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perfection-mythLike a dog chasing a car, I chase perfection and then say, “I never catch this thing … and what is it, anyway?” Yet I continue to be lured.

As a reminder, we have this plaque on our front door: “Perfect without Perfection.”

Sometimes perfection entices with the mirage of safety from criticism or of controlling life. Now, perfection is stopping me from creating a routine that I fear won’t meet my vision: integration of teacher/student, body/mind, left/right brain, you/me. Dr. Siegel says, “Integration is Health.” Perfection says, “Avoidance prevents imperfection.” Facebook COO says, “Done is better than perfect.”

Done is good.

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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!

perfection housewife“Perfect without Perfection.” — Plaque on my front door (click here for the whole “a-peeling” story)

I have a confession: every two weeks, I take leave of my senses. For 24 hours every two weeks, I will fish a single piece of paper out of a trash can, pick up a grain of rice from the kitchen floor, and move a lone pair of socks from a laundry basket. I’m telling you, every two weeks, I am crazy.

You see, every two weeks, my step-daughter and I clean our house. We clean the bathrooms, vacuum and wash the floors, dust every surface, empty every trash can. We wash sheets and towels and bathmats – even the welcome mat. We scrub the kitchen within an inch of its life and sweep the front porch of every leaf. And oh my gooshness, when we are done the place looks fantastic. It’s breathtaking, my friends. It is … perfect.

And for 24 hours after we’ve cleaned, I’m addicted to perfect. I don’t want anything in the trash cans or the laundry baskets. I don’t want a single crumb on the floor or on the counter. I want that little drain thingie in the sink to be spotless. I want to keep it perfect.

Perfect is exhausting, of course, and silly. Trash cans are meant for throwing things away and laundry baskets are what we put dirty clothes in. Life is meant for living. After a day of picking up every speck from my gloriously clean kitchen rug, I come to my senses and let it go.

I absolutely admit it: I’m a recovering perfectionist. It’s better than it once was. I’m aware of it now and can feel the tight sensation in my chest when I really want things to be the way I want them. There was a time I was absolutely sure about exactly how things (and I) should be. I really thought that if I could get things “perfect” then I would be safe and happy and nothing bad would happen. In fact, it was the opposite: I would be frantic and anxious and cause annoyance (if not exasperation) in the people around me. I understand better now that everything is as it should be and that miracles can unfold in what initially looks like a disaster. I know that life is messy. And yet there it is: for me, perfection has a magnetic pull.

As I observe my tendencies and their ramifications, I am immediately faced with the question: what is perfect, anyway? Without even looking too deeply at it, I can see that “perfection” is a completely subjective thing. The “perfect” purse for me is one that I can strap to my back, has a pocket for my phone, and I got for $2 at Goodwill. I’m guessing many would completely disagree about its perfectness. It’s confounding when I think about it this way and it makes me want to put my head down.

In my perfectly imperfect journey with perfectionism, a big part of letting it go is recognizing what I’m doing, relaxing, and then looking beyond the surface to see what I’m really after. Sometimes, what I want is control – over my environment, other people or my life. When that’s the case, it helps me to remember that everything is always changing and that change is the very nature of life—and this can help me let go of the single tissue in the trash can. Other times, I have the belief that my perfectionism will make me impervious to criticism or judgment. When that’s happening, I can seek out some tender loving connection (to myself or another) that reminds me that I am okay just as I am and of the positive contributions I make even if they are small.

There are other fuels for the perfectionist fire. Tomorrow I’ll share about the routine that is enflaming my perfectionism right now and what we’ll do in class to ease into a state of “perfect without perfection.” For now, my question is what is it for you? What gets in your way and stops you or undermines you? And what are you learning that helps you get unstuck? I’d love to hear all about it.

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