Let’s Be Brave, Not Perfect

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My name is Anastasia and I am a recovering perfectionist.

 

I have found myself saying more than once.

 

While this may strike different chords in people, I deeply identify with this statement. For so long, I was afraid. Afraid of failure. Afraid of being disliked. Afraid of rocking the boat. Afraid of life. 

 

It was during my first master’s degree in music therapy when I did my clinical internship at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan when I met and worked under a music therapist who changed my life. I learned so much from her in all facets of music, music therapy, recovery, resilience, and ultimately, life. She introduced me to the term “impostor syndrome.” After this, I began to heavily study its effects because I connected with it on such a deep level. 

 

I came across a compelling TEDtalk by one of my role models, Reshma Saujani. The link is here and I highly encourage you to listen to it. I learned that I was so crippled by fear that everything in my life was affected by it. This fear stemmed greatly from the expectations society had for me, the expectations my parents had for me, the expectations my partners had for me, and the expectations I had for myself — many of which were unrealistic and harmful, sadly. 

 

When I took the leap and began to “allow” myself to FAIL GRACEFULLY, as I like to put it, amazing things happened. I began to feel just a little more powerful each day. I began to try things I had never tried before. I began to speak openly about my beliefs and values. I began to embrace who I am from the outermost layer covered with tattoos and piercings to the innermost part of me that realized I am bisexual and that I have a story to share with the world that might really help people. 

While Reshma’s talk is primarily centered around women, I think there are certainly areas where people all across the gender spectrum struggle with perfection. However, the bottom line is still the same — if we focus on being brave, being authentic to ourselves, and using ourselves as context for pain, suffering, happiness, and more (not someone else telling us what to feel, think, do), we can overcome this insidious perfection. 

My current partner told me when we first started dating, “you’re perfect.” I told him that I appreciate the sentiment and I know he wanted me to know that I’m a catch, but I’m trying to give that word up.

“Perfection/perfect/perfecting”, when you think about it, allows no room for growth.

It’s black or white.

Right or wrong.

Yes or no.

Perfect or imperfect.

Well, that’s really boring and certainly not how this world works. It’s the pinnacle or nothing. How limiting is that?

 

You might be thinking that it was an invalidating response I made to my partner. Maybe to some extent. But it opened a conversation that allowed us to be vulnerable with each other and encouraged us both to talk about our mutual dislike of the word “perfect” which wouldn’t have happened if I had simply said “oh, honey, thank you! You’re perfect too!” Now, we each provide each other with silly, specific, fun, and empowering compliments that carry so much more weight than the word “perfect” ever did, like:

  • “You make me feel so special when we snuggle and you sneak a kiss on my cheek.”

  • “I am so excited to date a woman who is in a ska band!”

  • “It is so endearing and funny when you talk to me about nerdy things that get you worked up like videogames and Dungeons and Dragons.”

Maybe you’re not the same kind of nerd we are, but hopefully these statements made you go “aww” a little bit more than “you’re perfect” did. 

 

I used my romantic relationship as an example, but this is present in the rest of my life too. Honestly, my perfection battle is the hardest when it comes to school and work. I used to feel as though any failure was a sign that I was not meant for whatever it was I was doing or studying. I felt that negative feedback from a client meant that I was solely responsible for their wellbeing and that I probably harmed them permanently as well as made the profession look bad and then my coworkers and supervisors would hate me and fire me leading to complaints on my license and having to fight from getting it revoked… you can see how this spiral became a big problem. I’m not endorsing purposefully making mistakes with clients, this is something we should do everything we can to avoid, but what I am saying is that mistakes do happen and as long as we have gone about them in the right way, they help us grow. Asking for help and consultation is scary and vulnerable and painful sometimes, but it helps us to not be isolated. It helps to hear from others that mistakes happen and how could our clients learn from us if we were truly “perfect”? ‘Bravery is what we are asking from our clients, so it’s only fair that we hold ourselves to that standard too — nothing more, nothing less.

 

Reshma Saujani’s book is one I read recently that also changed my life. Much of the same material discussed in her TEDtalk is expanded upon in the book. She also has an active instagram (yes, millennial here) so I have jumped on her (and others’) #FailureFriday posts to normalize mistakes and empower others to not see them as a big deal. 

 

Thank you for reading, there will be more on this topic in future blogs. This is an area of great passion for me.

 

My name is Anastasia and I am a recovering perfectionist. 

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Anastasia can be contacted directly via call/text at (720)923-2322 or via email at practicum@brightsidecounseling.net

She works on a sliding pay scale and has availability in her caseload for more clients — call, text, or email today for more information!

Anastasia Canfield, MM, MT-BC, RP, hails from Texas, but has found a new home in Colorado, where she has lived since 2013. She is a master’s level board-certified music therapist and registered psychotherapist having earned her first master’s degree in neurologic music therapy from Colorado State University in 2016. Her studies encompassed a broad overview of music therapy with all populations, but Anastasia pursued extra clinical hours working in schools and mental health clinics to emphasize her interest in psychiatric music therapy. Her master’s research focused on music therapy with a child with an emotional disability in a specialized classroom. Anastasia has worked as a music therapist for nearly three and a half years, offering individual and group services addressing a variety of individualized goals at facilities and private practices such as Highlands Behavioral Health System, Rocky Mountain Music Therapy, and the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan. She specializes in music therapy with mental health populations across the lifespan, as well as children and young adults with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and autism spectrum disorders. Anastasia is joining Brightside Counseling as a practicum student while she pursues her second master’s degree, Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling from Northwestern University, to earn dual-licensure as a board-certified music therapist and a licensed professional counselor.

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