Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist, Pt II

perfection dali“Done is better than perfect.” – Google slogan

Perfectionism rears its persistent head with me at least every two weeks when I clean my house, but right now I’m thinking about it in relationship to a routine that I’m working on. I’ve actually been working on it for months. Seven months. Okay, maybe nine.

Carlos AyaRosas is one of the founders of The Nia Technique. I studied with him from 2000 to when he retired in late 2011. He was my Teacher-with-a-capital-T. I deeply admired his vision and his commitment to personal transformation in all realms. I witnessed him embrace the challenge and energy it takes to break habits of body, mind, and emotion to become a kinder, wiser, happier person and teacher. Carlos walked his talk.

He also led a kickin’ Nia class that could make me yelp with joy. Yelp, I tell you. Dang, he inspired me.

The last routine he created was called Humanity. It’s got brilliant movement, fun music, and great energy. It also has three freedances. Out of nine songs. I got the sense that 6 songs into the routine, Carlos said, “That’s it. I’m done.”

At the time I began working with Humanity, I was studying the work of Daniel Siegel. Dr. Siegel is a neuropsychologist who has done ground-breaking interdisciplinary work in the field of brain science. One of the most profound things he says is “integration is health.” The first time I read that, it stopped me in my tracks. It just makes so much sense to me, whether it is left/right brain integration, body/mind integration, or you/me integration. The more I thought about it, the more I agreed that no matter what we’re talking about, integration is, indeed, health.

Between Humanity and Dr. Siegel, I got the idea of integrating Carlos’ work with my own: integrating teacher and student, teaching and learning, following and leading. I saw it as a way to offer a tribute to my beloved teacher, to launch myself into my teaching without his guidance, and to create a healthy body of work.

I decided to call the new routine Unity (as Carlos pointed out, “Unity” is within “Humanity”) with the focus on Integration and the intent of energizing and relaxing into health. Yes. I would use some of Carlos’ music, some of my choosing. I would use some of his choreography and some of mine. I would honor him and also free myself from thinking his way was the only way. Woo-flippin’-hoo!

I put together the playlist and listened to it a lot, I envisioned the flow of the routine, I did my bars (mapping the music, Nia-style), I freedanced it, and started finalizing the choreography.

And then I got stuck. I kept procrastinating instead of working on it. I put “Unity choreography” on my to-do list every day for weeks and weeks and it just stayed there. Looking at me.

Last week, I paused when I noticed myself scrolling and trolling through Facebook instead of dancing Unity and getting ready to share it. I realized that perfectionism had plopped itself in the middle of my routine. This time, my perfectionism was stopping me from working on it at all. Interesting. When I step back, I realize that I didn’t want to “use up” my last chance to learn a Carlos routine. There would be no more after this. Sigh. And with such lofty aspirations of tribute and transformation and health, how could it ever be good enough?

So this week in my classes, our focus will be Perfect without Perfection using Nia Blue Belt Principle 9: Form and Freedom. Blue Principle 9 invites us to use the tools and principles of Nia together with choice, uniqueness, and interpretation. This Yin and Yang of Nia encourages both connection to the precision of the moves while having the freedom to craft something new. I’ll start sharing some of the songs from the Unity routine this week, with the intent of dancing the whole thing next week. And together we can look at how we can all use form and freedom to let go of the ball and chain of perfectionism…or whatever it is that holds us back. I’d love to hear what you think!

  1. Kristin von Thelen said:

    I’m excited to hear of your new routine. Sadly none of my days off match your schedule….I guess I will need to wait longer to dance it with you.

    Till then,


    Kristin R. von Thelen BSN, RNC, MAPP V Virginia Children’s Connection Secretary Nia Brown Belt

    • I’m sure our dancing paths will cross on it sometime soon! Thanks for the love. xo Susan

  2. joy said:

    this is a great time for a streaming class 😉 have imperfect fun this week and next! big love

  3. first time all the way through this morning — it’s coming together and definitely felt like the first pancake! :0

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