On May 20, 2021, I participated in my second recital since returning to the violin after a 15+ year hiatus. For this recital, we had the option of submitting a pre-recorded performance or to perform live. I chose to pre-record my performance in order to avoid potential tech or Wi-Fi issues, prevent nervousness, and essentially be in a position to play at my best. Making this choice was a stark reminder that I am still in the process of battling perfectionism.
Although I had the opportunity to play my piece as many times as I wanted prior to submission, I was still unable to play "perfectly." There were a few times where I was not in sync with the piano accompaniment, was not entirely in tune, or did not possess optimal form. As I watched my recording, I focused on these areas for improvement rather than commending myself for how far I have come in this journey. After reflecting on this negative reaction, I reminded myself that it takes a lot of courage to perform for others, that I have only been taking lessons since September, and have not had time to practice as much as I should. Moreover, I received positive feedback from my Instructor:
Good job on this, I think it'll be fantastic to include, and I'm happy you're doing it! Lovely, along with a bow 🙂
This experience has shown me that while I have made great strides in being less hard on myself, I still have a ways to go in eliminating my perfectionist tendencies. I always tell others to "celebrate the small wins" and "trust the process." I have to do the same for myself. Perhaps when the next opportunity arises, I will choose to confront my fears and perform live. I am determined to keep pushing forward.
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Melanie Elizabeth Bates is a consultant and attorney based in Washington, D.C. The views expressed here are her own.