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When we create, we often strive for perfection. We want our work to be the best it can be, and so we agonize over every detail. But sometimes, this quest for perfectionism can hold us back from actually finishing anything at all. So how can we overcome our perfectionism and make music that is still beautiful and meaningful? Here are some tips… 

Define what perfectionism means to you

Perfectionism is perhaps the greatest creative adversary we experience when making music. It’s an incessant need to reach a certain standard, an unspoken threshold of our own making to prove our worth — that if and only if we can ascend to this place of perfect approval will we consider ourselves successful. Yet perfectionism can inflict feelings of imposter syndrome, where we hold ourselves up to near-unattainable expectations, in turn derailing our creative experience. How do we begin to write a composition or create a mix if expecting immaculacy before it’s even begun? Finding the courage and strength to embrace the intermediary stages without judgment is essential for us to truly experience intuitive music-making — wherever on our journey around the sun.

When working to overcome perfectionism when making music, it's important to define what perfect means to you and how much it impacts your creative experience. Ask yourself: What does excellence mean for me? How can I practice self-compassion and find the balance between perfectionism and excellence? How much can I practice the art of loving the process of creating versus vying for perfection? These questions can help you identify your motivations and create a healthy mindset for creating music.

Understand that the pursuit of perfectionism is often driven by fear

Perfectionism can be a mask for fear. We often use it to protect ourselves from taking risks, from putting ourselves out there, and from facing our uncertainty. But if we can learn to understand the divide between perfectionism and excellence — and practice discernment in this area — we can begin to create music with intention, without the added pressure of an impossible standard. Excellence is a journey that celebrates our efforts and rewards us for taking risks; it encourages us to practice self-compassion and look upon our work with kindness. It allows us to refine what’s already good to reach a place of pure expression.

To the anxiety-prone musician, trying to capture a perfect sound or performance is a fear-driven quest, misconstruing satisfaction for something higher and ignoring the potential humanization of imperfection. However, rather than seeing anxiety as an obstacle we have to overcome in pursuit of perfection, perhaps embracing it with enthusiasm can free us up to create more compelling content. Instead of fearing what could go wrong, explore the unknown together and mine raw creative potential while striving to understand anxiety as simply an excited anticipation of a discovery waiting just around the corner. 

Accept that imperfection is part of the human condition

Daring to accept imperfection as an integral part of the human experience is a beautiful reminder of Amor Fati — our ability to embrace and adore our mortal flaws, no matter how much it may hurt. To make music is to embrace amor fati, and revel in the mistakes, the imperfections. Don’t be too quick to write off those imperfections; they may just turn out to be precisely what you needed in the first place! Embrace life's unexpected gifts, and learn to love all its surprises. What may initially seem daunting can often be a blessing in disguise.

Learn to embrace your own unique voice and style

Nobody can replace you — you are a unique being with an abundantly special story, work ethic and sound you can offer to the world of music. Learning to embrace your own style and voice is key to mastering the craft of making music — it's not about achieving perfection but embracing you as you are. Don't let perfectionism stifle you; take your time, reflect on your vision and craftsmanship, and trust yourself. Remember that you are completely irreplaceable – nobody else has what you have to offer.

Let go of the need for approval from others

We all want feedback on our work. We crave social media likes and validation to boost us in the face of our insecurity. But this need for approval often clouds our judgment, causing us to overanalyze every tiny detail, desperate to make a song perfect. Perhaps it's time to realize perfection is unattainable, and that everyone — even those that seem bulletproof — is riddled with self-doubts. Forget about social media metrics and give yourself the freedom to create without fear of judgment. Let go of the need for social approval and you’ll be well on your way to conquering perfectionism when making music.

Practice self-compassion and forgiveness

In the pursuit of perfecting your music production, mindfulness and grace will serve as invaluable attributes that carry you through the experience. One of the most profound gifts we can give ourselves is self-compassion, granting us the freedom to grow in our creative journeys without exhausting remorse or fear of failure. A beautiful way to foster a supportive relationship with yourself and your craft is to imagine yourself being mentored with a compassionate and understanding perspective — treat yourself with the same empathy you could share and teach a dear friend in their pursuits. By engaging in mindfulness when creating music, it’s possible to bridge perfectionism with true passion and genuine progress.

To sum it up

We all have a little bit of perfectionism in us — it's part of being human. And when it comes to making music, this trait can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, striving for virtuosity can push us to achieve amazing things; on the other hand, it can also lead to anxiety, frustration, and even paralysis if we're not careful. If you find yourself struggling with perfectionism in your musical pursuits, remember these six tips: define what perfectionism means to you; understand that it's often driven by fear; accept that imperfection is part of life; learn to embrace your own unique voice and style; let go of the need for approval from others; and practice self-compassion and forgiveness. By applying these principles, you'll be on your way to conquering perfectionism and creating beautiful music that only YOU can make.

 

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If you're looking for more ways to love your creative journey and express yourself through music, check out our other articles about being an artist. Here, you'll find helpful tips on how to break away from perfectionism to fully embrace your craft — and reap the rewards of self-satisfaction that come with a job well done. So, take a deep breath and dive into the world of music-making — with an open heart and curiosity.