So here we are, finally, at my first official blog post (my welcome post doesn’t really count). Truth be told, I’ve started several others, but none have made it to my site.
The aforementioned posts just didn’t seem good, or “perfect” enough yet.
I don’t fancy myself a writer. Sure, I like to write, and I know the differences between there/their/they’re, and, heck, I even have a pretty expansive vocabulary most of the time (that is, when I can access it in the cobwebbed recesses of my brain).
But as I started writing, I started to get self-conscious about it. I’ve written countless essays, stories, and journal entries before. Even public ones! But this is the first time I’ve created a full website bearing my full professional name. I’m currently entering into the career I’ve wanted since I was three. I find myself thinking, “These posts need to be something! They have to be PERFECT!” Never mind that most people probably don’t actually care about my blog. It’s really there for me as an expressive outlet and to offer a glimpse inside my world.
So as I was writing these posts, I was driving myself insane. It was taking me all day to write a one-page blog post. Actually, writing it took maybe ten minutes. Editing seems to be the present bane of my existence. Suddenly something that should only be a small, enjoyable part of my day is taking up so much of my time and making me so anxious I feel like I need to go to a 12-step program or something.
Hi, my name is Isabella Tugman and I’m a perfectionist.
Don’t get me wrong: perfectionism has served me well in many areas. It’s allowed me to be studious and attentive so that I could become good at so many things.
But why should my posts be perfect all the time? I’m not trying to get published in The New York Times here!
Hello, it’s a blog.
So what if my posts are a little disorganized. So what if I go off on tangents. I’m not trying to become a professional writer.
The pressures and demands to be “perfect” at everything are just too taxing. Not to mention, it’s a completely subjective term. It doesn’t even mean anything! If Picasso were trying to paint “perfectly” by everyone else’s standards, he wouldn’t have created the art that is so admired today. Yeah, he was criticized at first. But now his paintings sell for millions.
The fact is: I am an imperfect human being. And I am learning to be okay with that. Embrace it. Love it, even. In fact, our imperfections are part of what makes us interesting. Imperfections make us accessible as human beings. Our imperfections make us the unique work of art each of us is, and that’s something to be admired.
The biggest challenge, of course, is letting go of “how it’s supposed to be;” to get rid of judgments, expectations, and fears. I’ve already created good habits out of a lifetime of high standards. I have my foundation. Now I just have to trust myself to let go. This leads me to this nifty little anecdote from my life:
When Perfectionism Hindered Me as a Performer
Out of high school I attended the UMKC Music Conservatory. As a Vocal Performance major, I worked hard. I knew every note of music. I translated and pronounced perfectly every foreign word. I aced music theory. I practiced every day. But my classical performances were stunted. I was in my head. I wasn’t giving honest, captivating performances, because I was too self-conscious about getting everything just right.
Opera, of all the vocal genres, is the most about perfection, I think. Technique is crucial. But the audience doesn’t pay $100 a seat at the opera house just to listen to perfect technique. They want a performance. And I had let my perfectionism hinder me as a performer. I stopped loving to sing the way I used to. I didn’t even realize why at first.
It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles and started attending AMDA that I figured it out. After my lifetime of classical training, they taught me how to belt. And I was bad at it at first… really bad at it. Or at least it felt that way despite everyone reassuring me I sounded good. It was such a foreign, strange part of my voice that felt wrong and dangerous and sounded so…harsh. “You sound too pretty!” my teachers would yell at me.
I was so freakin’ frustrated with belting that I threw up my hands and stopped caring about how I sounded. And you know what happened on performance day? I let go. I gave the most honest performance I had yet. Better than the classical performances I had more experience with. I had all the discipline and training I needed, all that was left was to let go, enjoy the moment, and give a great performance. Which leads me to this quote:
“You’ve got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.” – Charlie “Bird” Parker
Bird is right. It’s important to be dedicated to your craft. But in the end, you just gotta wail.
Or as Jo Huseman, one of my tough theatre directors, always said:
“Just get naked and jump into the abyss!”
I always liked that. I can’t thank her enough for that advice.
I’m not using imperfection as an excuse to stop working hard to improve. Just now when I learn and grow, I resolve to do it without any unnecessary judgment. For me, as an actor, this means freeing up my mind to listen and connect to the other actors in my scene, and to adapt and change as the director sees fit, without my own preconceived notions getting in the way.
So here I go, unapologetically. This is my blog, and if it’s a little imperfect, so be it.
If you happened to read my post (thank you!), please feel free to share how perfectionism may have influenced your life. I love to hear other people’s stories 🙂