Fourth quarter, we had a new sort of assignment.  Choose two specially trained and selected professional massage therapists from a list, give them each a one hour massage at their place of business, and get critique.

This has been my most terrifying massage experience to date. I am a perfectionist.  I like to play it cool in public.  I never once practiced the piano as a kid when my father was at home, because he was a pianist.  Even now, I don’t show unfinished poems to my husband.  I’m married to this guy.  He lives in my fart cloud.  I shouldn’t be worried about his seeing my rough drafts.  But I do.

So showing my skills and lack thereof to someone who actually knows what I’m doing wrong?  When I’m only halfway through my schooling?  Insecure doesn’t even begin to cover how I felt about the idea.  I was certain that my best wouldn’t be good enough.

So I went.  I massaged.  Know what?  My best wasn’t good enough.  For me.

But my best wasn’t supposed to be good enough.  I’m not a massage therapist yet. I’m a massage therapist in training.  I NEVER get the right amount of lubricant on my first try.  My strokes can be kind of disjointed.  I get awkward about working on men’s butts.

Should I say that again?  I CAN BE SUPER AWKWARD.

But the number 1 critique that both massage therapists offered me?

“As is usual for most students at this stage in their education, Katherine was quite nervous. If she had not apologized so often for this issue I would not have been aware of it. Confidence will come with additional experiences.”

“She asked appropriate questions throughout the Hx intake, however her nervousness over-shadowed, giving an appearance of not being confident.”

My biggest weakness was my own nerves. Not my techniques.  Not my draping.  Not my choice of areas to focus on.

A little crush to the internal critic there, which likes to think it knows better than anyone else what my problems are.

I got some fantastic praise.  I do great work on the pectorals and face.  I’m responsive to client requests.  I drape well.  My percussion techniques are apparently “superb.”  (That year performing in the drum and marimba ensemble actually paid off down the road!)

I’ve got until May 2011 to get to “good enough to have a go at doing this professionally,” and the rest of my life to get to “I’m happy with the quality of the work I do.”  “Happy,” not “satisfied.”  Because complacency sucks, but so does living in fear.

So, a few of lessons to take away from this:

  1. If you get the chance to give a massage to an experienced massage therapist (of the nice variety, one who actually wants to help you), go for it.  It’s illuminating.
  2. If the idea of trying this (or anything else!) scares you silly, that’s okay.  But do it anyway.  It makes for a more dramatic story afterward, when you describe how your legs were shaking as you lugged your suitcase of sheets and towels up their stairs to meet your doom mentor.
  3. Don’t be a jerk to yourself.  It doesn’t make people act nicer to you in order to compensate.  It just makes you like you less.

Is there a perfectionist bug in your brain whose bottom you’d like to drop-kick into the nearest landfill? Talk about it.

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