Perfectionism

Hi, I’m Ron, and I’m a perfectionist. There, I’ve said it! I feel better already! Of course I write in order to figure myself out; the banjo is simply a cover of “legitimacy,” a public rationale for writing down and exposing my private thoughts and feelings. Besides the self-cleansing act of writing/publishing, it is my sincere hope that at least somebody recognizes a bit of themselves in my musings, and that the resulting blogs are of some assistance to his/her own self-search.

I have a saying that helps when I get wrapped around the axle about something not going exactly as planned (which happens quite often): I used to be an unhappy perfectionist; now I’m a happy imperfectionist.”  I tell myself this, yet I continue to expect too much of myself (the very definition of insanity). At the very least, happiness is a noble goal.

I have another saying: Always strive for perfection; never expect perfection.” I figure if I’m going to work toward something, I may as well strive to do it to the best of my ability, but since I expect to fall well-short, I need to cushion the inevitable crash landing. In all fairness to reality, this vicious cycle of optimism/disappointment has gradually softened throughout my search for self. There is hope; I am improving!

So, to the banjo! I grew up in a banjo band, and was blissfully ignorant/happy with my youthful “natural” ability to play chord melody. I could hear it, and I could play it, no sweat or study required! About the time that I was finally awakening as an adult though, I had the “good misfortune” of meeting and hearing Buddy Wachter. So much for any feelings of self-worth! Greatness cannot be un-heard.

I have a full litany of excuses for why that life-changing encounter didn’t produce the kind of hard work that would make me feel better about myself. I have often thought that I sabotaged myself by setting my goals un-achievably high so I wouldn’t have to try; Oh well; great goal, but I guess I’m just not good enough.” The sad truth is that my truest excuse is that I didn’t really try, achievable or not. Before I could improve as a musician, I had to improve as a human being (this takes time); I do recognize that, and I can honestly say that I have paid my human-ness dues, and am now fully committed to maximizing what’s left of my potential.

Anyway, I envy those who seem to be satisfied with whatever level of musical skill they have achieved (or any other area of accomplishment). I recognize that the moment I am “happy”–or believe that I have “arrived”–is the moment that I stop progressing (and I ain’t getting’ any younger!”). I simply need to deal with the occasional setback, and remind myself of my undeniably-steady progress.

Perfectionism is a frustrating dead end! You can’t truly eliminate it: All you can do is learn to use it in a constructive, forward-moving way (the goal); just don’t let it be a buzz kill (the expectation). That’s the best advice this Banjo Snob can give.

1 comment on “PerfectionismAdd yours →

  1. I have been amazed at your interest in something other than the “standard’s” usually played on four string banjo. This enabled me to imagine the possibilities .
    I see you as willing to step out into the world of what’s possible with your work. Your inner workings are an act of will with much imagination from my point of view . Thank you for your banjosnob letters too.

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