As the world celebrates the dawn of a new year, so do I. January 1st is my birthday and so it’s not surprising that as the year closes and starts anew, I find myself assessing. Not a whole big question and answer session or a who am I? where are we? kind of assessment, just more of chance to take stock of what has passed and what is to come. This year was a big one. 40.
40? How is it even possible? It’s great, I’m not complaining, I just can’t believe I’ve been around so long. I think about my ballet teachers and two of them in particular who died of AIDS related cancer around the age of 40. How can I be the age that they were then? They seemed so wise, so much older at 40. Well anyway…
This year I learned something worth sharing. Something I hope will help me with my own resolutions and that will hopefully influence the people around me in a positive way. Here it is:
I learned that for the most part, perfectionism does not help you to become more perfect. More it steals moments of joy and prevents you from taking opportunities. Often aiming to be perfect slows us down and makes achieving our dreams harder, keeping successes just out of reach.
Having been a ballerina I have maintained a close relationship with perfectionism all my life. So I’m not saying that we shouldn’t strive for perfection–on the contrary, we should and sometimes it’s thrilling and the results are stunning and powerful.
The perfectionism that I’m talking about is a paralyzing type of mentality that prevents us from acting because we are waiting to be perfect before we try something.
Inspirational case and point: A friend of mine decided about a year ago that she wanted to learn German, but she lives in America. Regardless, she set her mind to it. She found a tutor, she listened to German podcasts and she practiced whenever possible. After a number of months she came to Germany for a visit and at every opportunity she talked to people. People in the street, in the shops, on the train. She stayed with us and came home each evening with a new tale of some acquaintance she’d made that day. This was amazing to see and nothing like what I did when I moved to Germany.
I went to school, yes and I became bilingual eventually, but I took the long road and suffered along the way, missing out on the type of fun that my friend experienced. This is because I was scared. Fear of being imperfect prevented me from being able to experience the little joys of talking to strangers in the first months of my move. It took me forever to really enjoy the adventure of the everyday.
Watching my friend, it seems like she would have been able to make the best of it from day 1. And it isn’t because she is smarter or more fun– it’s because she wasn’t scared to try. She didn’t let fear prevent her from experiencing German culture and all its nuances to the best of her ability.
I thought perfectionism was something that I got out of my system when I retired from the stage, but I was wrong. For a person who has made a lifetime out of always becoming something new, it’s surprising how often I’ve been deterred by fear–how often I have slowed my own progress because I wasn’t perfect at the start.This business of becoming is no joke, we don’t need any extra road blocks especially those of our own making.
So– let’s drink a little champagne and make a toast to having no fear in 2017. Happy New Year everyone!