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School of Music Wellness Resources

In the School of Music, we strive to combine our knowledge of gospel principles with best educational practices to create an environment in which students can thrive and fulfill their potential. The physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness of our students and faculty is a high priority of the School of Music. Men are that they might have joy (2 Nephi 2:25).
School Of Music Wellness Mission Statment

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Perfectionism Resources

Perfectionism FAQs

  • What is “good enough?”

    • I guess I'll say this here: all of you, every student I've ever had, is "good enough" for me to love and to work for. Your teachers love you! We worry over you, cheer for you, pray for you. No amount of failed classes or absences or whatever has ever made me love a student less. "Good enough" is being YOU. -Neil Thornock

    • You must be the basis for this standard.  It's vital to have an idea of where you started at a given point and then to be able to accurately see//hear progress.  This may involve some reflection in a journal and/or video/audio recordings of the process of growth.  Without tangible artifacts to go back to, it may seem like you never make progress, when in actuality you did, if you can go back and examine actual, concrete evidence.  Good enough is an honest attempt to get better, bit by bit, incrementally day by day.  If you haven't really invested the time, effort, or focus necessary, it's unrealistic to expect that you can make progress you can be proud of.  In that sense, it will not be good enough.  But if you have made an authentic effort to improve, then I think it is crucial to celebrate any incremental progress and growth, because it was the result of genuine effort.  Good enough becomes the progress you made that you can feel good about, due to your efforts.  You may still fall short of expectations, but the road is long and there is still time to make continued effort toward growth.  Not artfully expressed, but growth authentically and honestly obtained is good enough. -Rob Dunn

    • In the end, there are only two sets of expectations that really matter. The first is God’s for each of us, individually, and the second is ours for ourselves. Our primary goal in this life should be to align our expectations with God’s. We can only achieve this through constant and diligent effort and prayer. Once we achieve this alignment, life’s difficulties and challenges are easier to overcome and we achieve a level of peace and joy that pervades all we say and do. -Mark Ammons

    I get discouraged by the many different things I have to do as a music major (school work, job, practice, personal life!). How do I keep the desire to work hard and avoid burnout?

    • Perfection is the enemy of good enough. This may sound trite and a bit sarcastic. BUT everyone needs to evaluate what their goals and priorities are. Sometimes we have to make the conscious decision to let something go. If we are so busy and killing ourselves, then the best we can do HAS to be good enough. If that means we get a B or a C, then that’s OK! Do the very best you can, and be OK with that!, BUT REALLY do YOUR BEST. -Nate Seamons

    • That is really hard and I can relate and empathize with your situation. A few things help me with this. First, I try to do the best I can and realize that it’s ok not to do everything. I try to prioritize, spend the majority of my time on the things that matter most, and do the best I can on the others. Second, I try to remember that there are different seasons in our life. Right now, you’re in a season where your education is a high priority. If you’re busy with it, that probably means you’re focused on the right thing. However, if you’re constantly finding yourself doing other things, maybe allow yourself some time (literally, build it into your schedule) to do other things - like watching Netflix, dating, hiking, and even just playing some music for fun. Resist the urge to feel guilt for this. Work hard, and play hard. Also, consider the idea of grace. Try to extend it to yourself sometimes. It’s ok to accept grace. In fact, isn’t that what Jesus really offers us? -Jason Bergman

    • Finding proper balance in life is a challenge we all face. Maintaining the 3 Ps (properly prioritized perspective) is the surest way to finding proper balance. Ask Heavenly Father "what is good enough?" then listen to His answer and work toward that goal - NOT what the world would say is good enough. Avoiding burnout comes through the 3 Ps. When we focus on building God's kingdom, all other things fall into place. It is often okay to simply place the "less-important" things in a safe place so you can make the time to take care of yourself. Saying yes to every gig or "opportunity" that comes along is NOT healthy and will lead to burnout and/or lack of proper focus. -Mark Ammons

    I work harder than I’ve ever worked as a musician before, but I don’t feel like I’m seeing results that match my work ethic. It’s very discouraging. Any advice?

    • Believe that breakthroughs are on the horizon, and keep plugging away consistently and honestly.  The things that really mean a lot are the result of hard work over time.  Listen, be open to feedback, be persistent, and ask for Heavenly guidance each and every time you practice, have a lesson, perform, etc.  What a wonderful opportunity you have to develop this heaven-given gift of music each and every day.  He can help you develop, to persist, to believe, and to be grateful for even small successes, and for the struggle because it will bring blessings in unexpected ways.  Approach with faith, even in persistent adversity.  Breakthroughs are ahead, and that much more sweet for the struggle. -Rob Dunn

    • This is a normal feeling. Often when we move into a new program, receive more training, and begin to work hard, we might feel like results aren’t coming as quickly as we’d like or that we’re even getting worse. That isn’t what’s happening. The truth is that your ear and your musical sensibilities are getting better and more finely honed. You’re just hearing more than you did when you had less training and experience. Also, many of us had a certain amount of naivete when we were young musicians; it just came easily to us. Now, as we progress in our craft and artform, we realize more and more that performing at a very high level is really difficult. We need to think about our perspectives. When you were a high schooler, the music you worked on was most likely not as difficult as what you are doing now. Also, the things that your instructors are asking of you are more demanding than what was expected of you as a young player. Just playing the right notes at the right time isn’t enough anymore. Now you’re learning how to play the notes in the right way. That is much more challenging and takes a lifetime of work. Take heart. If you’re in the practice room, working hard, you’re on the right path. -Brian Blanchard

    • My first comment would be a question. What are the results you’re expecting? If you feel like you’re not seeing results, is there a chance your expectations might need to be adjusted? Maybe you can try to step back a little and see the big picture. Instead of focusing on the end, can you look at the scenic viewpoints along the way? For example, if you went on a trip to the Grand Canyon and focused only on that, you might miss all the beauty between Provo and the Canyon. Wouldn’t you want to stop by Zion, Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell, and other places on your way there? You can enjoy those places while you’re heading to the Grand Canyon. Eventually, you’ll get there. -Jason Bergman

    How do we find time to take breaks and take care of ourselves when the school year is pushing forward regardless?

    • Not to sound too simplistic, but just take breaks. We all need them. If you’re so rigid that it’s tough, literally mark the time in your planner. Take 30 minutes a day to just go on a walk, or sit outside doing nothing. Take a break to watch your favorite show online. It’s ok to do that. In fact, I think your soul will thank you! Give yourself permission to care for yourself. -Jason Bergman
    • Different studies have been conducted that suggest that productivity increases when people take a break. You will actually get more done and better quality of work done if you work for 50-90 minutes and then take a 15-20 minute break. I also think the Lord knew what He was doing when He gave us the Sabbath. I know it seems like you will get behind if you do not use that day for homework, but I have learned that the Sabbath is a delight as I keep it work-free! I get refreshed and recharged on that day as I keep it special. I also recommend using Saturday or Sunday night to plan out your week with boxes of time that you are going to dedicate to various activities. Then you can plan in something special that you want to do with roommates, significant other, or family. The school year pushing forward can be a bit relentless at times. Learn to let go of the things that aren’t going to “count” as much and focus on the most important tasks. Some things may fall by the wayside, but if you’ve chosen your main priorities, they were probably the less important things. -Erin Bailey

    I feel like I need to say yes to every musical opportunity that comes my way. How can I prioritize which things to say no to? And how do I not feel guilty about it?

    • Saying no is an important life skill, as is saying yes. Saying no should be used wisely.  Pray daily for guidance in making decisions, generally, and in these specific situations.  I often say, let me look at my schedule and I will get back to you; then I take time to think about it seriously, sometimes praying just for help with that decision, then I get back to the person as soon as I can.  I have found that when I can consider it, even for a few minutes, I usually can make an informed decision.  If it is no, let them know in a kind way and move on.  -Rob Dunn
    • Musical opportunities aren’t callings. It’s ok to say no! However, in this phase of your career, the more experience you can get, the better. It does help you down the road. For me, I used this type of metric (in fact, I still do). I usually ask myself these types of questions. 1. Will this performance give me a really important experience playing a particular music I want to do for my career? If yes, I probably do it. 2. Will this pay me enough for my time? In most situations, you need to be paid. However, there are times where a free performance now can lead to paying work down the road. You need to sometimes take a guess. However, if you anticipate being used, manipulated, or taken advantage of, say no. 3. How does the performance stack up with my long term goals? For example, if you’re asked to sub with the Utah Symphony, you say yes. If a random high school needs a ringer for their orchestra concert, you probably say no. Community orchestras might be an important thing to say yes for, but they also might not. About feeling guilty, let that go. Don’t ever allow yourself to feel guilty for saying no. Set boundaries that are clear for you and others. They protect you. -Jason Bergman

    Which is a better foundation for a long-term career: focusing on playing spectacularly well for only a few things or below what you know is your best for a lot of things?

    • Being clear on your long term goals--your goals, not someone else's--will help make this decision.  Also, you have a lifetime before you.  Is now the time to dig deep into something, and leave some of the other things for another stage of your life to develop?  Think long term rather than thinking you have to do it all right now! -Rob Dunn
    • It might depend on your long-term career goal. If you want to have a career that’s really focused on one or two things, like being an orchestral performer, you probably want to focus a lot on that. However, if you want to be a freelancer and have a lot of different musical experiences, you might want to dabble a bit in all things. That’s a personal decision and I’d encourage you to reflect on what your feelings are. There’s not really a right answer. The right answer is what feels right to you. -Jason Bergman
  • If I don’t practice for a few days, am I a failure?

    • No. Do you think you’re a failure? If you do, I’d invite you to reexamine how hard you’re judging yourself. Is it that easy to fail? Love yourself. -Jason Bergman
    • I like to envision the Lord coming down to have a stewardship interview with me. Would he ask about my practice hours? Or my time spent realizing that figured bass?! I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. :-) He cares about YOU, WHO you are, HOW you treat his other children and how you are treating YOURSELF. You have chosen a major and will get out of it what you put in. Obviously, practicing is important to improve on your instrument, your teaching, etc. You are NOT your talents or activities. You are a child of God, and we weren’t sent here to fail. You may want to look at why you are not practicing- Time? Desire? Discouragement? I think journaling could be helpful here in discerning our motives and concerns. -Erin Bailey

    How do I overcome practice burnout when I feel pressured to practice constantly?

    • Line up a recital or performance of some kind.  Make the pressure worth it. -Lawrence Green

    • Before you leave the practice room, I recommend doing whatever you have been working on once more, but concentrating only on making it a "musical experience" and not worrying about technique, etc.  I was so worried about the technical aspects during my first two years with my voice teacher at BYU that I forgot about "making music."  One lesson, my teacher was so frustrated with me in my lesson, and I was frustrated, I decided that I would forget about worrying what I sounded like, and just "sang my heart" and didn't care what he thought.  He looked at me afterward, and said, "Exactly!"  I was flabbergasted!  But it reminded me that the practice and technique and lessons ultimately should help us express more musically, more meaningfully, perhaps more spiritually.  It's what we do with the technique to perform in a way that blesses; technique is not the end, but the process to get there. -Rob Dunn

    • It’s ok to take a break. If you feel like you’re burned out, you probably are. Listen to your body and your emotions. Rest is important. In fact, don’t we sleep every night? Our body’s need rest. It’s ok to rest. Additionally, maybe consider exploring ways to make your practice more efficient so you can do more with less time. Also, you might ponder where the pressure is coming from. Is it coming from you? Are you imagining that you have to practice constantly? Is your teacher communicating that? If so, you might want to have an honest talk with them and try to set boundaries for your own health. -Jason Bergman

    How can I use my practice sessions most effectively to make the most progress with the time I have? How can I improve my time management and stay truly focused while practicing?

    • Great question. A couple things help me with this. First, making a plan before I practice helps me to stay on track. For a long time, I kept a practice journal and would write down all that I wanted to do in each practice session. This helped me stay on track and only do the things I needed to. Second, recording myself allowed me to listen back to how I really sounded and I would take notes about what I needed to improve. That helped me focus on my weaknesses and I got better quicker. Third, can you create exercises that incorporate various techniques so that you’re doing more than one thing at a time? For example on the trumpet, I use scales to help me practice my articulation, range, technique, and sound. One scale can improve many things. -Jason Bergman

    How can I overcome the self-doubt and fear that are constantly a part of practicing and performing?

    • That’s a hard one. I struggle with that, too. A few things help me. First, understand my true worth. I now know that I’m not defined by what comes out of my trumpet bell. If I play well or poorly, it doesn’t mean I’m an awesome or pathetic person. Do you understand that difference? Know who you are and stick with that. Second, let go of perfection. Accept where you are right now on your journey. Perfection is the worst thing we can seek. Acceptance of who you are is much more healthy. I promise it’s good enough! Third, try to give yourself permission to focus on the good. When someone compliments you, believe them. Fourth, as I have already mentioned, extend love and grace to yourself. You are wonderful, worthy, and good exactly as you are right now. Giving yourself grace and permission to accept that is a big step to finding peace. -Jason Bergman

    • Remember what your practicing is for and focus on that. You are practicing to improve upon the talents your Father gave you so that you can use them to glorify Him and let His light shine through you! Self-doubt and fear are NOT of God - they are tools of the adversary he uses to undermine our eternal goals and perspective! -Mark Ammons

    If you know you have a limited amount of time to prepare for a performance, what practice techniques do you utilize?

    • 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
  • How do we, in a program (and future profession) that focuses so much on performance and refining our craft, find a healthy approach to striving for excellence and not fall into the trap of perfectionism?

    • I think I can provide insight to all of these with an experience I had as an undergraduate. I also felt it was my expectation that I achieve perfection in my craft —perfect tone, perfect languages, perfect appearance, etc. Near the end of my undergrad, a dear mission friend gave me a blessing. I was counseled, “You will not sing perfectly until you have a perfected body. This gift of music was present before your earth life, and your job is to train your physical body to catch up to the spiritual gift.” (my paraphrasing) I had multiple reactions to this — frustration, relief, and understanding. Would I never have a perfect performance? Probably not in this life. So, I could quit expecting it, while continuing to train my physical body to catch up. This was not a flipped switch in that I never again struggled with perfectionism (it runs deep!). But it served as a reminder that perfectionism was not the goal, but growth over time was the goal. I can testify that growth pays off, and eternal perspective pays double! -Diane Reich

    • I don't know that I have dealt with perfectionism per se, but I have had to process many difficult emotions over the years about my work as a musician. Probably the thing that has helped me most has been to think of my music as a gift to those around me. I try not to think of doing the music for myself or for my career, but rather I try to think of that one person who might come to my event, who needs a boost of hope. Someone there will be carrying a burden, and if my music can inspire and lift them, my work will have been worth it. My greatest joy as a musician is hoping that someone, sometime, will be touched by what I do. If I can dedicate my performance to those around me, and do it prayerfully, the Lord will make up for my imperfection. That thought inspires me to strive for excellence. -Neil Thornock

    • This is super hard, especially in our culture. I constantly tell myself that perfection is not the goal. In fact, I try to eliminate that awful word and concept from my vocabulary. And, if I’m honest, I don’t even consider it a part of the gospel. It’s so destructive. A few things help me… First, I try to remember why I chose to do music. Do you remember why you chose music? For me, I love the thrill of performing and of collaborating with others. Focusing on that helps me to stop focusing on myself. Second, I also work daily to reaffirm that I’m good enough as I am right now. Not in a way that I am content, but in a way that says I know I’m growing and have room to grow, but there’s not a destination. I’m constantly growing and becoming. I’m going to enjoy the journey right now in this moment. And finally, move away from perfection entirely. Throw that concept out because it’s so damaging and unhelpful. - Jason Bergman

    Striving for excellence in this competitive major and career and taking care of my mental health so I can enjoy my life feel like two mutually exclusive pursuits. How can I navigate and balance these things?

    • Try to bring your music into a healthy perspective so that performing is actually part of your mental health in a positive way. Have something on your stand that always is for you, something that makes you happy. For me, sometimes that’s dabbling with Mariachi, or natural trumpet, or jazz improv - these are all things I’m not really good at, but they’re just fun. Try to be self aware of when things are out of balance. If it’s not healthy, talk to a trusted friend or teacher. Talk to a therapist. There is help out there to enable us to get things back on track. Don’t disregard your health out of some imagined suffering you think you need to do. -Jason Bergman

    I know I have potential but I also know I’m nowhere near where I want to be or feel I should be. How do I deal with the gap between where I am now and where I want to be?

    • I recently played a short recital for a small, local audience. I was performing a few pieces I'd played frequently before and another piece I was performing for the first time. After the performance I found myself re-hashing how everything went. I was very dissatisfied with my performance of the new piece. I found myself going over the specific places that didn't go so well. Although assessing performances is a useful practice, I found myself experiencing some negativity and frustration. While I was in this negative frame of mind, the host of the recital called me and thanked me for the recital. And told me that one of the audience members (someone I didn't know) had just lost her husband - the funeral had been just a few weeks earlier. This grieving audience member told the host that the new piece I had played felt like "heaven" to her and helped her feel peace. It was a reminder that my performances aren't about "me." Music is a language of communication and has the power to touch peoples' hearts, and heal peoples' hearts - EVEN through a performance that needs work. I still practiced over those spots that needed work, but the negativity I had felt completely went away when I remembered why I was doing it. I felt gratitude for the beauty music has brought into my life - even when our individual performances still need some work. The next time I performed that same new piece I found myself imagining an audience member who might be hurting and needing to hear/experience something beautiful through the music. -Stephen Beus

    • I feel inadequate every day. When I was younger, I thought I would grow out of those feelings when I had a stable job, when I had certain skills, etc. Nope, it's never gone away. I suppose I don't really know how I deal with it. I talk about it with people I love, pretty frequently, even these days. Finding joy in what I *am* capable of, and finding joy in others' successes, helps me. Turning to the Lord when I am in need of a boost has always helped me feel that I am loved, even if I have fallen short. -Neil Thornock

    • Perspective helps with this. First of all, there is no specific time when you’re “supposed” to arrive, to be there. Instead of focusing on a destination, focus on the present. Be involved with there you are right now, know it’s good enough, and then have the patience to grow into what you want to become. The image of a plant or tree is helpful. When you plant a tree, it’s always growing but it takes years to be fully mature and to provide shelter or shade. Just because it’s not there yet doesn’t mean it’s worthless. It still houses birds and animals, provides fruit, and protection while it’s young. Perspective helps you to see the now and the future and realize it’s ok to be in the middle. -Jason Bergman

    How can one have a realistic mindset about their level of expertise while still striving for improvement?

    • 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

    • I find myself losing motivation if I’m not trying to be perfect, but I get heartbroken if I reach too high and fail. How do you balance not being perfect and yet striving for perfection? I have completely let go of perfection. It doesn’t exist. It’s an oasis. It’s Santa Claus. It’s the tooth fairy. It doesn’t lead to joy, happiness, or even good performances. I do not seek any balance with it because it’s not healthy for me. Of course, I want to improve and get better. I work really hard to do so. I have clear goals I’m still working for. However, I never see any of them as a destination, especially not a perfect one. There’s not a single perfect thing out there, so stop chasing it. I don’t mean to be harsh, but I think if you can look at improvement as a healthy and positive way to live, you will experience less anxiety and disappointment associated with trying to be perfect. -Jason Bergman

    I find myself losing motivation if I’m not trying to be perfect, but I get heartbroken if I reach too high and fail. How do you balance not being perfect and yet striving for perfection? 

    • 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

    What do you when you put in what you thought was your best work to prepare but your performance feels poor or unsatisfying anyway?

    • 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
  • Is there such a thing as healthy perfectionism or is it all bad?

    • One of the most challenging teachings of Jesus Christ for those who have chosen the path of discipleship is found in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus, as recorded by Matthew, says: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Our incomplete understanding of the term perfect has led so many in this dispensation to give up or throw in the towel with statements like "I can never be perfect, so what's the use trying?" or "I guess I'm just destined to never make it back home to Father because I will never be good enough." Statements and feelings such as these are NOT from God, rather from the adversary! The Greek translation of perfect means complete, finished, or fully developed - NOT free of blemish, error-free, having no mistakes or flaws. The adversary uses and will continue to use self-doubt, harsh self-criticism, and self-recrimination to blur our vision of what and who we can become. We must always understand who we are and who and what we can become according to GOD'S perception, NOT the world's perception. We must keep the properly prioritized perspective! These need to be our guiding principles:

    We are children of Heavenly Father who loves us and only wants us to have joy and succeed in what He has asked us to do and return to Him.

    When we are baptized, we become disciples of Jesus Christ. By entering the path of discipleship, a path that is not always easy, we are promised that He will be there to help us every step of the way.

    As disciples, our singular goal must be to help bring others to Him. EVERYTHING WE DO should be centered upon sharing His light with those around us and throughout the world. 

    When we focus on seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, EVERYTHING WILL WORK TOGETHER FOR OUR GOOD! 

    -Mark Ammons

    • For me, I don’t see anything healthy about it. Seeking perfectionism can help us to achieve a lot and be successful; however, in my experience, most folks usually end up with devastating side-effects. Depression, anger, and so many other things, generally because they’re not meeting their own unrealistic expectations. I try to focus on the process of learning and growing, and not the results or outcomes associated with perfection. Perfection indicates that you’ve arrived and have nothing left to improve. That’s just not reality. I’d let go of perfection all together. -Jason Bergman

    • 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). (,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

    Is it possible to progress musically without perfectionism?

    • Absolutely!  My teacher Carolos Barbosa-Lima said, "the quest for excellence is good, but the quest for perfection is neurotic".  Do the best you can. -Lawrence Green

    • If you think about it, the Atonement is based on failure--that is, there is an expectation that each of us will fail in our lives.  The plan is that we learn and grow from and beyond our failures, and move line upon line, moving forward along the path of eternal progression toward what we can become.  Failure is natural part of the process of being human.  Failure is a part of the process of progression, part of the process of improving, part of the process of learning.  It's part of the plan.  In learning, any learning but of course in progressing musically, failure is a natural part of the process.  Have you ever watched a young person learn to ride a bike for the first time?  Did you expect her or him to get up on the bike and ride off like a professional the first time?  Of course not!  Most often, the child will fall and fall, but eventually will get a few more inches, then a foot or two, then a few more feet.  Over time, often with a parent providing support and encouragement, and persistent effort, the child will go further and further, until, eventually, the child is a pro with no memory of all the failures at the beginning, only the joy of riding.  Any learning process is the same, at least for the vast majority of us.  Celebrate even the small inches of progress in your musical progression.  Make sure you are being honest in your focus and time spent to improve, and see failure as more information to work with, not as a judgment on your worth. -Rob Dunn

    What are some specific exercises, techniques, or habits that help you let go of perfectionism?

    • I recently read an article about the perfectionist attitude and learning to let it go. It talked all about how we often treat ourselves as a coin, consisting of two sides. When one side is flipped, you feel you are doing well, like on those days where your lesson goes great, or when you get an A on an assignment and you feel like the smartest kid in the room. When the coin is flipped to this side, it is easy to feel like you are above or better than your peers, and to gain confidence from these achievements. The other side of the coin, however, comes when your lesson doesn’t go so great, or when you receive a score below the class average. This side of the coin is filled with resentment towards oneself, and feelings of jealousy and frustration. The key point to this analogy, however, is that the whole coin is counterfeit. Our worth does not come from our achievements, just as much as it does not come from our failures. Our worth is who we truly are as an individual, and who we are striving to become. My advice to you would be to continue to set goals for yourself and strive to achieve them, but recognize when you are falling into the trap of the coin analogy, and never forget that your true worth and value comes from something much more important. -Louisa Porter

    • Overall, I would recommend the book “Effortless Mastery” by Kenny Werner.  He is a renowned jazz pianist and addresses this very thing in detail.  Self-talk/criticism is the plague of our day when it comes to professional musicians.  “Do I sound good?” is the modern musician’s mantra.  He discusses a completely different mindset that actually coincides with gospel principles such as humbling yourself, serving out of love and not obligation or personal gain, and receiving the abundance of the Creator into your life. As a musician, you really have to find the niche that works best for you.  I, for example, found that I enjoy writing music much more than performing.  Writing for me is a way to premeditate improvisation.  I can work out all the musical problems ahead of time and present it to the performer(s).  While there is an element of uncertainty, surprise, and even nerves connected with this process, it is significantly less than performing for me.  When I discovered this, I ran with it and am glad I did. -Nathan Hofheins

    Are there any pedagogical methods that put students at risk for developing perfectionistic tendencies? How can I implement them as a future teacher?

    • I think any method can lead to perfectionism. Your expectations and the way you evaluate are probably the most important ways to counter it. As a teacher, praise growth, genuine learning, and offer support when students fail. Teach them how to learn from that without feeling that their failure is a reflection of their true self. As a teacher, you can make a HUGE impact in your students and lead them away from perfection. Model that it’s ok to make mistakes. -Jason Bergman

    • 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. ( 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
  • How can I cope with mistakes while I’m striving for the highest level of professionalism in my playing?

    • Be honest. Everyone makes mistakes and it’s ok. That doesn’t mean that you lower your standards of excellence, however, you realize that they happen. Try to have a sense of humor and realize that growing and learning is what we’re supposed to be doing. That’s healthy and natural. Also, be kind to yourself. Extend grace to yourself. Love yourself. -Jason Bergman

    How can I accept that mistakes are a natural part of progress and a part of life as a musician?

    • Just do it. Do you like the gospel that way? Isn’t the atonement there to help us learn and grow and change? Those same principles apply to our musical mistakes. If you try to be perfect in the gospel, you deny the atonement. Don’t make that mistake on your instrument. Just accept it and love it. It’s ok!! -Jason Bergman

    • 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
  • How do you define your value/worth as a musician?

    • If you make others happy when you play, you are totally worthy as a musician, no matter your level.  Go play at a rest home; you will feel the gratitude of your listeners and you will also be grateful for the talents you have. -Lawrence Green

    • In a choir devotional many years ago, one of our singers said something along these lines: "When we perform, our goal should be to bless, not impress."  I had had some personal experiences that had given me some insight into that on the shortcomings of singing only to impress.  When I had humbled myself, and approached singing after praying that I might use my musical gift to inspire and uplift, I was a much different person on that stage, and I have had some of the most spiritual experiences of my life performing to bless, and not worrying about the impress aspect.  Of course, in juries and other situations, you must impress to some degree, and that has its place.  But ultimately, the degree that you can hone your skills with the desire to bless will matter a great deal in the way you feel about your worth as a musician. - Rob Dunn
    • Do not define your value or your worth through your music making. You are more than just a musician; you are more than just the quality of your last performance. Please, get a hobby that you love. You may not have much time to dedicate to it now, but it will pay dividends throughout your life. Of all the professional musicians I know, the ones who only have music in their lives (no other hobbies or interests) are miserable. And they make the musicians around them miserable. So, go outside; ride a bike, ski or run. Get into cooking, painting, or fixing up your car. Just do something that isn’t related to your instrument. Of course, we’re telling you to “practice, practice, practice,” and you should, but you need something else in your life too. -Brian Blanchard

    • I don’t. I define my worth as a human, as a man, and as a son of God. There is so much more to my life and myself than being a musician. That’s a really important part of me, but not everything. Now, specifically as a musician, I feel that if I’m doing the best I can, striving, then I’m in a good, healthy place. I avoid comparing myself to others, but rather try to grow from where I was before. -Jason Bergman

    • Keeping sight of who we are and who we can become in the light of the gospel tells us what our worth is and keeps us from comparing ourselves to others. We don't want to be "just like someone else"! We should simply want to be the best "us" we can become! -Mark Ammons

    What are things I can do to reinforce my confidence as a musician?

    • Celebrate all the successes, the wins, the goals you accomplish. Forgive yourself when you fall short. Extend grace to yourself. Love yourself. Have fun. You are doing the best thing in the world! Enjoy it! -Jason Bergman
  • I sometimes envy another musician’s skills or life. How do I remember my own worth and find peace and joy in the place I am at now?

    • If you find yourself comparing your musicianship or other skills against others, you’re not alone! Things like orchestra seating, performance opportunities, and hearing others play at masterclass can make it hard not to. Here’s a few suggestions:
      • When you notice yourself comparing to another, feel joy for them! Express it to them, too- “wow, congrats on winning that solo, you really deserve it!” Music is not a zero-sum world- someone winning does not mean that we lose. Let’s all try to encourage each other more.
      • Take some way at the beginning, middle, and end of the year to track YOUR progress! It can be specific music goals, a recording of your playing, a list of pieces you want to go after, the skies the limit! But some physical way to track your progress can help you see the progress you ARE making and keep you more focused on your own self-improvement. I know that I for one am more motivated and excited to practice when I have goals I’m working towards!
      • If you’re envying other’s opportunities, make some for yourself! Perform at Concerts at Noon. Join the Student Advisory Council and find ways to help other musicians more included. Gather your music friends and put on a benefit concert. Arrange some of your own sacred music to play in church and post a recording on Facebook! A little bit of creativity can go a long way in creating fun opportunities to share your talents with others and making music more meaningful for you.

       -Brooke Baird

    • 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

    How can I feel good about my progress as a musician as a freshman when I am surrounded by people with a lot more skill?

    • You are doing an amazing job as a Freshman. You're here in the School of Music. You are succeeding. You are growing. One day you will be the senior that new freshmen look up to. I promise you'll get there. Ask those Seniors for feedback and advice. Don't be afraid to ask them what potential they see in you. Ask your studio teacher to help you recognize the progress you've made. Ask him or her which former students have played the same pieces you're learning. Reach out to them and ask them for feedback on your performance. You'll be developing friendships that will be a strength through your whole career. And when you become a Senior, look out for the new Freshmen. Be their friend. Reach out to them and tell them what you admire about their music. The friendships in our studios and across the School of Music uplift us all. -Bailey Jorgensen Frame

    How can I connect with others when it feels like my peers are doing so much better than I am?

    • One thing I love about working at BYU is that my faculty colleagues are so tremendously supportive of each other. I of course notice when one of my colleagues seems to be having more success than me. Or maybe they get opportunities I wish I had. But I have made an effort to attend their events and to express my genuine joy in their successes. I make sure to take time to compliment their work and to share anything about their performance that especially touched my heart. In the end, I feel much better celebrating my friends' successes with them. -Neil Thornock

    • Can’t you celebrate their success without it defining your own? A true friend celebrates others’ victories. Support them and encourage them. Chances are they’ll do the same for you. Your self worth isn’t defined by someone else’s success or failures. It’s never a loss to be kind. If you genuinely show interest in them and focus on them, you’ll find your way to a healthy relationship. -Jason Bergman

    It’s hard to really know if I’m progressing without comparing myself to others. How do I accurately gauge my personal progress without comparing myself to others?

    • I had a vocalist friend who one day realized that no matter how much he practiced or developed his voice and musicality, his voice would never sound like so-and-so's voice.  It was impossible.  He struggled for a few months with that realization.  He finally decided that he should be grateful for his gift from Heavenly Father, and that developing his skills the best he could was his mission--no one else's.  I believe he found this understanding by increasing his spiritual connections and prayer.  Once his focus changed from wanting to be as good as someone else to becoming the best musician he could, his life changed.  He was able to celebrate other's gifts and progress, just as he was able to do for himself.  And he prayed for doors to open for him to bless the lives of others.  He has had a successful music career as a soloist and choral director.  It's almost impossible to look back and objectively see if you are progressing.  Keeping evidence will help you see that you make progress.  Recording yourself during each semester at the beginning, middle and end, for example.  You can keep recordings of a piece from when you first sing/play it, and steps along the way until you are performance ready.  Keeping a few recordings from every semester will allow you to go back and listen for yourself to judge your progression.  I have found this invaluable, particularly for those times that I can hear non-progress or even sliding back--that realization helped me get back on top of what was important and keeping focused. -Rob Dunn
  • I have always suffered from a debilitating form of performance anxiety. What are some resources or techniques to combat anxiety while performing?

    • I included some resources above. But I highly recommend speaking with your studio teacher about it. There are exercises and helpful resources they can guide you to use. -Erin Bailey
  • Sometimes I feel overlooked by my professor because I’m not a performance major and don’t feel like he’s as invested in my musical journey, especially when I hear things he talks about with other people in my studio. Any advice?

    • I hope you’re not in my studio. If you are, I’m terribly sorry if I’ve made you feel this way. That’s not how I feel. I would encourage you to have an honest conversation with your teacher. Communication is really important and a caring teacher will want to make sure you experience what you’re hoping for. I know that’s how I feel. My advice is always to communicate. That can be scary, but it’s the only way to express your feelings and see results the quickest. -Jason Bergman

    Why is it so much harder to play well for my lesson than it is at home?

    • The brain is a funny thing.  If you get used to a location for something like practice, it becomes attuned to the context, comfortable, if you will.  When you change the context (that can be the actual location, or adding people who are listening), the brain has to adjust or it will make mistakes.  One way to do this is to practice in different locations.  Another is to perform for people often to get experience being judged (listened to) by others--grab a roommate for five minutes, volunteer to perform in church, etc.  Eventually, you can become habituated to change, and you also may find that you don't know a piece well enough to perform it in a different context, so more or more effective rehearsal is in order. -Rob Dunn 

    • I think the situation is different. In your lesson, it’s time to perform and show what you’ve worked on. That adds pressure. You’re also probably thinking about what they are thinking about your performance. You’re worried about judgment. I’d encourage you to focus on thinking in a different way, from a different perspective. Instead of worrying what your teacher thinks of you, put yourself in a space to go for it, and then be ok with correction. If you’re humble, you’ll be ok with making mistakes and trying to get better. And, talk to your teacher. Maybe there are things she/he can do to help you feel more comfortable. If you’re in my studio, we can absolutely talk about this and find ways to help you succeed. -Jason Bergman
  • How do I move forward when I’m constantly beating myself up?

    • Keep in mind that Heavenly Father wants us to feel peace. Do you think He would be as hard on you as you are on yourself? No, because He is infinitely compassionate. I suspect that you also feel compassion for others. Try having compassion for yourself and allow yourself to let go of self-defeating thoughts. Draw on your relationship with Christ and the power of His atonement to help you with this. And, if you feel very stuck, seek additional help or counseling. Also, recognize that the small things matter - each minute spent practicing or doing homework or reading scriptures or exercising is growth and it all adds up. President Monson was known for saying "Life by the yard is hard; by the inch, it's a cinch." I tell myself that all the time. The inches matter. -Emilee Knell

    • 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

    How can I best show compassion towards my peers who struggle with perfectionism and other stress and anxiety?

    • Be a kind, supportive friend. -Rob Dunn

    • I completely understand this feeling- I didn't face the struggles of perfectionism, comparison, stress, anxiety, etc until I began my senior year when my disinterest in performance began to arise. Before that year, I didn't understand the struggles everyone around me faced. Now having been on both sides of the struggle, I understand how to help others better. The first is to be willing to be a listening ear. Everyone handles their struggles differently and many people need to talk through what they're facing. Having someone willing to listen means more than some may realize. Second, understand that the struggles your peers are facing are real and validate what they're feeling. Therapy teaches us to validate our own and others' feelings and struggles- this applies here. Just doing these two things will make a world of difference. -BYU Student

    • For me, this is one of the most important lessons you can learn. Show love, compassion and kindness. It doesn’t matter who, what, or how someone else acts or is. Just love them. Nobody should have to qualify for kindness, it should be offered universally. How do you do it? Just do it. Now, specifically about showing compassion for people with those issues, listening is really important. If you can listen to them without trying to fix them, they’ll feel heard and you’ll likely learn what it’s like in their shoes. That will help you develop compassion and empathy. Listening is a great first step. -Jason Bergman

    • Here is one of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis - "It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit..." Not only are others with whom we interact every day of our lives destined to be immortals and perfected beings, but we ourselves are also such. -Mark Ammons