Friday, July 20, 2012

“What, You’re Not Perfect Yet??”

I confess, I’m still a perfectionist. It shows up more than any other place when I’m working on my music. I’ll be there in my studio, working on the latest track and I’ll become absolutely consumed with trying to get this one sound to be just right. Or I’ll be recording a short solo and do take after take after take. And god help me when I’m mixing. Hours of tiny adjustments, little bitty changes when I’m the only who could ever possibly hear the difference.

I allow myself that degree of fine-tuning in my music because it’s my hobby, my art. But there are definitely times where I realize I’m fussing with something just to fuss with it. In those moments, I realize that I am obsessing, and that is when I know that it’s time to step back and take a break. Maybe go walk a mile. Maybe trash the whole song I’m working on because I’m trying to make something work that ain’t never gonna.

My perfectionism streak used to be a whole lot wider. I used to be one of those people who held himself to an impossibly high standard. Then, when I didn’t measure up to where I thought I should be, I would beat up on myself for the failure. Never mind that my expectations were grossly unreasonable. Never mind that what I thought ‘should’ do, the way I thought I ‘should’ be, is impossible. I look back on those old patterns and can see how what I was really doing was setting myself up for failure so that I would continue to have a reason to come down on and be hard on myself.

These days, I have a big rule about not blaming myself for not being able to do something that’s impossible. I am only human, after all. And that’s something I learned through working the program—that we are all only human. We’re going to make mistakes. None of us are perfect. In fact, that is what it means to be human—to be imperfect.

Trying to live our lives perfectly is self-defeating. What used to happen to me was failing at being perfect, and then trying again. I thought, “this time, it’ll work; this time will be different.” We are familiar with this pattern; it’s our basic insanity litmus test: doing the same things over and over while expecting different results.

Making mistakes is how we learn. Now, it is perfectly possible to not learn from our mistakes. That’s not so good. It’s important for us to learn from our mistakes. It’s how we change, how we grow. One of my favorite things to say to my friends when they fuck up (and I’ve said it to myself many times) is that if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not learning. In the program, we take this idea to heart and even have a little slogan of our own to follow it up: make different mistakes.

We can’t use the program to become ‘perfect’. There is no such thing. There is only one perfect I’m aware of, and that is my higher power. For me to attempt perfection or think I am achieving it, that is hubris. And the program teaches us that that is not the way. The program is about living with humility. Thinking that we’re perfect, or that we could become so? Not humble. It’s downright egotistical, and that is something we need to avoid if we want to be successful in working the program.

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