I’d like call myself a recovering perfectionist.
Perfectionism is what led to my vocal dysphonia (anxiety induced voice loss). Perfectionism is what prevents me from being present in each moment and enjoying what is happening right in front of me. Perfectionism is what keeps me hustling and checking boxes instead of figuring out what actually feels right for me. It’s also what prevented me from trying and sticking with new things, especially things I wasn’t good at on my first try.
I know I’m not alone when I say that perfectionism has plagued me in my years of working as a musician. A couple years ago, I hit a breaking point. I started crumbling under the pressure of trying to “perform” perfectly in every area of my life. I was carrying the pressures of performing live, hitting every note, nailing every harmony and getting every chord right on my guitar, remembering my dialogue between songs, remembering my set list and which key each song is in and every lyric to my own songs and other people’s songs, making people laugh and smile and feel connected, interacting with strangers online and in person and being friendly and likeable and kind and genuine, taking great photos and posting great photos, creating amazing consistent content, and trying to get everything perfect when recording guitar and vocals in the studio… phew!
And that doesn’t even cover my struggles with perfectionism that trickled into my personal and family life. I’m plum tuckered just thinking about it!
I got so burned out from trying to be perfect at everything that I found myself unable to do anything.
I became paralyzed out of fear of messing up.
I was terrified of falling short and disappointing myself and everyone around me. It got so bad that I would open my mouth to speak or sing and nothing would come out.
When I realized that creating and performing music was no longer something I did purely for the joy it brought to my own soul, I knew something had to change. I could not live my life in constant fear! I had lost myself to anxiety and insecurity, as well as my voice in the process.
About a year ago, I decided to take a break from everything. I stopped recording, performing, and creating music. I stopped responding to the never ending pressure the world and social media puts on us to be more, do more, create more and decided to find out what felt right for me as a person and as a child of God.
During this season of healing I’ve learned some incredible things that have changed me forever.
One: I cannot earn my worth.
My value is already fixed. My worth is infinite in the eyes of God, whether I get everything perfect or not. No matter how hard I work, my worth does not change. Whether I have big numbers behind my content online or not. Whether I do everything everyone asks me to do, or whether I let some people down and prioritize more important things and relationships. My worth does not change based on how well I perform, nor is it possible to earn true value through performing perfectly.
I love this anchoring truth. It guides every decision I make now.
Two: The root of perfectionism is pride.
Ezra Taft Benson taught, “Pride is essentially competitive in nature.” I learned that I was in the habit of “pitting [my] intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others”, and fearing what others thought of me more than what God thought of me (aka paying mind to hateful comments and trying to please everybody). I can now see how damaging it was to weigh myself against someone else based on how well I could sing a song or play an instrument, or allow myself to feel insecure because of their talents and abilities. Trying to be “better than”, “as good as” or “more perfect” was actually a huge part of what stunted my growth.
Overcoming perfectionism starts with overcoming our pride. I’ve been working on acquiring more humility and meekness and ridding myself of competitive comparison.
Three: Connection is found in imperfection.
A mentor of mine asked me if I felt most connected to people who are perfect.
I said, “Of course not. I connect with people who are real and authentic and genuine.”
She replied, “Then what does that give you permission to be?”
My imperfect, human, authentic self is what I can offer others when seeking connection and is what I hope for in return.
The most incredible singers are not the singers who are technically perfect, it’s those who have heart and soul and depth to their performances. It’s actually the breaking, the humanness, the imperfection that makes you feel connected or feel something emotionally, and leaves you in awe of their talent.
We connect to each other best through imperfect moments and failures. I’m striving to let my true, whole self be seen so that I can forge real, meaningful connections in my life.
I could go on about this topic and the things I’ve learned for DAYS! I’m still continually learning about perfectionism in an effort to overcome it.
I would like to leave you with some resources that will hopefully help you as you realize that failure is an essential part of our learning process, and our imperfections and failings can be catalysts for incredible, meaningful growth.
If there’s one thing I could recommend to you, it would be these two podcasts with Dr. Jennifer Finlayson Fife. They are LIFE. CHANGING.