In my first blog titled Perfect? I shared of my being a perfectionist and how at times it has paralyzed me, preventing me from getting some things even started. Well, I teased at the end of that blog that maybe I would share an exercise for extreme cases and here it is. I have done this myself and let me tell you it works, it’s called “practicing imperfection.”
You pick a time limit, it can be a day but preferably at least a week, and identify one or a few things things that you do “right” and take this adjustment: you make the decision to do them imperfectly.
make your bed everyday,
have your room, kitchen etc that needs to be spotless before you leave for school or work or before bed.
when it comes to your appearance your hair or makeup needs to be perfect, or your tie just right, shoes laced up just so or maybe socks just have to match (most people do this anyway right?)
your pictures and/or posts on social media need to look just right...
it could be some ritual that you have to get right like
the way you brush your teeth, your exercise regimen, diet,
sorting your clothes, folding them or hang them, your schedule being exact, your drive being the same way home …etc etc etc.
What is it you feel you just can't deviate from? For each person it will be different. You choose one or more and make the decision to purposely do them imperfectly. Start practicing imperfection. Still make the bed, just not as perfect, leave a dish out, don't fold everything, wear a mismatched outfit, part your hair on the wrong side etc.
A lot can come from this.
It moves us a little out of our comfort zone. We may discover something new like we actually like our hair parted on the "wrong" side or it’s more fun to wear mismatched socks. There can be a sense of relief of not being so hard and fast to a rule you make and hold yourself to.
You may realize you don’t have to be perfect and everything will still be ok. It may actually be even better.
Now, I'm not saying to completely throw out your standards or routines that you have learned work for you,but to have the experience of loosen up the strings. You may discover there are somethings you really do need and don’t want to change or live without but with a new found exploration and awareness, these become true choices.
You never know until you try it. I did myself for a week and all those things happened.
How can this be applied to an artist's work? Well, in teaching actor’s the work I encourage those learning the No Acting Please Eric Morris Method to practice something similar – it’s called Irreverence. We do exercises with material, irreverent to the author’s intentions – do them silly or distorted, or take a contemporary piece and do it as a Shakespearian piece, do them with impulsivity; as a child, angry, sad, sexy etc. The goal is for the actor to give up the concept of how they think it should be done. It's an exercise to help them be free and express without holding onto a concept. Usually they find something new or those of us watching it are surprised and see something never before. It’s a valuable tool and lesson to carry over because in life we don’t know how or what we are going to say or do next, reality is not scripted. Both practicing imperfection and working irreverently requires a letting go and develops a needed trust in oneself. I ask you to give it a try. Because, like I mentioned in the last blog, perfectionism is a form of fear cleverly disguised. Let’s challenge it, aim for imperfection in something we do and see what happens.
With appreciation for you, in all your and my imperfections,