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What Drives the Perfectionist? What Causes Self-hatred?

By Dr. Don Dunlap
Pastoral Couselor
If we try to cover up our “defects” we may be harboring resentment toward God. - Do you tend to be a perfectionist? Do you often criticize yourself and struggle with feelings of self-hatred? These may be signs of deep-seated bitterness toward God. In this series on self-identity, Dr. Don Dunlap explains that certain evidences surface in the lives of people who have not appropriated the biblical principles of self-identity. He urges us to strive to fulfill God’s universal ideal—to be conformed to Christ’s image.

Many Christians today would attest to the fact that they struggle with the problem of “poor self-esteem.” Employers regularly hire special consultants to teach their employees how to have a good self-image. Self-esteem programs from kindergarten through high school encourage students to “believe in themselves.” Yet, despite all the emphasis that our society places on the importance of having a healthy self-image, we find no command in Scripture to esteem ourselves highly. In Romans 12:3 the writer admonishes us

Not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.

We read these words in Philippians 2:3,

With humility of mind, regard other people as more important than ourselves.

Someone who claims to hate himself is actually bitter toward God.

Certain evidences surface in the lives of people who have not appropriated the biblical principles of self-identity. People who constantly criticize themselves, or who claim to hate themselves are actually guilty of deep-seated bitterness toward God.

We find this explanation in Ephesians 5:29,

After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it.

Such an individual is careful to take care of his personal needs but he is clearly unhappy about the way that God made him.

A “perfectionist” does not understand the biblical principles of self-identity.

Perfectionism is another underlying attitude that indicates an ongoing identity crisis in someone’s life. A person who is a perfectionist or an over-achiever attempts to prove his or her personal worth in order to compensate for his or her sense of inadequacy.

The Lord has promised us that He will be strong in our weakness. We find our personal worth only in Jesus’ finished work. God assures us in His Word that we are complete in Christ Jesus. It is His saving grace alone that completes us—not the works of righteousness that we have done.


Boasting and pride may also be outward indications of a person’s inward feelings of inferiority. Paul asks a pertinent question in 1 Corinthians 4:7,

Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

The sin of comparison always leads to feelings of either superiority and pride, or inferiority and ingratitude.

If we self-consciously try to cover up our “defects” we may be resentful towards God.


Self-conscious actions or statements that are meant to “cover up” unchangeable physical and mental defects may also reveal bitterness and resentment toward God. Awkward attempts to hide these defects are inappropriate.


We should, nonetheless, try to minimize any defects that are changeable, such as crooked teeth, which detract from our life message for Jesus Christ.

Christians must not accept the world’s standards of beauty and success.

We cannot attain security or self-satisfaction by achieving a universal outward ideal either physically, intellectually or emotionally. No such ideal exists. The world, of course, thinks differently. We are often tempted to compare ourselves with the attractive models and movie stars that parade before us on magazine covers and the big screen.

God does not, however, consider our external features to be very important. We find an enlightening physical description of the Lord Jesus in Isaiah 53:2:

He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.

God does have a universal inward ideal for every person to fulfill. We should seek to develop godly character in our lives. We read in Romans 8:29 that we should be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.


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