I have an absurd confession. Ready for it? Okay, here goes:

I do not consider myself a perfectionist because I have never created anything perfect.

See, I told you it was absurd. My lifelong battle with perfectionism and disappointment and hiding and isolation summed up in one blurt.

I slept in the other morning—a weekend—after first getting up early, feeding the cat, and then realizing I needed to get more rest. I didn’t really want to go back to sleep, and when I woke I almost wished I hadn’t taken the extra hour. I’d plunged into some REM z’s and an intense anxiety dream. A dream, as it turned out, that would be profoundly illuminating (see confession above—Hi, my name is Anna and I might be maybe could be a perfectionist).

Here’s the dream (and feel free to skip this part… I am one of those humans who loves to tell everyone about my dreams, and realize it is obnoxious):


I am part of a reunion performance that features many members of my high school arts academy orchestra. I am placed pretty high in the first violin section, an honor, but am panicking because I haven’t practiced. Like at all. I will fail miserably if I attempt the concert. In my mind I know I am not nearly good enough, despite my placement, and decide to bail out of the performance. I peer out through the stage wings and see my dad sitting in the front row, waiting for the show to begin. Dear old Dad is also something of a perfectionist, but I don’t realize this in the dream because of course I’m too busy wigging out for any serious real time analysis.

After bailing out of the performance I receive a text the next dream morning from a fellow musician who worried something happened to me. They definitely missed me, she says, and I definitely missed out on a wonderful experience with the celebratory post-concert meal. I wake with visions of them toasting one another while I am an entire city away…


Ugh, this dream. It gives me belly clenching angst to relive it even on the page.

It gives me FOPO all over again (Fear of Playing Out, a very real thing musicians experience and perhaps an acronym I just made up). It gives me gas. Makes me want to hurl crockery, screaming, at stucco walls.

As a teenage musician, I wasn’t a perfect violinist. Nowhere close. I did progress quickly because I’m a driven person who isn’t afraid to put in some hours with the bow. But I never got “where I wanted to be”… wherever that was. And so, at eighteen and feeling all kinds of internal and external pressure to be better, I laid my fiddle down. And haven’t really played since.

I am also not a perfect writer. (You are shocked, I know.) I quit violin all those years ago because I couldn’t stand the self-disappointment any more that I wasn’t better, wasn’t flawless, wasn’t a child prodigy. I’ve had similar thoughts around writing. It’s not flawless. It should be better. And the perpetual, nagging whatever will I do with all these words?!

I started a new job a few weeks ago, and from day one perfectionism sat with me at my new desk. It had been the bear in the room with my previous position, and was threatening to play the same role with this new gig. Except I had that dream. And the crystal clear truth draught I brought back with me…

I do not consider myself a perfectionist because I have never created anything perfect.


To seek perfection is to deny our inherent divine perfection. I’ve read this in countless spiritual tomes. I’ve heard it, glimpsed it as true. But while I hear this as truth, I am still caught between two ends of the yardstick. On one end is immaculate Anna whom people describe as mature, polished, articulate. At the other end is someone who has routinely and methodically sabotaged her pretend perfect life in favor of experiences that threaten her very existence. She has been an addict, a thief, a liar. An imposter in her own plastic shell.

Can the two co-exist? It seems they may have to. The thrust of my life feels more and more oriented toward finding out if they can. To integrate the two ends. To slide between them in approximation of a range somewhere in the middle.

I am noticing all my judgments—every perceived imperfection—these days. Every bit of clutter in my house, every object out of place. It is a profoundly uncomfortable awareness to inhabit, this judgment bubble. The bubble is the addict, the liar, the thief. Addicted to not-good-enough. Lying about what is important, what truly brings me pleasure. Do I feel good when I clean the house for the fifth time this week, or do I feel accomplished? I am learning that these are different vibrations for me. And sometimes these urges to clean organize, task, cook, exercise, write x amount of hours/day, and clean some more are stealing my days one sunrise at a time.

My partner suggested I write out a letter to my perfectionist self. The one who wants it all RIGHT, all right? Start a dialogue with her. Or maybe she meant just get it out already and tell that beezie who you are for a change. Maybe don’t let her write back. It strikes me as a good idea, this letter, and I will be doing it.

Next post, for sure. As soon as I can find the right words.