Sneaky Perfectionism

I should know by now that in order for me to learn something, I have to experience first hand. Just knowing about it or reading about it don’t get it done for me. This week I rode the learning curve yet again. It came to a head while I was attempting to learn my alto part for some upcoming songs I was singing both at church and at, well, a bar. Not the same songs. 😉

I was having a terrible time finding the right harmony part on a couple of them and this affected my confidence in learning all the others. I had a literal, physical and mental meltdown. I was even screaming with frustration at the top of my lungs in my living room. Since I am pretty intuitive, I realized that there might be something going on inside me that needed attention.

Often in Recovery they talk about one of the effects of the disease is that many family members struggle with perfectionism, procrastination and paralysis. I very obviously have to battle procrastination and paralysis (feeling overwhelmed so I am unable do anything at all), but honestly, I have always wished I did battle perfectionism. I tend to think I exhibit the opposite in that area. But as I was doing a reading about it, the author approached Perfectionism in a way I had never thought of, and lo and behold, I am indeed a Perfectionist.

Unfortunately, I am not the kind who does a job until it’s as perfect as I can possibly make it. Nope. Mine manifests itself like this: I really like to sing. I feel insecure about singing. I am asked to sing in front of people. I don’t practice as much as I should and avoid focusing on getting better so when I fail or under-perform, I have a built in excuse: “Well, if I would have practiced more or invested more time with it, I could have been great!”

Or how about this one: I really want to be thinner and in great shape. I question whether this is possible. I could diet and exercise and set goals, but instead I either diet and don’t exercise or I exercise and eat junk. Again–I have a built in excuse for when I fail. “If I would have done the whole deal, then I could have a rockin’ beach body.” This is the worst sort of perfectionism. It’s unhealthy and debilitating, without any of the positive results.

You may have heard the saying, “anything worth doing, is worth doing badly.” But my sick mind tells me that if I can’t be the best at it, I should avoid investing in it at all.

“Such inclination to avoid taking risks, to avoid doing anything badly, has prevented me from doing some of the things I enjoy the most, and it has kept me from the regular practice that produces progress.” That’s from a book called “Courage to Change.” Which makes sense, since it takes enormous courage to conquer the fears that come with potential failure. It takes courage to be willing to perform a task badly in order to ever perform it “goodly”.

And, here’s a thought, how about doing it for “fun and for free”? Singing because I like to sing. Exercising because it’s good for me. And a new one for me to overcome, writing because I like helping people (and sorting out the craziness in my head by sharing it with you all).

I just realized that as I get closer to publishing my blogs, I feel the threat of Perfectionism hovering over me, ready to sabotage the whole thing. I think that’s part of why I am writing today. I felt compelled to write. I knew I had to do it because I was allowing the lies to filter in and tell me that if I write less and less, I will have a built in excuse if, in the end, I don’t succeed as an actual author of an actual book. It will make sense that no one would read it if I couldn’t maintain an active blog up until then. See how that works? It’s insanity–but it’s painfully real.

So–now that I am aware, I have a responsibility to address it. And how can I combat such a pattern that has been wearing a path in my Being for decades? Well, I guess for now, I will keep singing in front of actual people. I’ll practice and learn my words and my part (thanks to YouTube). I will keep getting up at the crack of dawn and threatening the foundation of my living room while I bounce up and down with Shawn T, my TV fitness guru , and try not to eat cookies for breakfast. And I will keep writing. Even when I doubt and question my writing skills and if I have one single drop of anything valuable to share. And I won’t stop before I publish and I won’t stop after.

This is all very scary…any Perfectionists out there agree?

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One thought on “Sneaky Perfectionism

  1. Heather, can you imagine me having those kinds of doubts and second guesses before I go up and act like a fool on the microphone for 3 hours, entertaining whoever is there. Everything I do from that stage is a risk…but I just launch it out there. I sing, I mess up, I try new things, I make some jokes, a few are funny, most are not. If something falls flat, I don’t pretend it didn’t…sometimes (you may have noticed) I emphasize the mess-up…and people relate to me that much more, I think–because none of us are perfect. (much like my grammar) It is so much more fun to mess up, laugh, and move on. I always tell my music students that the studio is a safe zone where they are allowed to mess up. Doesn’t that sound absurd? It is one of the first things I tell them and I continue to remind them often. It takes the pressure off so they can safely take risks and enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishment. Notice I didn’t say “enjoy the satisfaction of perfection.”

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