SELF-COMPASSION: what gets in the way of it and why you need it to be creative


Confession time: I'm a recovering perfectionist. Please tell me I'm not alone. Let's compare's what happens when I "practice the art of perfectionism."

I go through an entire Sunday morning of service playing and recount all the mistakes I made and determine how bad they were and why they were made.

I graciously accept praise from others and say thank you and in my mind I'm thinking "if they only knew how pathetic I really am, I missed this note and....!"


Even if my students practice, they rarely play it the way I would have hoped upon returning to lessons. I often wonder what I'm doing wrong and how can I build stronger players. What do other teachers think when they hear my students?

I've gotten over getting majorly distracted by a sour note when improvising but when one rears its ugly head, it still stings my ego for at least 10-30 seconds, well maybe minutes.

At times, my group lesson plans completely tank. I lose sleep rewinding the film in my head and analyzing what went wrong and what I could have done better.

After publishing a fresh post or newsletter, more often than not, there's a broken link or a mis-spelling and it drives me BANANAS. I feel like a complete ding-dong and assume everyone is feeling the same way about me, too.

I tend NOT to speak up when I should as it seems safer to say nothing and have everyone "like me" rather than be confrontational.

When preparing videos for my arrangements or resources for the blog, it requires countless takes as things are never quite right--the angle, the hair, the stumbles. When I get brave enough to hold a Facebook live stream in which I can't rewind and try again, the perfectionism is stifling before, during and after.

OK, there you have it. The ugly truth.

Care to share? I'm all ears and I feel your pain and your shame!

Now that I've laid it all out there for you, did it make you feel any better?  Misery loves company, right?

The good news?

There are remedies for peeps who suffer from perfectionism. You'll discover them in Dr. Brene' Brown's #1 New York Times Best Seller: The Gift of Imperfection.

We need to talk!


What I like about Brown's work is that she's honest about her experiences. She shares her own frustration with being imperfect while explaining what she's discovered after decades of doctoral research. Her analysis found three specific things that get in the way of self-compassion:

  • Shame

  • Fear

  • Vulnerability.

And these things that are so problematic are the very things we'd rather not talk about!

"We are full of so much anxiety and self-doubt that we can't act on [talk about] what we know is best for us."

In a nutshell, Brown's book is a guide for wholehearted living which from her countless interviews with real human being boils down to two things: resilience and authenticity.

Here's just a few of the chapter tags which give you an idea of what wholehearted living looks like:

  • Letting go of the need for certainty

  • Letting go of comparison

  • Letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.

Making an effort to let go of these three things could make all the difference for you this year!

To be honest, I'm not usually into self-help books. I JUST stumbled onto Dr. Brown's TED talks thanks to a podcast and then found The Gifts of Imperfection collecting dust on my shelves! But, this book hits close to home on many levels for musicians and teachers. I just had to share!

I've just scraped the surface of Brown's insights and I'd rather not spoil the book for you. Go get it now and I hope you'll join me in making it a compass for 2019. Here's my affiliated Amazon link to the book.

Here's to a good dose of self-compassion in 2019!


Why bring this up now?

Let's face it. Being a classically trained pianist is synonymous to perfectionism. I've got no proof of this other than what I've experienced in my own life and what I've witnessed in many fellow teachers and pianists. This perfectionism holds us back from becoming the creative, imaginative souls that we long to be.

We beat ourselves up when we play a wrong note and chide our students for playing incorrect rhythms. We're so hard-wired to stay on the page that self-loathing is practiced far more than self-compassion. No wonder why it's so scary for us to step away from the score--it's scary!

Years ago, I struck up a friendship with Bradley Sowash. Looking back, I know one of the reasons why: I was tired of trying to be perfect and wanted to find my own voice at the keys and help my students do the same.

Since we met, Bradley and I have teamed up to develop creative pianist tracks at MTNA and NCKP and now we offer our own workshops and webinars at 88 Creative Keys.

It's our way of nurturing authentic, resilient pianists who are overcoming perfectionism. We joined forces to encourage pianists who want to play on and off the page with--you guessed it--self-compassion!

It's time to hang up perfectionism and take some risks!

So, please accept our invitation to hang with the 88 Creative Keys crowd.  You'll find like-minded teachers and pianists who want to play the music and not just the page, who want to enjoy the groove instead of just reading the right rhythms.

Here's what we'll be offering in 2019:

January 2019 Webinar: Piano Teacher Hotline


There’s lots of advice for piano teachers out there. But, is it the advice that you are looking for?

Wouldn’t it be nice if your specific questions could be answered personally by experts?

That's what our Piano Teachers Hotline free webinar is all about.

Experts Bradley Sowash and Forrest Kinney (and yours truly) will be “on call” to answer your specific questions about improvisation.

Submit your question in writing HEREbefore January 15, 2019.

By the way, there is never a “silly” or a “dumb” question!

If you forget to submit a question, we’re saving a little time for questions during the webinar, too.

Even if you don't have any burning questions about improvisation, sign up and walk with us on the journey towards creative freedom. You're bound to learn something new, be validated in what you are doing already, and get a chance to hang with like-minded teachers.

Learn more and register here.

February 2019 Webinar: How to Prep Pianists for the Worship Team 


I work directly with and for Drew Collins every Sunday and I can't wait to share what we've been up to and how we work together. Mmm...I'm not sure if I would even call it work as we have so much fun making music together!

Check out this clip of how some fresh chords, a piano and guitar transformed this ancient tune to the 21st-century.


Registration opens soon.


April 2019 Webinar: 50 Ways to Make a Melody

More details to come but the title speaks for itself. This will be ground-breaking!

Registration opens soon.

July 2019 Workshop in Denver: Think Backwards to Move Forwards


Bradley and I teamed up with Forrest Kinney back in 2014 and 2015 and were back and I couldn't be more humbled and excited. These gurus are IT when it comes to creativity at the keys!

Take a look at the schedule here and then save your spot now and grab the 2018 prices before they go up, January 23, 2019.

Learn more and register here.

BTW...If you send in a question for our January webinar (see above), you’ll receive a discount code for $25 off when you register for the 88 Creative Keys 2019 Summer Workshop.

Please keep in mind (I'm feeling insecure right now!) that this post followed up by an invitation to participate in 88 Creative Keys events is genuine and not just a way to get your attention. I'm passionate that you find the self-compassion you need to release your inhibitions and basque in the freedom of creativity!

Comments are always welcome. I'm curious to hear how you plan to add more self-compassion in your life in 2019!