Imperfect Success

I feel as a human being, I’m beginning to make progress with failure and set backs. I can see the bigger picture and embrace the lessons that I am being offered.

What I am not so equipped to deal with is success, managing my own expectations that this change of circumstance brings and possibly the expectations of others.

In the past 6 months, my life has changed dramatically, one moment I am in Slovakia working in jobs that have nothing to do with music and in a relationship that in hindsight was not so healthy, and then in the space of a month I broke up with my boyfriend, moved home had an audition at a very good house and landed my first ever Fest contract in Germany.

Rollercoaster of extremes!!!

Now i’m in Germany, I am in an Opera House, I am a full time Opera singer. Major dream achieved.

However……. I did noticed towards the beginning of my first premiere, some little voices in my head beginning to amplify about my abilities, my education being a little limited, and generally not being or feeling good enough. The usual impostor syndrome attack!

This is actually a pattern for me, when I’m being rejected and written off, i’m super kind and gentle to myself . I write, meditate, do yoga, breathe, binge watch “friends” or whatever it takes to help me back on my feet.

However, all this kindness tends to go out the window when I succeed at what I set out to do, when words like “professional” are thrown around. Suddenly I am expected or perhaps expect myself to deliver a flawless perfect performance as that is now my job and I have to do my best to hide and manage the neurotic monster within as it does not fit into the “professional package”. It feels like not only does my voice have to be perfect, but so do I as a human being….

So to jump back  to the premiere, the imposter and the perfectionist monsters were at large, and the same time as saying that I shouldn’t be there, I was also telling myself that I had to be perfect.

 Thankfully the monsters did not get too far with terrorising me as I suddenly recognised them. I know these monsters pretty well, we have been acquainted for as long as I can remember. Realising they were here too, allowed me to notice the patterns that from past experiences that had crippled me, I had to experiment with ways to break the patterns of thinking and to remind myself that these were just monster voices, only true if I believed the monsters. Monsters only exist with fear.

I had enough time to turn this around and thankfully could use my experience in failing to adjust my mindset.

This is how I challenged my monsters:

-Firstly, I noticed what I was telling myself, and tried to look at it as though it were just an interesting opinion, not a fact. I became the observer of my own fear.

-Secondly, I experimented with releasing some of the fear that I was carrying in parts of the performance (tricky corners for intonation or entrances etc) that were triggering the beliefs.  Using Wim Hoffs breathing method, I would do the exercises for a few minutes, then when my body was calm and full of oxygen, I would visualise the scenes I was about to perform in vivid details and I would notice how well my breathing was flowing. So if I stopped breathing it was usually at a corner where I had fear in my own ability, I would then repeat that scene with more breath.

This truly was a game changer for my performance, I physically felt more relaxed, and as I began the scene, it felt like I had done it a hundred times! Power of the mind!

-The other thing that helped me in the past was an analogy that my sister and I came up with.

My sister is a horse rider and we talked a bit about the psychology of riding, the horse knows what to do but it responds well to a calm and capable rider. This resonates with me vocally, my voice “the horse”  knows what to do, it is me “the rider” that makes it jumpy some times. My management of fear will be my work over the next few years.

Under the given circumstances

Most importantly though, I remembered that I’m a human being, and I forgave myself for mistakes I had made and will make. I can look at my life and think, actually for someone who has just moved countries for the 2nd time in the space of 5 months, who is trying to learn a new language, make new friends, work with new colleagues, new music, a new theatre, I’m actually doing well and perhaps I can offer myself some kindness and forgiveness.

The Imperfect Diva

I am the Imperfect Diva. I am an Opera singer using my time in a rather tempestuous career to explore the notion of perfectionism.

“Perfectionism” or “being a perfectionist” affects numerous people in a wide a variety of fields, its hardly surprising considering the rise of social media and the various platforms in which we represent the best version of ourselves, the changing dynamics and expectations in the work place, and the need to perform consistently at the top of your game or risk being replaced.

No wonder mental health problems seem to be increasing on a rapid scale, and I feel certain that perfectionism has its own role in this.

My own experience

The expectation for me to sing perfectly under highly pressurized circumstances has led me to suffer with often crippling anxiety. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately for me, my voice cannot be separated from whatever I am going through. After all, our voices are our primal form of communication, expressing our inner worlds and connecting with others.

This means that when I am at the height of my anxiety and pretending that I’m ok or trying too hard to be a good enough, my singing has royally sucked.  My obsession with being good took me away from the actual act of singing as I was observing myself from the eyes of critics whilst performing.

But there is a sliver lining, because I could not perform to the ability to which I knew I was capable, I had to ask myself some questions; what is perfectionism, how much is my own expectations or others expectations of me? what would it feel like to let go of perfectionism and what would it mean for my voice? How can I let go of perfectionism? What if I could make peace with the aspects of myself that I have felt or have been told are not compatible with the life that I am pursuing?

So the purpose of this blog is for me to share what I’m learning and noticing.

The things that I have learned so far, have been really interesting helping me gain perspective about perfectionism, and to be kinder and more accepting of my imperfect self! I hope that this blog can be useful to anyone who has felt “not good enough”, or told to “grow a thick skin”, or has felt judged or fraudulent. You are certainly not alone, welcome to the imperfectionist party!