Perfection Isn't the Point | Episode 7

Perfection Isn't the Point | Episode 7

In this episode, Kimber talks about her background in music and the idea that we are expected to "perform" for others. She explores questions around shame as a motivator, perfection as a goal, and choosing to do things for the love of them.


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Perfect Isn't the Point


[00:00:00] Intro

Kimber: Welcome back to the Just Be Your Bad Self podcast, where you get to show up imperfectly, make space for your authentic self, remember your inner child and sink into the magic of the present moment. I'm your host, Kimber Dutton. And today I'll be telling you why perfection isn't the point.

Most of you listening to my podcast right now, at the release of this episode are people who know me personally, and anyone who knows me personally knows that music is a huge part of my life.

I sing, I play the violin and piano. I dabble on the guitar and ukulele. I've taught music lessons. I've taught school choirs and orchestras, and I am very involved in local community theaters, directing music for shows. I love music and I always have

My mom says that I could sing before I could talk. And that I used to sing myself to sleep at night.

[00:01:03] My Beginnings in Music

Kimber: Growing up music was always a big part of my life because my mom loved it. She had a group, a music performing group called sound celebration. When we lived in Virginia. I was about five years old. When I started participating in, it may be a little younger and my mom was always so confused that I would audition for these solos, that she would hear me singing all the time at home.

And then when it came time to practice and perform, I did not like singing in front of a group. My mom is. She loves connecting with an audience and she's a great performer. And so it always really confused her that I love to sing so much and that I was good at it, even as a small child, but that I didn't love that performance aspect of it.

I've always been that way. And I still am that way that I love to sing. I love this creative process, but I don't necessarily like that performance part of it.

That's not where the joy is in it for me, but anyways, moving on, I. I sang when I was small, I started playing piano. When I was about five or six, my mom started teaching me piano lessons, and then I begged to take a Piccolo lessons. I wanted to learn to play the Piccolo. And my mom told me you could only play like two songs on the Piccolo.

Don't choose the Piccolo. And so eventually I settled on wanting to play the violin and I started taking violin lessons when I was eight, the problem is I only saw my violin teacher in the summers. She lived in Utah and at the time we were in Fort Irwin, California.Right by Barstow. We moved a lot because my dad was a military doctor.

So I keep, when I keep saying all these different places we lived, that's why. So we lived in California. My teacher was in Utah because there is nothing in the middle of the desert in California. So

[00:02:55] Perfectionism and Shame in Music

Kimber: I only got lessons in the summer, which meant that I picked up a lot of bad habits. When you teach yourself something and you don't have a coach or someone there kind of holding your hand It's a longer process and you don't have someone to correct you when you are making bad besnakes... bad mistakes.

And with the violin my bowhold, wasn't great. A lot of my posture stuff. Wasn't great. And I didn't have that constant correction. So I had a lot of bad habits ingrained in me. So when we moved to Hawaii, when I was about 10 and I, I got to take from a trained Suzuki teacher there. I had to unlearn a lot of what I had learned with the violin to be able to play the more advanced pieces.

And I remember taking from my teacher in Hawaii, who was an excellent, excellent teacher, but a lot of times I would, I would make a mistake on my violin or I would have something weird with my posture or my wrist wouldn't be held the right way. And I remember she would go oh! Kimber! And look up and away from me.

Like she couldn't even stand to look at me because I'd made a mistake and I was 10, a pretty subtly shaming experience for me and led me to be more perfectionistic in my music, making and took a lot of the joy out of it for me and added a lot of stress

and I, I hadn't been enjoying it.

[00:04:16] Remembering the Joy

Kimber: Well, luckily , my teacher encouraged me to sign up for a Suzuki clinic and my mom was, , you have soccer moms. My mom was like violin mom running to me to all my lessons and things. And there was this three-day Suzuki clinic. Suzuki is a, if you're not familiar, Suzuki is like the strings method that a lot of teachers use and The teachers are trained to teach this method.

And so this clinic was all Suzuki trained teachers and clinicians. And one of the clinics that I was a part of was taught, I still remember her name. It was a three-day clinic, and I still remember her name. It was a woman named Irene Bozarth. I don't remember actually a single other thing from this clinic, except for her class.

And the reason it stands out to me so much is because I had been learning. All the things that I'd been doing wrong. And I had been so stressed. And a lot of the joy, even as a ten-year-old was starting to seep out of my music playing for me and becoming about playing the right notes and having the right bow hold and, and not to mention in Hawaii there's kids that start playing when they're two or three years old.

And I didn't start till I was eight and I had bad habits. And so by the time I was 10 or 11, And still in book one or two Suzuki, there were five-year-olds that could outplay me like that were years ahead of me, which was intimidating and also kind of stole some of the joy. That comparison is the thief of joy is a real thing.

Anyway, in this clinic taught by Irene and we were working on the song called Bach's Gavotte in G minor. It goes something like

it goes on. And we played it together as a class. And she said, okay, hold on. Well, let's talk about this for a minute. Let's let's tell a story. Someone choose, choose a pet. Let's pretend we have a pet and some little kid yelled out," spider!" thinking they were being funny. And she said, okay, spider, we have a pet spider.

Well, we'll name him, spidey and spidey died and all the kids, you know *gasp* and she's, she started weaving this story about this group. We're so close to our pet spider, and then it died and, and then she had us play it again. Well, no. Then she played it and started singing along something like. Oh, oh no. My pet spider died, boohoo boohoo and she started crying and really weaving this story into the song, this silly story that we had just come up with on the spot.

And she had us play it and we laughed, but, but the change in the music was profound and it was fun. And it became about telling the story. And I absolutely fell in love with Irene Bozarth and I found out that she had this hundred days club. Where, if you practice for a hundred days in a row with no breaks, she would send you this prize box.

And you'd be part of her a hundred days of practice club. And if you missed a day, you had to start over and, and even though she didn't even live, I was in Hawaii. I think she lived in Texas. Somewhere far away. She said that we could still be part of her hundred days club if we wrote to her. And so I worked and I worked and I worked and I was so excited when I finally got to send her my chart saying that I had practiced for a hundred days and she sent me this cool box that had this cool little color changing squishy ball in it. I'm sure it had a lot of other things, but I was really excited about that. And anyways, the point of all this is this teacher. I had a lot of teachers growing up.

We moved a lot. I had a lot of piano teachers, violin teacher, voice teachers. And this one teacher that I had for three days is the one that stands out the most to me. And that I believe had the most profound impact on me when it comes to music, because she taught me that it wasn't just about having the right bow hold and playing the right notes.

It was about telling a story. It was about the practice, the journey of it. That's what was important. It wasn't about the performance and getting it right.

[00:08:16] Becoming a Teacher, Not a Critic

Kimber: So fast forward a few years now I'm in high school living in Utah. Taking orchestra and choir and even involved in the band, even though I didn't play band instruments, just all the artsy drama things that I could be in.

And I really wanted to be a music teacher, me and a couple of my friends in choir had a bet , to see who would be the first one to come back and teach at the high school. None of us have won that bet yet, but I'm the closest cause I think I'm the only one that actually got a music degree. So I wanted to become a music teacher, but I remember telling my mom, I am scared to get my degree in music because I'm worried it will turn me into a critic.

And it will take the joy out of music for me, that all I'll be able to see is the mistakes and it won't be enjoyable anymore. And that does happen to a lot of people. And I know because I have a lot of music, major friends and music majors, and people really involved in the arts. We can get kind of snobby about things and critical about things because we want to make beautiful music and sometimes making beautiful music often requires you're playing the right notes and you're using certain techniques and right. That's when you're getting good at a skill, you don't just want to do it badly. Right? You want to try, you want to do it well, and you want to improve, but

there's a tricky balance between

working hard because you love it and you have this vision of the end product and doing it just because you want to get it right. I'm hoping this is making sense. What I'm trying to say here. It needs to be about the joy. And it wasn't always about that. When I was in high school, I had more teachers and it was about getting it right. And, oh, you're doing this wrong. And it wasn't, it wasn't fun for me. I still loved music, but sometimes the teachers took the joy out of that for me, sometimes they didn't, but sometimes they did.

I skipped orchestra several times because we had a very perfectionistic teacher and that wasn't fun. Fast forward a few more years. I Have my music ed degree, I'm teaching orchestra and choir to sixth and seventh graders in Utah and having a blast. It was probably my dream job when I taught at the intermediate school here in Hurricane, Utah, but two things broke my heart. Thing one was when students who had taken from me and just loved it, loved it. Maybe not the most talented students, some of them were, but some of them maybe struggled a little more, but still just had this love for the music. And they continued on to middle school and high school and they quit because the joy got taken out of it for them, it became about doing it right. And you're not good enough. And so even though they loved this thing, they quit doing it because the joy got sucked out of it for them. And the second thing that broke my heart was when students in my own classes, , whether it was the middle of the year or as we were going from semester to semester, students would come up to me and nervously tell me that they were switching to another elective because they just weren't passionate about music.

Or they were really excited to try out art or drama or whatever it was, they were switching to. And I remember so many of my students would be so nervous to tell me, and I could tell, they thought that I would be disappointed in them for not doing orchestra or choir. And they felt that they would be letting me down in that breaks my heart too, because

it's not about what you do, it's about what you love. And I think it always surprised my students when I'd excitedly ask them like, oh yeah, why are you excited about this? Or you think this will be fun and that they could tell I wasn't disappointed at all because of course I loved them. Of course, we had fun in my class.

[00:12:09] It's about the Joy

Kimber: But it's not because music is the right thing that everyone should do. And because I love music, everyone should love music. It's about finding what you love to do and then doing it because you love to do it. And when you love to do something, that's when you work on it and become good at it. And it's not about finding the right thing and doing it the right way.

It's about finding the thing that lights you up and staying lit up about it. Finding the joy in it. That is what it's about. Fun gets such a bad rep. People say things like, oh, it's not about the fun. , you need to work hard and things can't always be fun. And maybe things can't always be fun.

And yes, sometimes things require some hard work, but the point of it should be the joy, even if at times, It's not fun. The overarching goal should be about the joy, because that's what life's about. If we're only doing things that are making us miserable every day, why, why are we doing those things? We should be doing things that bring us joy.

I want to read this little story. That's told by Kurt Vonnegut from his life. Kurt Vonnegut is a science fiction author. He's written a lot of short stories. I had to study this short story, Harris hair. I can't talk. Harrison Bergeron in high school.

Some of you might think that sounds familiar. And this is his story.

He says," when I was 15, I spent a month working on an archaeological dig. I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break. And he asked those kinds of getting to know you questions you ask young people. Do you play sports?

What's your favorite subject? And I told him, no, I don't play any sports. I do theater. I'm in choir. I play the violin and piano. I used to take art classes and he went, wow, that's amazing. And I said, oh no, but I'm not any good at any of it. And he said something then that I will never forget. And which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before.

I don't think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you've got all these wonderful experiences with different and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.

And that honesty changed my life because I went from a failure, someone who hadn't been talented enough at anything to Excel, to someone who did things, because I enjoyed them. I'd been raised in such an achievement oriented environment. So inundated with the myths of talent that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could win at them."

And that's his story.

The point isn't perfection, the point isn't winning, the point is joy. Anything worth doing is worth doing imperfectly and anything not worth doing isn't worth doing well. And if it isn't something that brings you joy, it's not worth doing.

[00:15:11] Outro

Kimber: Thanks for joining me today. If you want to get more nurturing around living an authentic life, you can follow me on Instagram @justbeyourbadself or join me for the Just Be Your Bad Self Retreat in January, 2022. To get more info, go to

Your invitation this week? Do something just for the fun of it. Don't worry about how it turns out, you know, dance like no one's watching and all that jazz. Is there something you used to love that you let go of because it started to feel like too much pressure? Maybe try that thing again while remembering what it is you enjoy about that activity.

If you enjoyed this podcast and want to leave a review, subscribe to the podcast or share it as always, you have my heart. That's it from me. Now, just be your bad self.