Friday, December 2, 2016

Professionalism and Perfectionism

I love to learn new things. I love to dig into something I don't know about, wrestle with it, defeat it and claim victory with my proverbial foot to its proverbial neck. I live in a world of ideas and possibilities, so it's only reasonable that I should want to explore all I can.

The problem is that I also hate making mistakes.

I am not sure how someone so enamored with learning can be such a chicken-shit when it comes to messing up. As a matter of fact, I don't dance, not because I can't, but because I don't do it well. I don't play checkers with my husband, not because I can't play, but because he always beats me. I don't play keyboard, not because I can't read music, but because I don't play well (especially the left hand) so I simply don't do it.

The few times that I have jumped into playing organ as a music director, the results were less than perfect. In fact, far less than perfect. I developed my own way of doing things, so that most people have no idea I can't play, but those who know, really know. My poor pastor was a real organist -- music degree and all. I am sure I made his ears bleed. Sorry, Father.

Recently, however, it's been even worse. As I age, I get more risk-averse. I don't want to offend or be embarrassed, so I step back from things that a younger Katie would have been all over. Everything from new techniques to new technology has fallen under this "I'm-too-old-for-that" umbrella.

But, in order to grow, one must be willing to fail. And when one stops growing, one begins to calcify. Calcification is the end of growth. I struggle with this all the time and I am not willing to give up on growing just yet.

I have started many projects that I simply give up on because they might not be good enough. I have written (or at least started) blog posts that might have had an impact on someone's life, but I have bitten back the words lest they offend or embarrass me.

At work, I have been dragging my feet on a project that I need to get done because I'm afraid I won't do it right and I will embarrass myself or cause delay. And that's a problem, because by dragging my feet, I am already causing delay.

Perfectionism --whence comes the idea that if I can't do it perfectly, I should not even try --is starting to hold me back again and is keeping me from Professionalism.

In a Facebook post today, I defined Professionalism as "knowing what you're doing" and characterized myself as an inexperienced professional. A friend wisely responded (without telling me I was wrong) that Professionalism is doing your best and taking feedback gracefully so that you can do it better the next time. Another friend asked, "What is the worst that could happen if you make a mistake?" Well, no one would die. Really, nothing would happen. I'd just have to fix it.

Once upon a time, I had a choir director who told me, "There is no perfection this side of Heaven. There is only our best." She was right (she usually is).

I realized at some point this afternoon that to give in to this hunger for perfectionism is also to give into to Pride. It's Pride that makes us want to seem like we have it all together and are never humbled by our weaknesses. Yet, only through humility do we get to see that Heavenly Perfection in its fullness. So, once again, I have to hold my nose and jump into this head first in the glorious pursuit of humility because only through realizing our lack can we find the pieces that fit those holes.

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