Perfectionism, Acceptance, and Self-Compassion in the Performing Arts

In my work both as a performer and a coach, nowadays I am encountering more and more the topics of perfectionism, acceptance, and self-compassion in preparation and in performance.

These terms are useful ones to explore; they’re valid terms which definitely have relevance to those in pursuit of peak performance. That said, they have the hallmarks of ‘buzz-words’; they’re sometimes thrown about colloquially while not being very well defined or explained, and are often used a bit out of context. I have observed that sometimes, when performing artists misinterpret these terms and mis-apply those interpretations to their own craft, the result can be worse performances, not better ones. I’d like to help clear this up.

Since I like drawing pretty pictures, let’s add some here:

There are some approaches to well-being and balance that sound really beautiful…


… but are awfully hard for a performing artist to integrate into their pursuit of delivering a finely-honed craft. How about this?



Or this?


This blog trilogy will aim to address some of the dissonance that performing artists experience in their quest for high-level performance:



We’ll hear from Evelyn Hart, former Prima Ballerina of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet on perfectionism. She oughta know!

We’ll talk about when good is good enough, and when it’s not.

We’ll pull from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, a reference of psychological diagnoses). We’ll define perfectionism and explore when it is debilitating… and when its not.

We’ll define and demystify the term “acceptance” – and you will probably be re-assured to learn that this does -not- entail anyone telling you that you’re supposed to love it when you suck. (We all suck sometimes, and there are few things more annoying than being told to embrace your suckitude when you’ve just crashed at a performance. Sucking sucks. Let’s not pretend otherwise.)

Finally, we’ll talk about self-compassion, and how this is a very useful complement to what I am going to label “Productive Perfectionism”.

At the end of it, I hope you’ll go into your preparation and practice with a renewed sense of curiosity, commitment, and yes, attention to detail.

Stay tuned! Part 1 in the trilogy is coming soon! (You can re-visit this page on your own time, or you can click here to subscribe.)