I've come up against perfectionism again recently. Not that I feel so beleagered by it myself, but I've been seeing it come up in discussions by leaders and performers.
We want our work to be the best it can be. We don't want to fail our clients or our audience. We want them to have the ideal experience from our efforts as best we can envision it. We don't want to admit that some of that is outside our control or realm of reasonable influence.
I still believe that the best way to nurture and guide others is to nurture and guide ourselves. How we treat ourselves informs us how we treat others.
I'm always delighted when beginners tell me they feel from me that it's okay to make mistakes and feel encouraged to continue, because I have tried hard to let go of beating myself up over imperfections in my own life.
I practice being forgiving of my lapses and flaws. I practice doing my best and letting it go at that. So while some callers joke about "working out their control issues," I am working out my perfection issues. I want the dancers (and my students) to feel supported, encouraged, and inspired. The last thing I'd want to do is to mutter or complain at them, or imply that their inevitable failings were in any way serious.
I am not a perfect caller. I love creating a program and guiding the crowd to learn new things, and supporting them while they lose themselves in the joy of the dance. But if I goof up or misspeak, I try to first apologize - just briefly - and just go on, just let it go.
After an evening is over is another story. Every little detail comes floating up in my mind's eye, and I evaluate each one for failings. Successes, yes, those too, but it's the failings that get me. In that moment, I should have... I should not have... Oh, why did I....?
But most of that is from living in the moment. I am responding and evaluating each moment according to my larger vision and the demands being thrown at me. It's almost completely improvisational! And as performance improv, one has to learn to float on the moment.
Ones control of the situation is almost like playing a fine but unpredictable instrument. One can coax transcendent music out of it, and the next moment, have embarrassing squawks emanating throughout your space. Rather like life, one might say.
When can one stop agonizing over ones improvisational life? I can almost laugh at myself at how predictably this happens. Two to twelve hours later, ones mind starts to process the events and throw down judgement. It's a harsh existence. I'm proud of myself for learning to mitigate the effects.
In my larger life, I have found myself pushing back against outside perfectionistic pressures. Someone preaches the ideal way to do something, and while I might agree, I protest against having that hung over ones head rather than encouraged as a goal. A friend sniffs at my imperfect endeavors, and I realize that they really have no understanding of, much less appreciation for, my creative goals or process. Another friend tries to call me to account for things left imperfectly done, and I explain that I've given up perfectionism. Who are they to crack the whip at me? I am giving up perfectionism!
It's an interesting balance. How to take care of my life without being too rigid. (My systems and structures are invaluable in helping me accomplish anything.) How to explore and be creative without fearing to make a mess. (Prepare, prepare, put down a drop cloth and don't worry. Have fun.) How to be the best I can be without succumbing to regret. (How can I regret my process?) How to float on the moment with all my training and prep supporting me, without being dragged down by someone else's impossible standards. (Encourage oneself like a friend.) I've discovered I'm done with impossible standards, and yes, still they snag me sometimes.
Performing is bungee jumping for shy people. Make sure you've measured twice, test the wind, run a trial. Double check the knot, and then let yourself float. You could fall ka-thump, smash your ego against the rocks. You could embrace the rushing air and the tightness in your gut as you fall and rise.
I reject the voices - internal and external - that tell me I should have been better, neater, smoother, more facile, closer to perfect. I embrace the freedom to fail.
The ideal does not own me, I own my ideals. Heaven forbid I should be imperfectly imperfect!
Okay, that's a good place to stop as any. Don't mind me as I float. Have fun!