Let Go of Perfectionism

If you know me you know I love order, systems and processes. Rooted deep down, I love perfection. I really do. I love everything to be in its place; neat, tidy, organized, perfect.


Over the years I have had to learn to let go of perfectionism. It’s been a process, but bit by bit I have learned to let go (well, mostly). Life is beautifully messy and perfectionism does not serve me, my family, my students, my team or my artistry. 


As artists we have this image in our minds of perfection. 

We need to be perfect. 

We need to get the lyrics perfect. 

The melody…perfect. 

The phrasing…perfect. 

The breath…perfect. 

The fingerings… perfect. 

The pedaling…perfect. 

The strumming pattern…perfect. 

When we step onto that stage our performance must be…perfect. In our mind (and only in our mind) the audience demands it. 


The pressure for perfection is real. It’s not surprising that statistics show an overwhelming prevalence of performance anxiety worldwide. It has been reported that millions of people across the globe suffer from performance anxiety or stage fright, including professional musicians, comedians and actors. 


 When our focus is on perfection, artistry is lost. 


Fully edited, processed and mastered recordings, videos and social media posts have us believing that perfection is possible and most desirable. But is perfection in live performance actually attainable?


A few years ago I had the opportunity to see Norm Lewis perform the role of Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. It was a spectacular performance. After the show I was fortunate enough to participate in a Q&A with Mr. Lewis and several cast members. The one comment that struck me and has stayed with me from that night on Broadway was, “no live performance is ever perfect”. A professional actor and singer who has performed on stages across the world for decades revealed that no live performance is EVER perfect. He went on to say that several elements of the show THAT night had gone wrong: wrong lyrics, missed cues and missed lines. Live performance is just that – live. It’s what gives live performance vibrancy and spirit. 


How about we let go of perfectionism in artistry. Perfectionism shakes our confidence. We lose sight of our artistry and creativity. Our belief in our skills dwindle and our progress gets side tracked. Professional figure skaters don’t land every jump every time. Neither do artists. We train and practice with a great deal of focus, skill and determination, but that does not guarantee a flawless performance. The true beauty of performance comes from a message or story that is conveyed with passion and authenticity. 


Free yourself of the expectation of perfection and lean into the music. Let’s work towards musical excellence, artistic enjoyment, and the sharing of meaningful and moving stories. Let’s shift our mindset and set realistic goals for ourselves and master artistic skills that help us grow and develop as artists. Performance becomes enjoyable when we stop striving for perfection and begin to view artistry and performance as an opportunity to share, connect, learn and grow. 


Andrea “say no to perfectionism” Donais


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