Somebody's groovy on Central Park West
Lately I've learned that I'm a perfectionist.
This was somewhat surprising (to me, anyways). I'm pretty laid-back. I'm not a Type A personality. I can step over the same pile of papers in my room for three weeks before I feel the need to file them. Perfectionist? Me?
Yes. Apparently so.
In some areas of my life, I can become immobilized by fear of failure. And in those areas - for me - "failure" means not doing something absolutely perfectly. In those areas, I don't give myself credit for trying. I don't give partial credit for the ways I succeeded - I just see demerits for the ways I fell short. And so it often happens in these areas that, rather than try and risk failure, I just don't try at all.
This is one of the reasons Improv has been good for me. I am going to do bad scenes, and I am going to have to keep going. In other words, failure will be part of the process and I will have to get good and cozy and comfortable with it.
I remind myself to just keep showing up and trying. And to forgive myself for any messes that may result, because I'm not perfect, and those messes are just proof that I'm living. Not hiding in fear, not seeking a sanitized life of (imagined) safety, but really living.
Elizabeth Gilbert recently wrote an article in O, The Oprah Magazine, encouraging others to escape the trap of perfectionism and to throw off the shackles of too-high expectations. To just get out and live - not to live recklessly necessarily, but to forgive ourselves for occasionally living wonkily. Below is my favorite excerpt from that piece.
"Let's just anticipate that we (all of us) will disappoint ourselves somehow in the decade to come. Go ahead and let it happen.
Let somebody else be a better mother than you for one afternoon. Let somebody else go to art school. Let somebody else have a happy marriage, while you foolishly pick the wrong guy. (Hell, I've done it; it's survivable.)
While you're at it, take the wrong job. Move to the wrong city. Lose your temper in front of the boss, quit training for that marathon, wolf down a truckload of cupcakes the day after you start your diet.
Blow it all catastrophically, in fact, and then start over with good cheer. This is what we all must learn to do, for this is how maps get charted -- by taking wrong turns that lead to surprising passageways that open into spectacularly unexpected new worlds. So just march on. Future generations will thank you -- trust me -- for showing the way, for beating brave new footpaths out of wonky old mistakes.
Fall flat on your face if you must, but please, for the sake of us all, do not stop.
Map your own life."
By Elizabeth Gilbert
from "Lighten up on yourself to have a better life"
O, The Oprah Magazine © 2010