Brené Brown must simply be the American Woman’s foremost current authority on inner work. Her writing and speaking seems to be everywhere. Her thoughts on shame and acceptance declared and affirmed from blog posts to podcasts to Pinterest pins and beyond. With that much public affection, it can be easy for the psychospiritual-adverse among us to shy away from her ideas. But then, you read something like, “Healthy striving is self-focused: ‘How can I improve?’ Perfectionism is other-focused: ‘What will they think?'” Then, you start to feel the wisdom in her work.
Perfectionism is Hindering Your Diva Life
So, we’re shining a light on our attitudes toward striving and perfectionism today. When you think about those words in the context of your life and your work, how do you feel? Does one term describe you better than the other? Can you feel where either one is more true in certain parts of your work?
What Will They Think?
Let’s turn to our friend and icon Martha Graham here, “What people in the world think of you is really none of your business.” In a career field that relies on gatekeepers as heavily as this one, it may be difficult to understand this point at first. “Of course I need to care about what other people think. They are the ones giving me the gig!” I understand that logic, but it will ultimately be unfulfilling. We cannot fully understand the people around us that we’ve known for decades. It is obvious, then, that we can never really know what strangers are thinking. We take their verbal and non-verbal information, process it through our own understanding, and then make assumptions based on that and call it their opinion instead of our own.
Ultimately, what other people think of you is none of your business. It is a confession of their own character. That reasoning applies in both directions, friends.
The creative path in this life will be so much more fulfilling and satisfying if we rid ourselves of the notion of needing someone else’s permission to live our professionally creative lives. Remember, you already ARE a singer. Everything after that is simply a jumble of different self-imposed metrics.
How Can I Improve?
Ridding ourselves of the notion that we need someone else’s permission to be professional singers seems to change the rules of the game a bit. “If I don’t have the reviewer from the Times say that I’m valuable…” or “If I don’t have the audition panel for that international competition say that I’m valuable…” or “If I don’t win that shiny trophy for my recordings to say that I’m valuable…”
“… how will anyone know?”
It does change the rules. Your inner work regarding healthy striving versus perfectionism will motivate you to realize that you aren’t clamoring for perfection in your craft in order to gain someone else’s permission to do it more. In fact, it will inspire you to realize that you work diligently at your craft because it is something that you deeply love and you’re searching for alignment in the world. The singing world isn’t actively against you. Truly, they want you to be the right fit for whatever project they’re pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into. Don’t wait, divas. Realize what is valuable about your artistry and then go into the world seeking alignment. Don’t only search for someone to tell you what they need you to be to fulfill their needs.
Show Your (Inner Work)
Think about the difference between what actions, steps, and goals you’ve brought into your life. Make two columns in your journal: ‘how I’m improving for myself’ and ‘goals I’ve chosen based on what other people will/do think.’ If you need some prompts to start thinking deeply, ask yourself:
- Why did I go to school for music?
- Why did I choose the school that I chose?
- What repertoire do I work on and why?
- What is the big goal that I’m working towards at the moment and why?
Perfectionism isn’t going to bring peace. It is a mythical finish line. More so, it is a through-line to anxiety and depression. When we make an active shift to healthy striving from perfectionism we are not negating our high expectations. We are saying that we’re ready to work in the face of fear. We are ready to try. We are ready to meet our own expectations with our work. Perfectionism means living in a world where we will never be enough. There will always be something wrong with us and our work. Healthy striving means adopting a change in our thinking that focuses on operating at our current best in every situation.