Perfectionism

I have a question, is Perfectionism stopping you from being creative?  For me, it’s a YES!!!


We are often told we need to do it perfectly, get it right, don’t make any mistakes and reach for standards that might just be unattainable.
For me Perfectionism has often kept me stuck.  I feel like I have to have it all figured out, laid out and make no mistakes.  This happens in many areas of my life.

Just the other day I was talking to my sister about what we were taught growing up.
“If you aren’t going to do it right, don’t do it at all” and when we were learning to sew, when you didn’t have it perfect, “rip it out and do it again”.   I know that Mom was only trying to teach us to do the best we could, instill high standards and I agree with that.  But interestingly enough, what we heard was that everything needs to be perfect.  Then what happens is you put off doing things, procrastinate, because you might not get it right. This can be a vicious circle.

As I write this I am thinking of all the ways perfectionism holds me back:
Writing these blog posts, I don’t know exactly what I want to write so I keep putting it off, it needs to be perfect.
Painting pictures, sometimes I have no idea what I want to paint so I paint nothing.  Or I doubt myself and say I can’t do that so I don’t even try because it won’t be perfect.
It makes us fear failure, like it’s a bad word.  When in reality when you fail at something, or more likely it’s just a mistake, you need to figure out how to fix it.  It turns into problem solving and instead of making that a bad thing, why can’t we make it into a fun experiment?

I find it’s not until I stop and pay closer attention to what I am really thinking, what is holding me back from trying things, then I can put it into perspective and decide to change those thoughts.

Example writing this blog.  I can worry about getting it perfect.  Did I get the grammar right?  Am I making sense? Who really cares what I have to say? How’s my punctuation? You write like you talk, it’s not proper English.  So many things could hold me back from writing and they often do.  But in reality, it really is about the message, if someone wants to take the time to pick it apart, that’s fine. Where I will reach perfection on this Blog is when I finally complete it, say it’s good enough, push the button and send. 

With paintings, well that’s more in my wheel house, but it is also where I can get caught up in the perfectionism as well.  What if it doesn’t turn out?  Did I get all the colours right?  Is my perspective right? Does it look realistic? What will people think if I get something wrong?  So here’s the thing.  All of these thoughts keep me from actually painting and remembering the real reason I want to paint, because it’s FUN!  It’s about putting paint down, enjoying the moment, taking in what works and doesn’t work and figuring out what to do about that. “It’s Just Paint”, if you don’t like it paint over it.  It shouldn’t be stressful, it’s supposed to bring you Joy, get you out of your head and just do enjoy playing.

When we can finally put our perfectionism on the shelf, ask it to be quiet and just let us try something, that’s when the real creativity emerges.  Quieting those thoughts takes practice, I’m still practicing, but I’m learning how to let go and play more.

If you have ever watched a very young child colour or paint, if they have not been told what something should look like, they don’t worry about it being perfect, it’s just beautiful no matter what they do.  It’s not until they get older and we start telling them if they don’t do it our way it’s not right, then they start second guessing themselves and the creativity suffers. 

My goal is to continue to notice when perfectionism is trying to creep in and hold me back, then do something that isn’t perfect. 

One of the things that I love doing right now is the acrylic paint pours for that very reason.  It is much harder to try for perfection when you don’t have a preconceived notion of what the outcome will be.  You are at the mercy of the flow and it’s a fun, scary and exciting all at the same time.

The painting on this blog is from a video I have had for years, just procrastinated trying it. Sadly the first thought I had was, it’s not perfect, I didn’t do it exactly the way he did. Then it was quieting that little voice and saying, “good effort, it’s pretty dam good and move on”. I posted it online and everyone loved it. Remember to step back and give it time to grow on you too.

So if you are struggling with perfectionism, if it’s stopping you from trying something new because you might not get it perfect the first time, please come play with me and let’s kick perfectionism in the butt together.

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