Perils of Perfectionism

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Today is kind of a continuation of yesterday and based on my experiences last night. Maybe this is less motivation and more just acknowledging some things.

Personality type stuff fascinates me but I realize I don’t always use it in the best ways. We are all a combination of good and bad points and it is easy to get trapped in a cycle of the bad stuff. Well maybe easier for certain personality types. In theory, being able to recognize the traps that you can fall into should make it easier to avoid them or get out of them. In theory that is.

And I know that INFP’s can become perfectionists. In a lot of areas in my life, I’m not. But for things that really matter to me, like ballroom dancing, it is very easy to slip into that mode. There is nothing wrong with having high standards because that is what will drive you to keep improving. But it is a fine line between that and the perfectionist zone where everything comes to a screeching halt because nothing is good enough. I kind of fell into that zone after Tuesday’s lesson. The bad thing about being a perfectionist is not that you think things could be better. It is that you think they should be better. I.e. If I was a good dancer, I’d get this right. I’m screwing it up (even if you aren’t). Therefore, I suck. So why bother?

Yeah, I just said that.

The other thing that runs through me (probably also part of being an INFP) is the whole “don’t brag” thing. It is why my first reaction is to usually downplay any compliment. Externally, I’ve gotten a lot better at just saying “thank you” and moving on. Internally, there is still that struggle. “No, it wasn’t that good. It was just OK. I should have done better.” In the grips of perfectionism, this reaction becomes stronger.

So you have a toxic mix of stuff. The mindset that you should be better and the mindset that basically refuses to internally accept any praise. Yeah, this is nothing new or earth shattering for me. I guess you just have to continue fighting the same battles over and over again.

What do you mean “nothing is perfect”?!?!

And in the grip of perfectionism, you can’t take a step back and actually see that you’ve accomplished things. Also, giving yourself credit for doing things is different than boasting. The focus should be on how far you’ve come and not on how far you think you have to go. It is OK to take some pride in what you’ve accomplished. (Now say it like you believe it!)

So, yes, I arrived at the lesson kind of still mired in the left over muck from the Mambo. And my new instructor (who still needs a name) saw it right away and pointed it out to me. It was kind of a combination lesson/pep talk. And I resisted that pep talk part of it. After we worked on a certain part a few times, she’d talk about how much better it was feeling. I would refuse to comment. No, I still suck at this.

And I AM a Ballroom dancer

She made a few points about tricking your mind. If you strike confident poses and dance with energy and confidence, then you can short circuit the negative stuff your brain is saying. And it kind of started working. No, you can’t pull me out of this funk. I am immune to your little tricks.

At the very end of the lesson, we did the routine to music. The whole thing. We had done bits and pieces to music and walked through the whole thing a couple of times. But this was the first time we did the whole thing to speed. Because it was a quickstep and because it was close to the end of the lesson, the other people on the floor got out of our way so we had an audience. And they freaking clapped when we got done (and we got some spontaneous reactions at other points).

Then she tells me that she’s proud of what I’ve done. That always makes me a little uncomfortable. Really? I mean I just danced and it was OK but there are still a lot of rough edges. There are parts where I don’t know the timing and I started to go but she kind of held me back so I waited for her cue. I mean it could be so much better.

Then, on the drive home, I kind of mentally smacked myself around a bit. Its a Showstopper routine. While I’ve done Quickstep before, there are things I haven’t done before. And we’ve had three freaking lessons. Three. I went from nothing to doing a full routine in three lessons. Of course it can get better. But that’s not the point. It is supposed to be rough around the edges because it is new. The challenge is to learn something in a short period of time. And I did that. Also, its not that bad. The parts I’m comfortable with move pretty well. Its OK to acknowledge that this is an accomplishment. It doesn’t have to be freaking perfect after three lessons!!!

Yeah, I had to throw this in because it is about finding that balance.

Tonight, I’ll get another crack at the Mambo. Again, while I’ve done Mambo, there is enough new stuff here that it is a challenge. So it doesn’t have to be perfect. It is never going to be perfect. It isn’t supposed to be perfect. Dig hard enough and you will always find something that could have gone better. But that’s not the point. The point is to look at how far you’ve come. It is OK to give yourself credit. I mean based on how I felt this morning, I was working pretty hard on that Quickstep.

For now, I may have escaped the pit of perfectionism. But I always dance too close to the edge and it can reach up and drag me down from time to time. Some battles never end.

I’m not entirely sure what this means but it sounded like a good way to end.

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