I find I feel the most miserable when I look around to get value cues from comparing myself to others. I will always see strengths in others that I don't have. And I will never see their weaknesses or the things they struggle with. But even if I did, that should not be my measuring stick for myself. I love the reminder of keeping an eye single to the glory of God we find in the scriptures. I keep my focus on Him- His love and my identity as His child determine my worth, rather than determining my worth by looking around me. I also get my instructions from Him, not those around me. He holds the measuring stick for my life rather than measuring myself against others. Look to Him for His love, His mercy, and His counsel. -Erin Bailey
My husband used to joke that I had a drill sergeant in my brain. He also told me once that he would never let anyone speak to me the way I talk to myself. I had gotten into a bad pattern of using negative self-talk to motivate myself. But I started to believe it. If you are struggling with this, I’d invite you to think of how the spirit speaks and how the Savior speaks. Where do the words in your head sound like they’re coming from? If you’re anything like I used to be, probably not from the Lord. Avoid all-or-nothing thinking and overgeneralizing. Try to be specific and honest about what has occurred. For example, if your lesson did not go how you had hoped, change this self talk- “That was horrible! I’m the worst teacher at BYU. I’m a failure!” to something more true- “My instructions for that lesson were not as clear as I hoped. That caused my students to struggle to be successful with my goal for them today.” Then you can actually target a solution- “For my next lesson, I will practice my instructions three times before it’s due. Maybe I can even get my roommates to let me practice on them.” If you’re just generalizing, there is no solution and there is no improvement. If you can give yourself honest feedback, there is always hope because there’s always something you can do or change!
Sometimes when I’m feeling really down, I ask Heavenly Father to tell me something He is pleased with about me. That helps me battle the other voice (perhaps Satan’s voice??) that makes me feel discouraged. -Erin Bailey
I highly recommend speaking with your studio teacher about it. There are exercises and helpful resources they can guide you to use. -Erin Bailey
I’ve already shared about Growth Mindset above. But mistakes are opportunities for learning and growth. I think of people I love in the scriptures who made mistakes that ended up really being catalysts for a life of service and consecration. Joseph Smith asked the Lord to be able to share the plates with others. Disregarding prior No answers from the Lord, Joseph asked until he got the answer he wanted. He learned from that experience and relied on the Lord wholly after that. President Nelson shared about a heart-wrenching set of surgical failures where he did not succeed in saving the lives of two children with a heart condition. He wanted to give up but he decided to take what he learned from these failures and keep working to find solutions. You can’t pop out of the womb being a perfect trumpet player. That’s just silly. We will all make mistakes as we keep trying new things and challenging ourselves. You could maybe only learn one song in your life and play it with no mistakes. Would that be joy? Risk and trial-and-error and spreading our wings with the chance of crashing back down to the earth- these are all the things that make the human experience so exquisite. Learn to love the learning process. Without mistakes we cannot grow on our instruments. They jumpstart our learning and growth! -Erin Bailey
I LOVE GROWTH MINDSET!!!! When I first discovered the research of Carol Dweck, I was shocked to find out I had a fixed mindset, which is why I beat myself up about mistakes and thought all things should come easily to me if I was smart. (https://fs.blog/carol-dweck-mindset/) I suddenly saw serious flaws in my logic and how I felt about effort. I highly encourage everyone to read her work, but especially future teachers!! How we act towards learning, mistakes, effort, and our students can influence them for many years to come and teach them how to feel about themselves and the mistakes they make. Growth mindset was a mindset-changing and life-changing discovery for me. Check it out! -Erin Bailey
Officially, there’s adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism. Adaptive perfectionism is characterized as a normal, healthy type of perfectionism and is defined by deriving satisfaction from achievements made from intense effort but tolerating the imperfections without resorting to the harsh self-criticism that characterizes maladaptive perfectionism (Stoltz & Ashby, 2007).
Maladaptive perfectionism is defined by having high personal performance standards and tendencies to be extremely self-critical in self-evaluations (Rice & Stuart, 2010). Maladaptive perfectionists possess a need to control their environment and when events do not go as planned, they develop negative attitudes (Stoltz & Ashby, 2007). They also view their environments as competitive and approach relationships more aggressively. They approach their work with an assertive nature and believe that they must achieve goals in their own way. Maladaptive perfectionists are also more likely to seek positive feedback from the environment and attempt to gain approval from their peers. Therefore, if they see imperfection in their lives, they are more apt to become discouraged and seek an alternative way to gain acceptance (Stoltz & Ashby, 2007). Some psychological maladjustments and problematic functioning associated with maladaptive perfectionism are depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, stress, eating disorders, emotional deregulation, recurrent physical pain and other medical problems, insecure adult attachment, marital and premarital difficulties, and less desirable academic performance (Chang as cited in Rice & Stuart, 2010). Both maladaptive and adaptive forms of perfectionism can moderate an individual’s response to disruptive events. However, for maladaptive perfectionists events that can cause loss of status, worth, and failure can result in behavioral avoidance and withdrawal (Bieling et al., 2004). (https://improvinglivescounseling.com/an-exploration-of-adaptive-and-maladaptive-perfectionism-as-it-relates-to-intimate-relationships/#:~:text=Adaptive%20perfectionism%20is%20characterized%20as,Stoltz%20%26%20Ashby%2C%202007).
Personally, I’ve struggled with perfectionism on and off throughout my life. In some way, we’re all here because of a drive and goal of “perfecting” our craft. The standards to get into BYU are very high, and even higher in the School of Music. I find that perfectionism in general is the wrong focus. I am striving to be a progressist! I want to be someone who is focused on working every day to be a little better, to be a little kinder, to be a little more humble. This lifestyle choice should permeate my work. I want to be a little more expressive when I play the piano today, a little more confident in my passaggio, a little more wary of parallel fifths! 🙂 If your perfectionism is that you happily strive for your personal best with energy and joy, you’re probably more in the adaptive zone. If your drive to be perfect causes sleep deprivation, anxiety, and steals your joy, that perfectionism is not healthy, nor is it what the Lord would want for you. Men are that they might have joy! Not straight A’s, not perfect performances, not panic attacks! Find joy in your working and striving. -Erin Bailey
Ugh, that’s so hard. Well, if I can, I try to laugh about it. I try to remember that I have another day and more performances. I remember that it’s ok to fail. In fact, failing is usually what helps me grow and learn the most. I also try to be kind to myself. -Jason Bergman
I’m going to speak to the unsatisfying result. I’ve had really great performances but they didn’t fill me like some others have. I actually had a judge at a festival come up to me and say, “Congratulations. You figured out the formula to get Superiors at festival. Next time you come I challenge you to go beyond that and change lives.” It hurt, but it was so true. I had started to focus on judges and winning and the performances were high quality, but not moving. The next year, we picked music that focused on important topics and were outside of our comfort zone. The feeling in the room was electric. None of us even cared about scores because everything had changed. If you find your work and performance is not filling you the same way it used to, it might be time to analyze the outcomes and motives you're focused on. It might be time to return to why you are doing what you are doing. I want my music to change lives! -Erin Bailey
There’s a word in Italian, “avvicinandoci,” which basically means coming closer and closer. I liked to use this word with our choirs. Would we ever have a perfect rehearsal or performance? Probably not. But could we strive to get closer and closer and be happy with that effort? Definitely! I think the success is that you are striving for excellence. We don’t have to arrive at the distant goal of perfection to be happy with our work today. D&C 58:27 says, Men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness. To me that sounds like balancing not being perfect with trying every day to do good, to be a friend, to ask for Heavenly Father’s help to do His will and be an instrument in His hands. I think you should be happy that you have a heart that loves to reach high. If you know you’re reaching too high, you know you’re going to fail, and that’s discouraging. Know where you want to be in the end and choose one thing this week that’s achievable that you can do. I also would like to suggest not measuring your success by outcomes, but by effort. “Did you play this piece perfectly at your lesson?” Could be traded for “Did I carve out time every day to improve my pieces and technique to show my teacher at my lesson?” This is a better way to gauge your success. Strive to be your best rather than perfect. -Erin Bailey
This has been hard for me as I enter BYU’s academic world for the first time. Teaching all new classes is humbling as I find there is still so much I don’t know. Imposter syndrome is real and not just for students! 🙂 I have to remember that I will never know everything about everything. I probably will never know everything about even one thing! I know though that I was chosen to do a job here and I am going to try to do my best. Same for you. Your skills and knowledge were of such a high level that you auditioned and were accepted into this challenging music program. Pat yourself on the back every once in a while and then look ahead and get to work. You are not a finished product. I sure hope I’m not a finished product. We have eternities of learning and growing to do. Be happy with how far you’ve come and recognize that you are at the very beginning of the path of learning and growing you get to journey on for the rest of your life. Additionally, I find that I can feel more satisfied with myself if I choose one area that I’m striving to improve in for this week, rather than looking around hopelessly trying to improve in ALL of the areas. In short, you have come so far in your life that you’ve finally arrived at the beginning. Be patient and joyous in the process! -Erin Bailey
Back to front helps me a lot! Start at the end of the piece (which is what most people remember the most, ha!) and work backwards, making it as technically accurate, but also as musically moving as you can.
I also listen to recordings of the piece on my way to work and classes. I find it helps me get in the zone even if I know my practice hours are limited. -Erin Bailey