This is me two weeks ago doing the #1 thing that terrifies my inner perfectionist most: Singing in front of a crowd. As a young person, I was once invited on a radio show to promote the nonprofit organization I had started that supports women’s mentoring programs East Africa. When the radio show host jokingly asked me, “Is there anything you can’t do?”, I made a self-deprecating joke about my inability to sing. And so he egged me on – in the middle of a live radio broadcast – to sing with him. I froze up, paralyzed by the fear of failing spectacularly at doing something I had already admitted I was not perfect at. I still remember that moment so vividly, so viscerally, today.
So you can see how my younger self would have never believed that I would allow myself to be called up in front of a crowd – and then smile happily, with perfect calm and confidence, as I sang to them. But when I heard the performer singing a familiar East African tune in Swahili, I couldn’t help but sing along, and the surprised performer called me up on stage next to him. As I sang, I cherished the delighted and awe-struck stares of my two little girls – 5 and 2 years old – and I felt so proud to have this unexpected opportunity to share a part of my life with them that was so special to me. So my fears – about being out of pitch, about not remembering all of the words, about my just-rolled-out-of-bed outfit – all melted away. Instead, I tapped into the inner reserve of presence, of playfulness, of authenticity that I’ve been building for many months now in place of my natural instinct to default to perfectionism, and I laughingly belted out this song in front of the crowd, even stopping to tease the performer who had called me up on stage.
In the two weeks since then, my daughters have begged me to teach them this special song, and they now know every word, so proud to "speak Swahili" like their mom. I’ll treasure this little video as a reminder that I chose playfulness over perfect in that moment – and as a reminder of just how powerful it can be when we choose to leave behind patterns of perfectionism in service of the things that matter so much more.
Join us at Beyond perfect to experience the power that playfulness can have for perfectionists like ourselves!