My whole life I’ve been a perfectionist and competitive. It’s how I was hard wired. From my earliest memories – of winning the spelling bee in 5th grade to winning speech competitions in high school to winning scholarships, awards, and competitions in piano performance in college, I always set myself up for “winning.” In flight school I was hard on myself if I didn’t get a maneuver correct the first time I tried. I expected perfection. My flight instructor, in attempting to help me, told me to “strive for perfection, expect excellence.” It became my mantra. In all things I’ve done, I have strove for perfection and settled on excellence.
Fast forward a few decades. This thought process started to undo me. First, it was becoming a mom. Later it became trying to be the “perfect” voice actor—pleasing all people, all the time. All while slowly coming to realize that in all my attempts to be perfect, to be a “winner,” I had traded in my humanity. I had forgotten what really matters. In voice over, in mommy-hood, in LIFE. And that’s relationships. People. Others.
So in analyzing and dissecting this need for perfection, I discovered that it was keeping me from being authentic. From being relational. You see, when a person seeks perfection, she is focusing on her ego. She is being selfish by withholding her true self to the rest of the world. Think about it, though. We don’t want to connect with perfect people. They make us uncomfortable. We can’t find common ground because perfection is unattainable. The best communicators are the ones who aren’t afraid to be real and raw. The best comedians are hilariously self-deprecating. Because we relate. This is where we find humanity. In our weaknesses, our imperfections. You struggle with this, too? You get me. This realization has changed me as a human being and it has changed me as a voice actor. No longer am I striving to have the perfect voice, the perfect read, the perfect character. My goal is to connect with YOU the writer and YOU the listener.
I no longer buy into the idea of perfectionism. My new mantra is simply to “strive for connection.” No expectation of “winning” is required. We were meant to be relational. What matters most to me is YOU. How are you feeling? What are your goals? What makes you tick? Now that I can focus on what’s truly important, the chains of ego fall away. It means utter freedom. My voice over craft is not perfect. It is, however, authentically me. And that’s what we want in life, isn’t it? Authenticity. We are perfectly imperfect.
Boy oh boy, there is such freedom when you realize that perfection is an unrealistic goal and one that ends up alienating you from others.
For me, I love how much more relaxed I can be with others who are willing to let their imperfections shine. It is what makes us so interesting right?
Loved this piece, thank you for sharing it.
Yes, Mara! Everything is easier when we live into our imperfect selves!!
Thank you for your gift of “strive for connection”. I also was instructed to attain perfection in all that I attempted to do by my Mother”. Just way too much pressure, and perfection certainly does make others feel uncomfortable. I suppose I will always strive to do my best, but perfection no. Especially since I just read and enjoyed your very well written story. Thank you so much. You probably don’t remember me, but I knew all of you girls, Mara, Deanna and you while you were growing up. I’m Michelle & Michael Harsha’s Mom. I also knew your wonderful Mother.
Roma, I do remember you! Michelle and Mara were such good friends. Doing your best is a worthy goal, for sure. We must grow and stretch our limits to expand our possibilities. It’s exciting when the pressure is off, isn’t it?
Love it in so many ways!!!
Thank you so much, Dana! I hope you’re well. Tell you mom and dad I say hello.