The Power in NOT Being Perfect

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I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed no one would come in.  

I felt tension in my chest and adrenaline coursing through my veins. 

My eyes widened as I surveyed the room.

Good - no one was there, yet. 

And then I heard footsteps.

Not scary footsteps like from a horror movie. But the gentle tips toes of women's feet in cushy barre socks. 

Yep, I was there to teach my very first barre class. 

I felt shaky in my legs. My throat was dry. My eyes were darting around the room nervously. 

As several more women entered the class, the clock struck noon. It was go-time. 

Ready or not, it was time to start the class. 

I hit play on the sound system. 

Music blasted from the speakers. I started leading the class in the warm-up. 

As I moved through the planks and push-ups, my shoulders relaxed away from my ears.

I even got a couple of women to crack a smile.

So far, so good. My first class was going according to plan. 

About 15 minutes in, we arrived at the most important part of the class -- the "thigh section." Think lots of ballet-inspired moves and lunges. 

I took a big breath. This was the most important part of the class. 

The make or break section. 

If the warm-up was the appetizer, the "thigh section" was the meat and potatoes. 

I adjusted my microphone, cleared my throat and stared cueing.

I knew this part cold. 

Or so I thought...

But, when I looked around, my eyes widened. 

All the women at the barre were facing different directions. 

Legs and arms were flying wildly everywhere. It looked like absolute chaos. 

This was not what I envisioned in my months of practice leading up to this moment. 


One woman was facing the wall. Another woman was facing the back door. 

One woman huffed, rolled her eyes and started doing a different type of exercise from the rest of the group. 

Another glared at me when the person next to her almost smacked her in the face. 

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw two women look at each other with concerned glances. 

I nearly fainted watching people's legs bump into each other. 

Sweat gathered on my brow. I felt panic in my chest. 

The train had left the station and it wasn't looking pretty. I had cued people to face different directions. A classic rookie mistake. 

I tried to resolve the situation by throwing a Hail Mary and saying, "Hey, everyone let's face this way," pointing vaguely in one direction. 

No one listened. 

Next, I tried turning the music way up.

It only made things more chaotic. No one could hear what the heck I was saying. 

You know when you know you're bombing, but you're trying to save your pride? It was like that.

My voice was high-pitched and shaky throughout the rest of the class.

And my thoughts were racing with ways I could redeem myself. 

But, what was done was done. The minutes dragged on.

Finally, after what felt like hours, the last song on the playlist ended. Thank God. 

The class was over. Sigh. 

The women left the room one by one. Some of them gave me sympathetic glances. Most of them kept their heads down. 

And when I was alone in the room once again, I let out a deep exhale. 

I was mad at myself for the mess-up. I wished it hadn't happened. In fact, I'm pretty sure I beat myself up for a couple days after. 

But, let me tell you --  I never made the same mistake again of cueing people the wrong way. 


The bonus was that I bonded with my fellow trainees who said encouraging things after like, "Hey, that could've been me!" and "Thank you for making that mistake for the rest of us!"

Was it how I pictured my first class going after months of training?

Absolutely not. 

Plus, I was in full-blown perfectionist mode at this point in my life. 

But, there's power in doing something new and NOT doing it perfectly. 

You learn from it. You move forward. You realize you'll be okay no matter what. 

And all these years later, I love looking back at that now hilarious time I screwed up my first barre class.

I grew. And I developed the confidence that only comes with knowing you can survive your mistakes. 

It's a good reminder to my inner perfectionist to just go for it. 

These days I get scared doing stuff that may seem bigger than my first time teaching a fitness class.

Life, relationships, putting myself out there, making changes, etc. 

But underneath it all, the fear is the same. The fear of not being perfect. The fear of making mistakes. 

I'm a stubborn Taurus, after all. I can come up with loads of excuses around why I "shouldn't" do new things. 

But, it's important to remember that when you're moving forward on big and small things, you're making progress. Even if you don't do them "perfectly."

You can mess up and you're okay no matter what.  

So, if you're scared of doing something new: moving, changing jobs, putting yourself out there -- that's okay.

You're not alone.

Fear is all a part of the dance. 

Love it, own it, recognize it....and then go for it. 

And if you mess up? At least you'll have lessons learned and a funny story to tell :) 


From my heart to yours, 

Devon McLeod, LCSW
Holistic Psychotherapist
www.devonmcleod.com



PS I love this video of Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, talking about her perspective on failure. Her dad used to ask her what she FAILED at every day. Click here for her refreshing video.