Letting Go of Perfect, One Note at a Time

I did something really difficult today: I challenged myself to let imperfection be okay and to accept praise when it was given to me. A few months ago I volunteered to play flute music in the campus meditation room as a part of the Advent Reflection series hosted by our Campus Ministry office. So today, I got up in front of a room full of people I work with and played 30 minutes of flute solos.

I cracked some of my high notes. Some were flat and others were sharp. I ran out of breath in some places and let the tempo speed up and slow down in others. My phrasing was sometimes off and there probably weren’t a lot of variations in volume and style. In a few places I started a phrase over. Not a musician? In a nutshell– it was far from perfect. 

And for the first time that I can remember (ever) I am okay with that. I am about halfway through Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. From what I have read so far, I am not alone in my quest for perfection and my failing in its pursuit. This isn’t a surprise  but it is eye opening to see how detrimental this quest can be. If I am being authentic, I should tell you that I would usually be spending this time replaying the scenes in my head – the wrong notes, the flubs, and all of the other things I could have done better. SHOULD have done better.

I am not doing that though. This performance was meant to be a backdrop for others to meditate, pray, and reflect but it turned out to be one for me as well. As I prepared last night and again this morning, I didn’t pray that it would be perfect, but I prayed that I would have the courage to do it. I sat in quiet meditation after I finished, thankful that I have been given a talent and colleagues and students who support me. The room was full of people from my staff and a few students. They were all gracious, kind, and appreciative of my time.

This was my other test today. I knew I didn’t play perfectly and that there were plenty of excuses or deflections I could have used when then commended me. But I didn’t. I am practicing something I learned at the Women’s Leadership Institute last year, I simply said thank you and accepted their compliments. I have a hard time accepting praise, especially when I think I could have done better– and I always think I could have done better.

You were born to be real, not to be perfect.

You were born to be real, not to be perfect.

And as the year ends, my One Word Resolution is coming full circle: Celebrate. I choose not to dwell on the imperfections and excuses. Instead, I am going to celebrate the love that I felt in that room, the trills and adagios that were executed well, the reclaimed feeling of getting lost in the music, my ability and calling to play today, and the courage to try something new.

What challenges you to be vulnerable and imperfect? How do you learn and grow from these situation? 


16 thoughts on “Letting Go of Perfect, One Note at a Time

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    • Glad it resonated for you. Let me know what you think of her book. I also highly recommend reading “I thought it was just me, but it isn’t”, her book that speaks specifically to perfection.

  5. Becca, thank you for reminding me why I am lucky to have you as a mentor. I have always admired your vulnerability. It is a trait that I know is a work in progress for me. I need to remind myself that imperfection is okay and I need to take the time to reflect on the experience. Thank you for being you.

    • Austin– thank you. The relationships is mutual! I learn so much from you too, reflections on where I was as a grad student and where I want to be going in my own path. Looking forward to more of our chats.

  6. Thank you so much for your post. In an interview the other day someone asked me about my future plans and I answered I don’t know and of course quickly rebutted with some ideas I have but if I’m being genuine I don’t know. I’m focusing on now and what I need to do presently. It was a scary answer to give but it was a real one and I struggle so much to have the right answer, the right look, the right everything but it’s hard and refreshing to just be vulnerable. Thanks again for the post and I’m sure people really appreciated you playing your flute!

    • Stephanie – I admire you so much for saying “I don’t know.” I think that is one of the toughest things to say, but so glad it prompted some reflection for you as well.

  7. Leave it to you to say more articulately what I’ve already been thinking … again. :) I have seen real power in vulnerability in my life lately, and having the courage to share and display a part of yourself (a not so developed skill, an unformed idea) is so valuable in a world that continues to celebrate the done at the expense of the doing. I’m also struggling to accept compliments without deflecting – amazing how quick we are to internalize criticism but we let compliments roll right off our backs. Seems a little backwards doesn’t it? :) Great post Becca – let’s jam together one day soon. I’ll bring my clarinet. :)

    • Lisa,

      Thanks again (as always!) for reading and sharing in my journey. Vulnerability is tough to put out there and it’s great to feel the love and support from others on the same path. Looking forward to our jam session.

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