So many of us spend a huge chunk of our lives stifled by perfectionism. Perfectionism drove me to take course after course in painting, telling myself that when I mastered the latest technique, usually something very tricky and impressive (like tonal realism), then I could call myself a real artist and the world would see me as one too. The problem was that no matter what I did, even if I had managed to create a great masterpiece, was never good enough for my perfectionist. I created only for approval, approval that was never going to come. Every critical voice from childhood and beyond became a chorus of judgment. I was never going to be creatively free while shackled by perfectionism.
It was only when I rediscovered my ability to play that I let go and began to create with joy and freedom. If we can take ourselves back to that time before that inner dialogue started, there is a lot of fun to be had!
Training as an early childhood teacher, I began to engage with my creativity in the unbound, non-judgemental way that young children do. I would watch and make art with them thinking that they would treasure it and want to take it home, only to watch them throw beautiful artworks in the bin at the end of the day. It was so easy just to make another one tomorrow! I watch as that freedom ebbs away as students get older, I often wonder if it is society, education or inner development that leads some children to shut down that part of themselves (that is a whole other post for another time)
Play with no thought of outcome or audience is central to my practice as an artist. Surrendering to the process and letting go of expectations of is the key to my now prolific output. Some of it is ‘good’ some of it is very ugly. All of it makes my heart sing while I am in the process, and I feel an inner glimmer of joy when I look around my messy, overflowing studio.
When you become creatively free it affects so many other areas of life. The expectations I have for myself to be the perfect mother, wife, teacher, housekeeper, friend, gardener, meditator and human slip away when I am creatively fulfilled. I know there is always another chance tomorrow. I am kinder to myself and less judgmental of others. My ability to appreciate the art of others expands. Anyone who is making art is brave, especially if it comes from the inside out, not just for the approval of others.
The keys to overcoming perfectionism
- Hold it lightly, there is always another chance tomorrow
- An attitude of curiosity
- Self compassion and kindness
- Letting go of fear of judgment (Yours is usually the harshest!)
- Look deeper, see the beauty everywhere, in everything
- Nature is a great teacher. The perfection in the flower is also in the weeds, the broken branches, the polished rocks, the moss, the fungi, the ‘bad’ weather…
- Spend some time creating with a four year old
The real key to creating freely is believing that both you and your creativity are worth it. You are worthy and deserving. There is so much love, joy and creative richness waiting to be uncovered inside you. You ARE good enough without having to prove it to anyone, even yourself!