CONFIDENT PERFORMANCE COACHING BLOG

Awesome tips and tricks to empower you to perform, sing. audition and live with confidence

How Perfectionism Kills Creativity


I LOVE the expression on the faces of my students when we first meet, and I explain to them that while we work together on developing audition and performing arts skills, they are in a NO JUDGEMENT ZONE, where mistakes are OK.  In fact, I explain, mistakes are actually GREAT, because we LEARN from mistakes.  I explain that being a GREAT artist or performer requires the freedom to experiment and try things.   I then explain that the skills we will be working on require a different perspective than what they are used to in school. Instead of approaching learning from what is right and wrong, we will be focusing only on what WORKS and what DOESN'T. 

At first their eyes widen in absolute amazement. Most of them are in traditional school settings, where the message seems to be that mistakes are NOT OK. Of course, that is a misconception, but the emphasis on perfect scores, perfect grades, perfect behavior, perfect cleanliness, etc. has somehow become their whole world.  Then they meet me - this crazy,  kind of fun lady, that is miraculously giving them permission to yes, make mistakes.  As they start to understand that they are safe, and that for the next hour at least, no one will be be pressuring them to be perfect, their faces start to relax. In fact, their entire being seems to breathe a giant sigh of relief.   And then we begin learning and experimenting and becoming free to be the confident, skilled performers and auditioners that perfectionism has been holding hostage.

You see, the constant pursuit of perfection, which of course is impossible to achieve, does nothing to help young performers or any one for that matter, unleash their creativity and artistry.  In fact, perfectionism does the opposite - it actually stifles and eventually suffocates the creative process altogether. 

Don't get me wrong - perfectionism can have its place - after all, who doesn't LOVE getting a perfect score on a vocabulary test or a math test!  It's great for those kind of goals, but when it comes to creative or artistic pursuits, it's totally counter-productive. 

Perfectionism cannot coexist with creativity because:

To be perfect is to be frozen. If you move, you disturb the perfection.

Performing is in the moment - what makes it so exciting is the risk that something unexpected can always happen - perfectionism does not allow for that.

Humans are not perfect - striving to be perfect is an exercise in futility.  We are not designed to be perfect - only God is perfect.

The human brain cannot process creative activities while we are pursuing perfection, because perfectionism requires constant and vigilant analysis and judgement. The human brain cannot simultaneously process analysis or judgement AND creativity. When we are focused on perfectionism we are engaging ONLY the left hemisphere, which is designed to do analysis, problem solving, and judgement.  The right hemisphere, where creative processes such as singing, dancing, writing, ideas, drawing, etc. occur, cannot function while the left side is activated. 

Of course, one of the things that makes auditioning so terrifying, is that we know we will be subjecting ourselves to being judged. However, in order to have successful auditions, we need to learn how to stop judging ourselves and be completely in the moment.