Perfectionism and Competition

Sarah Swafford, author of Emotional Virtue: A Guide to Drama-Free Relationships, presented on “Perfectionism and Competition” to nearly a hundred mothers and daughters at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Gladstone on January 14.  Following the presentation, she visited with mothers and daughters. (Sara Kraft photo)

By Sara Kraft

“The world likes to mess with us,” stated internationally known speaker Sarah Swafford to nearly a hundred mothers and daughters during a youth group session at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Gladstone on Sunday, January 14. St. Andrew the Apostle Parish Youth Group in Gladstone has approximately 50 middle school students, 85 high school students, 15 young adult leaders, and several adult leaders. The group attempts to bring in national speakers several times a year to inspire youth group members and their parents. The event was open to the greater community because St. Andrew the Apostle Parish wants as many other teens and parents as possible to be inspired as well.

Sarah is a mother to four children, and recently released the book Emotional Virtue: A Guide to Drama-Free Relationships. Sarah presented to the women on how perfectionism and competition adversely affect relationships with others. She believes that the rise in social media use has helped feed the illusion that other people in the world are perfect. Women, especially teenagers, struggle to compete and to keep up.

“Pinterest has at least a million videos to tell you how to be perfect. We watch it play out on our phone every day. We see people on the screen and compare them to our real life. Then we ask, ‘Why do I feel kind of worthless?’ We find ourselves saying, ‘I’m not enough, I will never be enough. If I only had this or that.’”

Sarah reminded the girls they are not alone. She challenged the mothers and daughters to become more aware of what disturbs their peace and creates unrest deep within. “I am positive you have people on your (social media) feed that are toxic,” stated Sarah. “On a social media page, you are comparing someone’s highlight reel with your real life.”

Sarah noted that the people she meets struggle from insecurities, fears, worries about the future, loneliness, communication issues, self-hatred, financial struggles, and lack of trust in God.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is struggling with a hard battle,” stated Sarah. “You are so hard on yourself. I am really hard on myself.”

Social media often creates competition, women compete with each other and think “I wish I had what you had.” Sarah recalled a recent interaction with Joanna Gaines, one of Sarah’s favorite celebrities. Sarah follows her on Instagram. Not too long ago, Sarah admitted that she had to unfollow her. Every time Sarah saw one of Joanna Gaines’ posts, Sarah would think, “I think I need to burn my house down and start over,” she stated only half-jokingly. “Joanna Gaines was not out to be a buzzkill or steal my joy,” admitted Sarah, but “Her posts made me ungrateful for what I had.”

After unfollowing her for a while, Sarah was able to periodically check in with Joanna’s feed when she was in a good place. Finally, Sarah became strong enough and grateful enough that she could follow her again. Sarah challenged the mothers and daughters to apply that principle to their own lives. The “perfect people” on our social media feeds have struggles too. “Don’t let the devil lie to you and tell you they don’t,” challenged Sarah.

To fix these issues, women need self-confidence, confidence in their friends, and confidence in God, Sarah pointed out. “Strive to be the woman of your dreams, and you will attract the man of your dreams,” stated Sarah. “If you are called to marriage, he will fall in love with you for you, not you ten pounds lighter.”

Sarah challenged the females to have confidence in their friends. “The devil loves to twist, divide, and isolate. Watch for secrets and lies,” stated Sarah. Women need to have confidence in their friends. Typically, when asked how we are, most of us answer busy, good, or fine. “FINE stands for freaked out, insecure, nervous, and exhausted,” Sarah joked.

Sarah challenged the women of the room to close their eyes and think of one woman that radiates joy and patience, and with whom you can be real. Another woman who pulls you into your peace.

Participants agreed Sarah’s message was timely.

“From this talk, I learned that I need to stop being so hard on myself,” stated high school freshman Angelina Furnari. College sophomore Megan Osborn agreed, “This taught me how to be a woman of God in this generation. The talk gave me more confidence to be a better woman and to strive towards holiness.”

“Parents are the number one catechists. Sarah’s message helps to reiterate it, and to have her words as a discussion point. It helps the parents fully recognize what their daughters are dealing with and see how others struggle with being a woman,” stated Carolyn Anch, St. Andrew the Apostle Director of Youth Group Ministry.

Mother Leslie Carlisle attended with her daughter and is grateful for the opportunity to help create dialogue. Following the session, “We will share what Sarah has spoken about, and the advice she gives. Sarah has a really wonderful way of presenting on very serious topics,” stated Leslie. “We’ve always enjoyed the talks at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish. They always have fabulous presenters. It’s good to get a regular pep talk. This is a message we need to hear on a regular basis.”

“Sarah’s message is so relevant and addresses things girls really struggle with,” stated Carolyn. “She is a great example of a virtuous woman our girls can look up to.”

For more information on Sarah’s work, visit


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September 26, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph