Jul 9, 2011
Art from the Heart.....How We Sabotage Our Creativity
Many years ago, I had a nice lady come to my class, she had dabbled a bit with oils and had some knowledge of painting. She stayed in my class for about a year and then she decided she wanted to learn how to paint portraits, her first attempt was a portrait of another’s artwork, and because it was an old master, it was OK for her to paint it. It was a portrait of Jesus.
We got the drawing on the canvas and each week I helped her with one aspect of the portrait. At the end of each class, she was happy with what she had accomplished. Then……….things started changing. The next week she came to class and she had wiped all the work off that she had done in the previous class. She did not like it. It was not good enough! Therefore, we would start again. The same thing happened. It got so bad that each week all of my students who came into the studio before she did would announce, “Jesus was coming.”
This went on for over 6 weeks of classes, she had painted a beautiful Jesus several times, but in her eyes, it was never good enough for her.
This was frustrating for me as I helped her get the likeness and understand how the portrait needed to be painted; the whole class loved what she was doing, except her.
This student had an obsession with endless refining of her portrait. It caused her a great deal of stress and we could all see this in class.
Her striving for perfection never did help her create the portrait she so badly wanted to paint, but it did decrease her productivity, increase her stress level and honestly it was a irritation to not only me as the teacher but to the whole class. This woman sabotaged her creativity by wanting her portrait to be “perfect.”
Much later, I learned about perfectionism and how it can ruin our creativity.
I am not saying we all don’t want to paint a great painting, but when your fear of being less than perfect makes you see only the errors and not the good then you lose your creativity and become paralyzed.
You cannot be a perfectionist and a creative person at the same time. They do not mix well.
Being creative means taking risks, experimenting with something new, and making mistakes and being OK with that.
We need to nurture our creative character. We need to encourage ourselves. Unfortunately, the perfectionist has unusually high and unrealistic expectations of herself, which she can never fulfill.
We have to remember that being creative is something that should be fun, uplifting, and spontaneous! If we are always comparing ourselves to others and judging our work to be inferior and in need of repair all the time, the pure bliss of creating will evaporate and leave us with a battered self-esteem.
How do you know if you are a perfectionist?
Do you find that you always expect a lot of yourself and of others?
Do you have high standards and always want to achieve those high standards?
Do you find yourself procrastinating alot?
Is it hard to forgive yourself if you fail at something?
Do you spend numerous amounts of time, trying to "perfect" something?
Are you willing to sacrifice your well being to get something perfect? Not eating or getting enough sleep as an example.
Do you see things in black and white and never in grey?
Are you a harsh critic of yourself and hypercritical of mistakes you make?
Are you afraid that others will think you are not perfect?
Do you feel anxious when things are not turning out like you envisioned them?
"Do you start so many things but finish almost none of them?
Do you have an all or noting approach? If you cannot do something and achieve the standard you have put in place for yourself, do you often abandon the project?
If you see yourself here then you need to start working on developing a new way of doing things to overcome the lifestyle of a “perfectionist.”
Here are some suggestions:
First realize the you are a perfectionist. Perfectionism is comes from the way in which you think especially the way you talk to yourself. Each time you start telling yourself that you have not done something properly, you are being negative. Self-critical feelings can generate feelings of anxiety in you which keep the cycle of anxiety going. By constantly beating yourself up over things which you think you should have done better, you remove your power of becoming a better artist and you reinforce your negativity which destroys your creativity!
If you can change the way in which you talk to yourself, you can start to learn to demand less from yourself. Stop all negative self-talk and replace it with good things you have done!
Before you start your next project, ask yourself whether your goal or expectation is reasonable, can you really do this in the time alotted and the way you want to do it?
Focus on the project until it is completed, don't knit pick at it!
Focus on what you have achieved, your accomplishments and remember that true success is about the journey not the destination!
Accept your mistakes, they are part of your personal journey to becoming a better artist.
Instead of feeling bad about mistakes, just learn from them and move on. Sometimes we are just too close to our work and we need an outsider’s perspective to help us see what we are missing.
Stop worrying about the past and the things you cannot change. Focus on the present moment. Find your bliss in what you are doing right now!
Learn how to visualize how you will feel when you have actually finished a project.
Treat yourself as you do your best friend; be more supportive of what you are doing.
Stop demanding perfection of what you do, try to remember that it does not have to be perfect to be good enough.
Being an artist can be one of the most blissful experieces one can have. Don't miss out on this by trying to be perfect, the only perfect person was Jesus.