I Am a Perfectionist, and It’s a Curse — Scott Allen Luke

Inside the Box | No Comments → | November 7, 2016

I am a perfectionist, and it’s a curse.

Something inside me needs to be an immediate expert at any new skill. I have this compulsion to want to be the best in class. I want to be the bravest. I want to be the most fearless. I want to be the student that my teacher brags about to other teachers. It’s a defense mechanism: if I become the best as quickly as possible, then I avoid being vulnerable in front of others. It’s also a yearning to be liked. When I inevitably am not the immediate expert that my brain wants to be, I feel discouraged and like a failure.

Predictably, this happened during the teacher training program at Black Box. One day, halfway through training, was particularly grim. That day I was in my head trying so hard to execute the syllabus correctly; to say the right words and in the right order; to get things “right.” The repetition exercises that day were also pretty melancholy. “You’re shutting down. I’m shutting down. You’re broken. I’m broken.” Classic example of art imitating life, eh? I got some tough love from Audrey…not only as a teacher trainee, but also as a student of the technique. My disappointment with not getting the teaching methods “right” was now also bleeding into my repetition. Shit. Double whammy.

When I left Black Box that afternoon, I felt like an asshole. I was riddled with that all too familiar feeling of desperation and defeat. Why was I wasting my or Black Box’s time?

The next morning, after three fingers of bourbon and a good night’s sleep, I reflected on what my options were. The way I saw it, there were only two: 1) Give up and quit or 2) Stop whining and learn something. When put in those terms, option 1 wasn’t even an option at all. I returned the next day, kept my ego in check by owing the fact that I am enough, completed the training program, and became an instructor at Black Box.

I am still learning. I am always learning. I wasn’t an expert then and I am not an expert now, not at Meisner or Viewpoints or life or anything else. But that’s okay!

If you’re like me, there will always be something inside you saying you can’t do it; you shouldn’t do it; you won’t do it; even that what you’re doing is stupid. The trick is to tell those voices to fuck off as quickly as possible. Remember, even Usain Bolt didn’t run a 9.58 100m dash the first time he set foot on the track.

At Black Box, I have a home, a community, where I have learned that my hang-ups and flaws and faults are actually my greatest strengths because they make me the singular person that I am. I will always be a perfectionist. That is part of who I am, and I sure as hell can’t run away from it. Black Box has trained me to recognize that the deepest truth of my perfectionism is a fear of being vulnerable, and that when I am willing to unlock and release that vulnerability and fear in the work, amazing things happen.