The Orphaned Heart| Perfectionism & Performance Anxiety

Today it is so normal to see people operate from an orphaned heart.  I mean it’s rampant in the workplace, in families, and definitely in the church. This is a major hindrance to revealing sons.  It is a matter that is pressing on the heart of Abba, so let’s talk about it.

In many cases the orphaned heart manifests through perfectionism and performance anxiety .

For many years, I dealt greatly with performance anxiety and I was locked in the prison of perfectionism.  Both of these are extensions of fear that has a root of orphanism. At the time, I could not see it like this. It was a normal level of stress for me to live with these things.   It was typical for me to not be able to have unscheduled or unplanned conversations with people that I deemed authority figures. In the instances when I didn’t have a choice, I was sick to my stomach. This was because I always wanted to make sure that I had time to gather what I would say so my nerves would not get the best of me in the conversation. I didn’t want to not have the right answer or be confronted with a question that I did not have an opportunity to fully consider before answering. Ultimately, I did not know if I would be accepted as I was and that made me afraid.

My home life was a bit tumultuous and I had to assume a level of emotional maturity that was beyond my youthfulness. It removed my ability to be emotionally vulnerable. In fact, this was a part of the perfectionism and performance anxiety. I had to be always “ok”. There were so many things going awry that I had to just pretend were fine because I was the child. All manners of violence and abuse were happening but I had to carry on with business as usual. Give the right answer. Don’t cry in front of them. Don’t say the wrong thing. Think about how they feel. Don’t disrupt the flow. Be ok.

Also, there were many projects and ideas that I had a vision for but would never start because I would agonize over the perfect presentation of the final product. No, this was not about wanting things to be excellent at this time. There is a very distinct difference between perfectionism and excellence. Excellence causes you to want to be outstanding and above average.  Excellence looks for the best possible version of a thing with time, resources, and ability taken into consideration. Perfectionism has you consistently finding fault in something that is good and useful.  This issue with perfectionism either made me shrink back completely or attempt to become an overachiever. I was afraid of criticism because it often came with complete rejection.  It was normal in my unhealthy environment for things that were outside my family culture to simply just be shut down and shunned. My response to all of this was  to try to put on my beset showing.

Over time, I realized that all of this was fear. Fear of rejection. Well, actually, fear of not being accepted. There was a fear that my best would not be good enough. There was fear that if I did not do my best, I would not be loved or accepted by those I looked up to. Truthfully, this was my experience in some of the most important relationships. For the relationships that were not that way, I assumed they would eventually turn out the same.

Growing up the way I did had me conditioned to believe that I was only the summation of my success. There was no place given to try to do something and have an opportunity to fail and learn from it. The first reason for this was, there were limited opportunities to do anything when in poverty. You had to slam dunk every opportunity when borrowed money or time was spent. The second reason for this was, most love and affection was given when there was a high accomplishment. It was a time mostly for PDA. My personality did not require a lot of attention in the midst of a very chaotic environment and so it was easy to be ignored.  Getting academic awards and other types of recognition were always high points for affirmation and celebration. Although the affirmation for excellence was not bad, it was not balanced with just affirmation for my person. So, as a child, I always wanted to be in that space. I always wanted to perform and be the best or I did not want to do it at all. I thought my perfect performance would bring me acceptance. I was wrong.

At the root of all of this fear, was an orphaned heart.  My natural life often had me question if my parents loved me. (Thank God for a new day and beautiful growth.) But as with them, so was it with God. I loved God, but I often felt like I had to perform to be in his good graces. My relationship with him was the sum of my successes. I obeyed him, not out of love, but mostly because I felt like he would not talk to me or lead me if I did not do what he said. I ultimately thought I would lose my relationship with Him. I loved serving at church but I definitely did a lot of things from this orphaned heart. My relationship with God was fear-based and performance driven.  I desperately needed to be healed and come to know Him differently.

God, himself, had to give me another revelation about him. I had to learn Him as a Father.  In this relationship, I was affirmed first. I had to learn that there was no place too low for God to catch me. There was no failure that would keep his love from me. I had learned that he loved me when I was doing nothing at all. In fact, I got to know him a lot more when I just slowed down and allowed him to speak to me. I was no longer able to be busy for Him while simultaneously ignoring him.

See, God had to remove that fear and heal that orphan-heart in me because it completely ruins faith and trust. There is no way to really flow in the supernatural power of God when you are in that place. It blocks out a pure stream of love. There is no striving when you are genuinely loved. When you are loved, you feel safe. When you feel safe, there is nothing that you can’t do or at least willing to try.  Consider a baby or young child. Whatever their parents tell them they can do, they do it unafraid for as many times as it takes to accomplish it. It is so liberating to be loved. There is freedom that comes when your heart can receive it. 

You may identify with the struggles that I mentioned. They may have come to you the same way mine did or you had other experiences. Let me tell you, there is liberty and grace for you. My prayer for you is that Abba will show himself to you. You may have already received his son but  I pray that you would be engulfed by the spirit of Adoption to reconcile you to GOD the Father. Let that love affirm and stabilize you. Let it heal every hurt and cast out all fear. In Jesus Name, AMEN.

There are more things to tackle in this topic-especially its impact on the family of God in part 2.