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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at KU chapter.

When does self-improvement mutate into toxic perfectionism? This negative shift can be a problem in many circumstances in life. As a dancer, I’ve dealt with this struggle and know how it feels when your mind becomes your nemesis in the studio.

In this article, I will share my experiences regarding perfectionism and how I’ve learned to overcome it through shifting my headspace.

Defining Perfectionism

Perfectionism is characterized as the obsession to continuously aim for perfection while being overly critical of oneself. There is a fairly vast difference in striving towards improvement and striving towards flawlessness. Being able to identify and differentiate these details is important. Self-improvement centers around positive, motivating thoughts while perfectionism circulates around self-deprecation and stress. Thus, setting high standards for yourself is great when you have a positive mindset but can be exhausting when in the realm of toxic perfectionism.

From a Dancer’s Point of View

I have been dancing for over 10 years and absolutely adore this athletic art form. It brings me comfort and serves as an outlet to express myself through movement. Today, I walk into the studio with an open heart and mind, ready to grow and improve. If you had known me a few years ago, I would have walked in with the intentions to grow and improve, but my bright attitude would be clouded by the stresses of trying to be “perfect.”

To put this feeling with an image, it is almost as if I was walking a tightrope. Obviously, the goal when walking a tightrope is to stay perfectly balanced and stabilized to reach the end goal. If I didn’t like my leg line in the mirror or fell out of a turn, I felt as if I was losing my balance, unable to attain the perfection I wanted in the end. I would get down on myself and let the negative thoughts win. Instead of dance being something that brought me joy, this force of perfectionism became toxic and made me feel defeated. I know I am not alone in my experiences and have empathy for others who might feel this way; I’ve been there, and it isn’t fun.

How I Fix My Mindset

It definitely took some time for me to change my way of thinking. I use the phrase “process over perfection” to describe this shift in a nutshell. I know it might sound cliche, but implementing these words in the dance studio has helped me realize how damaging my previous mindset was.

Instead of feeling guilty and deficient in my dancing when I made a mistake, I ask myself, “how can I grow from this and become a stronger dancer?” This works for me, preventing me from spiraling straight into degrading thoughts. I find that this method has made my love for dance even stronger because I am enjoying the journey of exploration, applying corrections with a healthy headspace and intention. As a result, I can accumulate these valuable learning experiences and add them in my gallery, improving my craft every day. Ultimately, thinking introspectively with the intention of positive self-improvement instead on meeting harmful, unrealistic standards of perfectionism has been a life changer for me.

Another way I deflect toxic perfection is by simply using humor. In my eyes, laughing off a mistake is better than dwelling on it. I use this method in addition to the one I mentioned above to keep my training purposeful while sprinkling some fun into it. Summing it up, I may laugh at myself when I mess up, but I make sure to actively think about how I can improve that thing without tearing myself down. Dance doesn’t have to be so serious; I started dancing because it was fun for me, so I always keep that value in mind.

Even though I am talking about my experience in dance, I use the same tools to reset my mind in many other aspects of my life.

Final Thoughts

Know that if you ever feel overwhelmed with this pressure to be perfect, you are not alone. Life is all about learning from mistakes and growing as you go. I hope you can take something from my experiences and how I’ve shifted into a healthier, more productive mindset.

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” -Harriet Braiker

International Association for Dance Medicine & Science
Rylee Brown is a part of the writing team at the Her Campus at KU chapter. She gravitates towards writing about pop culture, psychology, sociology, self-care and college life. Beyond Her Campus, Rylee is a member of the University Dance Company and Swift Society. She is also a part of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority at KU. She is currently a freshman in the honors program and majoring in Business Marketing and Strategic Communications. In her free time, Rylee loves to dance, write, listen to music and hang out with friends. Some of her favorite TV shows include The Office, The Bachelor/Bachelorette and The Summer I Turned Pretty, and one of her favorite movies is La La Land. Her favorite Taylor Swift albums are folklore and reputation. She has also been dancing for over 10 years in various different styles.