Conquer Perfectionism and Embrace Change With Humor

Playing Second Fiddle is all about accepting our lack of perfection. When I started to learn violin, my aim wasn’t to play in the symphony. Actually I tried out for the Junior Philharmonic-and I got a lot of laughs… But really, all I wanted to do was to see what kinds of sounds I could make. And believe me I can make a lot of sounds. Before I could learn, though, I had to conquer one big obstacle: Perfectionism. It took the more specific form of fear. Humor helped me to conquer perfectionism in three easy ways.First, though, I had to conquer fear. Fear of not playing perfectly. Fear of having to start from zero. Fear of others’ reactions to my new pastime. I had to conquer the tendency we all have, of wanting things to be perfect before we make one step forward. We say, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Or, “I’ll find a teacher after I’ve paid my taxes.” And, “I’ll practice more after I do the dishes.” I had to push aside the idea that I should sound and be a certain way, in this new role. I had to let go of the perfect image of my music sounding flawless, the sounds I make amazing.Humor helped me to eradicate this particular aspect of perfectionism. I had to tell myself to, “Just Begin.” Take that first step toward your goal and believe that the universe will bring you the things, people, and knowledge you need. And so I just started. I didn’t wait until I had a good violin, a proper neck rest, or even talent.Humor reminded me to accept my abilities. I did what my violin teacher told me, “Do it wrong, do it strong.” There was a study at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania about musicians learning new music. When they played timidly and softly-not wanting others to hear their mistakes-it took their brains much longer to learn the music. But when they played strongly, their brains processed the new knowledge much more quickly. When we aren’t afraid of our imperfection we are free to embrace and utilize the skills and talent we do have.Humor allowed me to be a true beginner. I wasn’t afraid to be a total novice. Think of a kindergartner: no one expects anything from them. So, realistically, they can get away with anything. We have to be willing to start from scratch and learn as we go. No one can know everything about everything. After my first violin lesson, I was so proud of myself. Not only did I learn how to take the violin out of the case. But-I learned how to hold it! I thought I was the most brilliant person in the room.What’s your ‘violin’? Maybe it’s going back to school for that degree. Maybe it’s moving to a new area or state. Or it could be starting-or ending-a relationship. Maybe it’s painting your house blue. Whatever it is, take the focus off of perfectionism. Today, just take a step forward, even if you do it wrong, do it strong. And let yourself be a total beginner. And then take your rightful place in the orchestra!

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