Perfect  –  having no mistakes or flaws, that is the Merriam Webster definition.  Perfectionism often appears when we try to compare ourselves to others.  The start of perfectionism might have been influenced by family, teachers or the grading systems in school or sports.  My tennis teacher said practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.  The images we see in the media of flawless men and women can also influence our quest to be perfect.  We want the perfect TV family we saw growing up, the perfect hair we see on the commercials and the perfect body from the latest exercise wonder device.  “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” –  Ralph Waldo Emerson.

An article that made laugh more than anything in months was The Really Terrible Orchestra. This is from a New York Times article that was republished in the Daily Good. “The announcement of the orchestra’s founding led to a great wave of applications to join. Our suspicion that there were many people yearning to play in an orchestra but who were too frightened or too ashamed to do anything about it, proved correct. There was no audition, of course, although we had toyed with the idea of a negative audition in which those who were too good would be excluded. This proved to be unnecessary. Nobody like that applied to join.” The full article can be found here

I am reminded of my HS track experience by the really terrible orchestra. I wanted to long jump, I was and still am 5’2″, good long jumpers have long legs. I was a really terrible long jumper. I was a very good fast runner. So I think, to keep me competing in sprints, my track coach let me long jump in practice one in a while. I was so happy and I still remember the thrill of flying through the air and landing in a sandpit. Long jumping is not an important life skill unless you jump cliffs as pictured below. Let me know what you think if you read the whole really terrible orchestra article. I would love to hear your commments.

I was at social dance lesson a few years ago. Few students were getting the step, many feet were stepped on and tension was high. The teacher hearing some critical comments said “We are learning this dance we don’t have to be perfect. Relax and have fun some fun everyone.” We all did better after her comment.

Many years ago I learned an effective technique when I get into “perfectionist mode” and start that negative self talk.  I ask myself, what would I say to myself if I was my own best friend?  I would want my best friend to encourage me but also talk straight to me.  My friend would say hey look back at that relationship or job that did not workout and use it to learn what you really want in the future.  You are great and will find something better.  My bf would say if one or two people give you the same feedback and you take it as criticism it might be their issue.  However if three or four people give you the same feedback and you take it as criticism well then you might want to take a hard look at what you are doing.  Above all my best friend would tell me even though I have made mistakes and have some flaws, I am always learning and I am totally awesome.

My family did not have the money to send me to dance lessons until I was ten years old.  Learning ballet, jazz and tap was a dream come true for me.  For years as a kid I had pictures of dancers covering my walls and now I was a dancer.  The second year at our recital I was given a place out in front of the lines of girls.  I had a semi solo dance spot and I was one happy camper!  I quit dance at eleven after just two years.  Even with the praise of my teacher and a solo spot, I felt every one else in class was better than me.  They had to be better because almost all the girls had started their lessons at age three or four.  I thought due to my late start, I could never catch up and be perfect. 

I gave up things I loved and was even good at because my own standards were way too high.  Letting go of perfectionism was a big relief.  There was a point in my life where I realized doing my best was very different than trying to be perfect.  My yoga practice also played a part in stopping the comparisons.  One of my teacher’s always stressed we should accept where we are at in our practice.  Hearing this over and over finally helped me learn to accept where I was at in life.  In yoga there is no perfect practice.  For me every practice is good if I bring my full presence to my practice.  I still go into “perfection mode” now and then.  However now I more quickly let go of the stress of perfection and just do my best.

Cliff Long Jump Photo by Blake Cheek on Unsplash

Orchestra Photo by Manuel Nägeli on Unsplash