Ya see, I have spent about 35 years of my life trying to be perfect. And although I have tried to get away from that for the past 5 years - it is sooooooo ingrained in me that very often I still find myself trying to be perfect. And it continues to cause me... well let’s say challenges. (I should note here, that I think perfectionism is a bad thing and not healthy. It causes much stress and hurts those with the issue as well as those around them. [Just ask my husband])
I have discovered that it comes from two things. One (I've known for years) - it is a learned habit. Two (discovered mere hours ago)- If I am perfect people will not leave me. I feel childish as I type that, but I now know that this is the larger of the two and the hardest one to deal with.
Underneath it all in it’s simplest form - if I am perfect people will like me/what I do and they will not leave me. I don’t ever want people to see my messy side for fear they won't like me. I have tried to keep that hidden for 4 decades. Well, it is coming to the forefront now and I’m trying to figure out how to deal with it. The main challenge it is causing right now is my inability to fully inhabit my Annie.
I am an actress for those of you who don’t know. I am currently rehearsing a play with Ghost Road Company and my role is this complex “crazy” girl, Annie. Literally, she borderlines between schizophrenic and genius and she is MESSY (notice all caps!). I absolutely love this role and she is challenging and complex and fun and she touches my heart & soul. I am sooooo lucky to have been cast in this role and to be able to tell her story. However, up to this point I have not given myself over to her completely. As I go into the run-throughs at rehearsal, I get nervous and emotional and I get a little “stuck”.
I started to investigate why this is, because I certainly don't want to have this happening during performances. I found a quite spot, become physically still, breathed deeply, and asked myself why this is happening. While meditating I asked myself, “Why am I afraid to give myself over to Annie.” Quite suddenly it hit me on the head. You know how I know this to be the truth of it? Because emotions surge up from my pelvis - through my stomach - through my throat with an audible gasp - into my brain- and they hit my brain so hard that I start to cry. It is visceral and raw and I can’t escape it. Oh, and as I type to share this discovery with you all - my stomach is turning into knots!
In my past, if I bothered to investigate it at all, I certainly wouldn’t sit with the feelings. Now, I am learning the benefits of self awareness and discovery, as well as sitting with whatever comes up. Is it uncomfortable? Yes, your ding dang right it is. However, after working through the first few moments of the “discovery” and the surge of emotion, it simmers down and I can begin to sift through stories/feelings/emotions as they come up.
I am not great at this, but with practice I am getting better.... slowly. I have been dealing with the “perfection” issue for a while and thought I was doing pretty good at it. And to be fair - I am. I need to be careful that I’m not too hard on myself, because I have taken great steps towards being me without one thought going towards if I am acting the way someone else wants me to. Without concern as to whether or not I'm “perfect”.
And the other thing interesting about this character role, is that I’m not concerned with if people like my performance. That’s HUGE for me. I am however slightly nervous about revealing the messy side of ME. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I take on the energy of those around me. Annie is vulnerable and she will show everybody in that audience what a true mess she is. And I think my fear is in knowing that that is also Christel Joy Johnson showing a little bit of how messy she is too.
And yet, how lucky am I to have that vehicle. To be able to play a role and let go completely. That in playing this part - I will know who I am a little bit more. I am beginning to believe Annie came into my life so I could discover and work that perfection bug a little further out of my system. I am amazed at how well yoga, meditation, and acting combined bring me closer to who I truly am.
I know I will “let go” into Annie. I have been holding out a bit, but now that I know what’s going on, I can say, “Come on Annie, let’s be imperfect. Let’s not give a shit about what the others think about us. Let’s be messy together and do this for us.” (And yes, I do have conversations with the characters I play!)
Perfect! Who needs it? That means there is a final end point and I don’t plan on having one. I will continue to evolve and grow, so I’m going to work with process and with precision, not perfection thank you very much.
The words of wisdom below speaks directly to a yoga practice, but I think it can pertain to anything from how you raise your children to a working on a piece of art or even folding laundry. I always try to give credit to where I steal info/quotes from, but unfortunately I didn't write down the author of the article I copied this from.
Is there anything you can meditate on, ask yourself a question, and then sit with the answer? Time for spring cleaning folks; inside and out.
The discipline that comes from mastering the foundation of your poses with precision will create the freedom you need in your body to explore your edges.
Precision is different that perfectionism:
Working precisely requires mindfulness of action
Perfectionism is rife with self-criticesm and judgement (the never ending plateau of self-doubt)
Precision is about process
Perfectionism occurs when you believe the myth that there is an endpoint to your practice.