Lies of Perfectionism, Part 2

In Lies of Perfectionism, Part 1 we examined several misconceptions perfectionists have and the stories perfectionists keep telling themselves.  If you feel like what you accomplish is never going to be good enough, or you often procrastinate engaging in important tasks like practicing or preparing for events, or you feel you must impress others or you set standards that are impossible to achieve, you know what I’m talking about.  Perfectionism can be a big part of many performers’ lives.  Some in our field and in our society can even view perfectionism as desirable.  Research shows, however, that perfectionist attitudes actually interfere with success.   Striving for perfection not only prevents us from enjoying our performances and accomplishments, it will most often produce performance anxiety and prevent us from achieving what other performers with realistic expectations and goals can attain.

So let’s look at a few more lies that striving for perfection helps us perpetuate.

Lie #6:  “People expect me to be perfect.”

Really?  First of all, this expectation is unattainable and unrealistic.  Secondly, people—audience members, teachers, coaches, friends, and family—want to be moved by you and your music not by a perfect rendition.    The people who work with you and care about you want you to be free and confident in your ability to bring your music authentically to life for yourself and for your audience.  In fact, “People want to share your music and your performance—an act that expresses what words cannot and goes beyond any expectation of perfection.”

Lie #7: “I can’t begin to work on a new piece until the one I am currently working on is ‘ready’.”

Perfectionists often procrastinate and have trouble moving on to new pieces for fear they will not be able to perform them well enough.  Having more than one piece or several pieces in progress at one time allows you to vary your practice and transfer what you are learning from work to work.  Break the cycle of procrastination by just diving in—sans expectation!

Lie #8: “I should be able to perform perfectly.”

In fact, NO! Remember to recognize which statements come after every “I should.”  They may often be unrealistic, strict expectations or unhealthy beliefs that you—that all of us—can do without!  Think about what you truly desire.  You desire to be the best you can be.  Other words to describe this kind of performing might be “excellent” or “in the moment” or “whole.”  I say “whole” because the word perfect comes from the French word “parfit” which comes from the Latin “perfectus” which means “complete.”  Somewhere in history we added “without flaw” to this definition.  What if we could perform for this moment—not focused on the past (that mistake we just made or breath we just forgot) or in the future (worrying about remembering the next section or the fingering in the next phrase).  What if you were able to claim, “I am able to perform fully immersed in this moment.”?

Lie #9: “I am an idiot because I…missed that change, cracked on that note, had to stop, etc., etc.”

We are all human.  That does not make us idiots.  That makes us human.  Work to eliminate name-calling from your self-talk.   When we perform we will make mistakes.  Notes will crack.  We will become distracted and forget a word or have a memory slip.  We work and design practice to intensify and narrow our focus and to acquire a technique that will serve us well.  When mistakes inevitably happen, use them to help direct your practice and make you even better.  “I accept that I am wonderfully human.  I will embrace and accept my whole performance without judgment.”

Lie #10: “I’m not good enough and probably never will be.”

This may be the worst and most insidious lie of all—that we will probably never measure up.  This thought is never useful and needs to be stopped.  Itzhak Perlman definitely had it right when he said, “…everybody has a different kind of talent and a different timetable as to when it develops…” What Perlman is helping us understand is that our progress and our performing life is a continuum.  You have all seen those maps at malls that indicate: YOU ARE HERE.  Well at the time of any performance we are in that very spot—HERE.  We are no longer where we were yesterday or where we were in practice and we are not yet where we may wish to be, but we can count on being right here, right now—in this very moment doing our best.  How can anyone—even YOU—ask for more?

It is not easy for any one of us to face our fear and look perfectionism or any of our challenges in the face and strike out for a new destination.   Next time we will look at strategies that enable us to accept ourselves and our performances as they are while we are striving to be our best.  I would love to hear about the ways that have helped you face your fear of mistakes and failure and perform anyway!  Drop me a line!

 

 

 

 

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