I am a bit of a perfectionist. I have been trying to think of a topic for this post for over a week now and didn’t feel like I had enough substance for any idea in particular. So, what better than to talk about how my perfectionism gets in the way from time to time? I was reminded of a very helpful activity the other day while reading a blog post by Heather Neal; the activity is called “Morning Pages”. This is where you are supposed to write 3 pages of thoughts first thing every morning. These are not supposed to be premeditated in any way, just stream of conscious as you are sitting and writing. I had started doing morning pages a little over a year ago (I think that is what built up my confidence to start a blog in the first place), but had stopped just after I found out I was pregnant….not enough energy to think yet alone write during that first trimester lol.
Anyways, this activity started out extremely challenging for me. I wanted to write inspirational ideas and use smooth language rather than choppy thoughts. I would find that as soon as I sat down with pen and paper my brain would go blank. How is it that I could have a million thoughts every second, to the point of not being able to track them all, to having absolutely nothing to write about? I realized that it was my perfectionism that was blocking me. I like things that are clean and organized, legible and clear, not spelled wrong, scratched out or written too fast to read. To start working through this I had to write about how I didn’t know what to write about. Once the pen slowly got put into motion, the flood gates of thoughts was open again.
I started to praise myself for scratching out words mid-sentence because a better one popped into my head, this was a more accurate portrayal of my thought process, it can change tone mid-thought sometimes. I was letting the pages write themselves rather than dictate what could and could not be documented in ink.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, embracing the imperfections will give creativity room to grow. With time and practice the overall end product will improve naturally.
So as hard as it is for me not to re-read this post over and over to fix wording and rearrange ideas, I am just going to hit “Publish” as is and hope it makes enough sense for any reader to follow. (okay, I’ll confess I did proof read it once)
I love ballroom dancing. It is just so elegant and beautiful. I have taken many lessons with my husband in the past (it is actually how we started dating), and through learning to dance, have learned a lot about myself as a person as well. I tend to overanalyze everything and want to control my steps and back-lead my partner…I had to learn to wait for his signals and just follow his leads. Once I learned how to turn my brain down while on the dance floor, the experience grew exponentially more enjoyable for my partner as well as myself. It is so magical to be led up and down, left and right and just feel the music through my partners motions. But letting go of control and waiting for the next move is a very hard thing to learn and even harder to be comfortable with. It took a lot of time. Eventually I grew to love the improv of ballroom dancing much more so than the choreographed routines. With choreographed routines, if I miss a step, I stumble all over myself trying to fix it even if nobody else even noticed the mistake. Not having a set routine takes this frustration out of the equation and opens the door to so many more possibilities.
I grew up in an environment that has always preached “be a leader, not a follower”. So I worked hard at it: I worked hard to graduate with honors from a private engineering university; I worked hard to excel at my job and climb the ladder of responsibility from team member to team lead to engineering manager; I worked hard to build my own tutoring business when I moved internationally to be with my husband. All of these stepping stones required extreme organization, structure and self control. Then I became a mom…
I am now trying to learn how to follow again. It’s like learning to ballroom dance all over again with my new partner. When I can successfully follower her leads, my day is so much smoother than when I try to maintain control and stick to a structured schedule. Just like ballroom dancing, the overall structure is extremely important (don’t forget to eat, nap or bath the baby), but improv between the lines is what gives each day life. It is a very rewarding feeling to relinquish control and enjoy the moments one at a time. With time and practice I shall learn to stop trying to choreograph my daily routine, but rather just dance through each day’s own unique rhythm. Today may be slow and steady like a waltz, but tomorrow may be full of hustle and motion like a cha-cha.