One broken, yellow pencil among a row of gray scale color pencils

I’m a practicing imperfectionist. Since committing to imperfectionism, my life has become more fun, free, and interesting. As an imperfectionist, I’ve experienced increases in income and in cool opportunities, deepened my friendships, and even fell on my face, got up, and kept on dancing.

Becoming an imperfectionist is not easy, like flipping a switch—it’s more like an unfolding with lots of growth opportunities. Just a few days ago, for example, I took my second first-ever Zumba class. Why was it was my second first-ever class? Because I went to Zumba once before, but left about 10 minutes into the class. The rhythms weren’t what I’m used to dancing to, so I bailed. My love for dancing and increased boredom with indoor treadmill-running finally made me reconsider Zumba. Plus, I have a client who radiates so much joy every time she goes to her “Zzzzoooommmba!” class (as she calls it) that I was motivated to try the class again.

Before I even went to the second first-ever class, perfectionism was trying to spoil my fun again. I went onto YouTube to see if I could learn some Zumba steps ahead of time. The justification I gave myself was, “I don’t see well, especially a moving target like an instructor, so it only makes sense to learn some steps ahead of time.” Ha. That’s such muck. The truth is simple, I didn’t want to go to class and look like a boob.

You see, before I became an imperfectionist, I was an active covert and overt perfectionist. In the simplest of terms, overt perfectionism shows up in the form of wanting to look good and NOT look foolish. God forbid you look like a novice…unless you can look completely adorable being one. You want to have things figured out, be cool, be loved, and be the best. You will go to great, and I mean sometimes GREAT, lengths to make everyone like you, have your work done on time, and execute tasks flawlessly. You don’t do the vulnerability thing very well. At. All.

Covert perfectionism can look, from the outside, like you don’t care. Covert perfectionists do care, though. You care a lot. You can see how the project will look when it’s all done. It’s great, it’s brilliant, and so, so perfect. However, where you are and your vision are so far apart that you have no idea how to get from where you are to where you want to be. So you do nothing. Or you spin—a ton. You do a lot of work around the edges of a big project. You may lose sleep or pull all-nighters and still come up short or totally empty-handed. You may work on a sentence or other small task for half the morning. You may start projects and quit before you finish them, because you’re afraid they won’t be perfect. Your home might be a mess. You might show up late for things. You might feel like a white-hot mess. You might try to make yourself believe that you don’t care what other people think. Perhaps you may even find flaws in others so that you don’t have to feel how much you really do care. You don’t do the vulnerability thing very well. At. All.

Speaking of vulnerability, what did I do about the Zumba class? I closed my computer and went to my second first-ever class. I sooooo could not keep up. At one point I thought, I’m officially old and frumpy. I used to be young and could really bust a move, but those days are gone. I felt self-conscious and then something else happened. I felt arm-meat giggles. Arm-meat giggles! What the…?! My first thought was, I’ll have to wear long sleeves if I ever come back to this class. I honestly felt horrible. I felt clumsy, old, and giggly. I couldn’t keep track of the damn adorable, young, fit, funky instructor and I almost ran away. If not for the angel in the room, I might have gone home, a Zumba quitter once again. I only spotted this angel because I needed to find someone to follow. She was right in front of me.

I wish I could tell you that the way she looked didn’t matter to me. But the truth is, it did matter. She was gorgeous! She was expertly flipping and whipping around her healthy, long, silky brown hair like it was an exclamation mark at the end of ecstatic sentences. She was a Latin dancing whirling dervish and there was not one part of her lovely body that wasn’t giggling. I felt a shot of envy. How do you let go like that? Oh yeah, you do it by being an imperfectionist!

I started wagging my backside, and shaking my front side. I didn’t dance with wild abandon like the angel, but I did start doing the steps I could manage and improvising the rest. By the end of my second, first-ever Zumba class, I was smiling and wholeheartedly eager for more Zzzzzzoooooommba! Being an imperfectionist allowed me to experience the joy of the class, like my client, instead of getting mired in the frustration of being a beginner.

Not surprisingly, being a beginner is the perfect place for you to start your imperfectionist practice. What’s something your “bad” at?