happy, and they never seem to either be happy or stay happy.
For the woman who feels like she has failed too often, that there's no change that anybody else will work with her or that even You care. I just pray that You will give that peace that transcends all understanding, that You will wrap her in Your arms of love, that You will whisper to her how much You delight in her and that You have a spacious life for her, a place where she's not being crowded by bullies and demands and voices.
Help Your voice to be the voice that she hears and takes into her heart until Your voice deafens anything else, that it deafens the voice of the bullies, the baggage from past relationships. Help her to feel Your love right now. We pray in Your name, amen.
Jim: Amen Kathi Lipp, Cheri Gregory, your book, The Cure for the Perfect Life, uh … thank you for being with us.
Cheri: Thank you, Jim.
Kathi: Thanks, Jim.
John: That's a truth that God delights in you for who you are and not what you do and I hope you've heard that message and sensed it and felt it in the conversation today. And if you've been touched by some aspect of what we've talked about and really just want to reach out and ask some questions or if you've got a really serious burden and you don't know where to go with that, please know that we have caring Christian counselors here and they can help you begin the journey toward healing and wellness and wholeness and letting go of that perfection. And I'll invite your call. I'll have the number in just a moment.
Another good starting place to get some help would be the book by our guests. As Jim said, the title is The Cure for the Perfect Life and we've got some details about that on our website or when you call. And then you can find out more about the Focus on the Family help that we offer to so many in their faith journey. According to some recent research that we did, we've helped more than 1.3 million people in the past year alone grow stronger in their faith in God.
And if you believe in what we're doing with our counseling and all the resources we make available, ultimately to make people stronger in their faith, then please let me invite you to join our support team. We have a group of folks that pray for us and donate generously to our financial needs. And they make the ministry of Focus on the Family possible. If you're not a member of that team, I'll invite you to join today with a generous gift of any amount. And when you get in touch and donate, we'll send a copy of The Cure for the Perfect Life as our way of saying thanks. You can make that contribution online or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. We'll hear some practical tips from Karen Ehman about how you can destress the upcoming holiday season and make your family more of a priority, as we once again, offer trusted advice to help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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Check out an overview of what Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory describe in their book The Cure for the Perfect Life as the "4 P-Bullies": Perfectionism, People-Pleasing, 'Performancism' and Procrastination.Read More
Perfectionism isn't healthy for us or our relationships.Read more
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Kathi LippView Bio
Kathi Lipp is a popular public speaker and the author of 16 books including Clutter Free, Hot Mama: 12 Secrets to a Sizzling Hot Marriage, The Get Yourself Organized Project, The Husband Project and The Cure for the Perfect Life. She is a frequent guest on radio and TV, and host of the podcast Clutter Free Academy. Kathi and her husband, Roger, are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, Calif. Learn more about Kathi by visiting her website, www.kathilipp.com.
Cheri GregoryView Bio
Cheri Gregory is a public speaker and a writer who has published numerous magazine articles and co-authored two books with Kathi Lipp, Overwhelmed and The Cure for the "Perfect Life". Cheri has served as a contributor to several other books by Kathi, including The Husband Project, 21 Ways to Connect With Your Kids and Clutter Free. Cheri and her husband, Daniel, have two grown children. Learn more about Cheri by visiting her website, www.cherigregory.com.