Hello, my name is Rivki, and I’m a perfectionist.
I think it has something to do with being a classically trained musician. Either I was already a perfectionist at birth, or it was a result of spending hour upon hour in a practice room, perfecting one measure at a time. Imagine:
“No! I’m still missing that one note in measure 72! I need to practice moooooorre. I must not make a mistake!”
This really happened to me. All the time. There really isn’t room for mistakes if you want to be a professional classical musician.
Rabbi Chalkowski at Neve told us that it’s not okay to be a perfectionist. Yes, it’s good to have high standards, to want to be the best we can be, but to expect perfection, well, that’s a bit much (’cause only G-d is perfect). Also, by constantly trying to make things “just so,” we run the risk of straining our relationships with our spouses, children and friends.
Phew! What a relief to not have to make things perfect. Of course, it still took me a long time to really internalize this point. Instead of worrying about that note in measure 72, it was more like this:
After I got married, the perfectionism reared its head at unexpected times:
“No! I’m still missing that moistness in the chicken! I need to cook mooooooorre. I must perfect the recipe!”
As a perfectionist, there is a tendency to be overly critical, and not only of myself. It’s tempting to point out everything which is not “the way it should be.” Even little things like the couch cushions being put on backwards (you know, when the zipper is facing outwards) is a potential comment. But it shouldn’t be. ‘Cause it really doesn’t matter. That’s right. It’s okay. Breathe. Just flip the cushion around.
This is a lesson that I’ve learned to apply to my piano students over the years. When I was first starting out, I used to correct every little mistake in each piece, which resulted in the shlepping out of simple lesson pieces, causing both my student and I to be completely fed up and frustrated with a piece by the time it was finished. Not great.
Recently, as I was listening to one of my very cute students play an assigned piece, I realized that I had gotten to the point where I was okay with not correcting most of the errors. They were small things, a rhythm here, an articulation there. But my student had absorbed the main point of the piece, and that was the important part. All the other technical things could be worked on over time. Everyone’s happier that way.
Thankfully, it’s not just in giving piano lesson that I’ve relaxed my standards to a level that humans can achieve. My husband and children are not suffering under the yoke of an impossible perfectionism. I, however, still need to learn how to be as lenient with myself:
“No! I’m still not able to clean the house, make dinner, play with Little Man, take care of the baby, teach lessons, practice music, perform publicly, learn with my chavrusa, blog and sleep! I need to do moooooooorre. I must continue to try to be superhuman!”
Really. It’s silly. I’m working on it.
If you are a perfectionist, how do you manage to minimize the pressure and keep things in perspective? If you live with a perfectionist, how do you manage?