Tuesday’s Blog rolls back the hours, and we have been reminiscing about early days of Clarity. Every Tuesday, I take a look at another P. Today, I thought P for Perfection might be a good one, since it has figured so largely in my head for so many years! But it’s not what you think…
“Tilly was downcast; as with all perfectionists, it was the detail others might not notice that destroyed for her the pleasure of achievement.”
Perfectionism: a Blessing and a Curse.
I’ve always been a perfectionist, since I was a little kid. I have always wanted everything to be lovely. From my handwriting to my clothes. I remember many years ago, when I was in my 20’s, I was standing in front of my wardrobe, and it occurred to me that I might be a bit mad. My clothes were all hanging perfectly of course, but all in colour families, too. The jumpers were neatly folded in colour stacks from light blue to dark blue, from white through grey to black, from light green to dark green; my shoes, too. I just remember wondering why I felt the need for everything to be so perfect.
God only knows how many hours of my life I’ve wasted, faffing about, fluffing pillows, folding napkins and generally trying to make things P for Perfect. Only for others to come in, flop on the pillows and unravel the napkins! It’s just the way I’m wired, I guess.
This obsession for perfection obviously spilled over into my artwork. Now, I am not saying for a minute that my artwork is perfect! Not at all! I am more interested in why I put myself through such rigours just to make a perfect card! It’s a card, for Pete’s sake! A greeting card! I could spend many hours working on a piece, but if it wasn’t absolutely perfect, if the tree was just a little too far to the left, or there was even the faintest imperfection in the brayered sky, then it was deemed absolute rubbish – and in the bin it went. If I had a pound for every card I have thrown away over the years, I could afford therapy! This kind of perfectionism can’t be healthy. Quite aside from the waste of time and materials, all it really did was make me feel useless. And by the time I finally produced something acceptable for me, I was too stressed to relish it.
Sound familiar? So many of us are incredibly self-critical! Why do we reject our work out of hand, because it is not 100% perfect? No. I will rephrase that: because we think it is not 100% perfect? Is it fear of criticism? Is it fear of failure?
Let’s just take one example: the Brayer. Countless people buy a brayer, but never get it out of the box. The intention was there, even the desire, but the fear of getting it wrong, of not doing it perfectly got the better of them.
I’m all for striving for excellence, for practicing. In fact, I suppose the reason brayering comes so easily to me nowadays has a lot to do with the thousands of failed attempts which went in the bin!
But I did reach a point a few years ago where I realised I had to let go, and ironically, it was going on TV which altered my attitude!
You would think that if a perfectionist was ever going to really go into overdrive, it would be on TV! And to be honest, in the beginning I did just that! I dreaded going on Live TV and making a mistake, getting it wrong, making a fool of myself. So I did what every perfectionist would do: I went to great lengths to minimize those scenarios, and prepared obsessively. But I was so afraid of making a mistake, of criticism, that I wasn’t enjoying it at all. And that’s what had to change. Not the prepping, but the fear around getting it wrong.
I still P for Prepare – who wouldn’t ?! Prep falls under P for Planning! But I gave myself a severe talking to, and now I play this game the week before a TV show, called “That’ll do”. Instead of repeating the card ad nauseum until midnight, in hopes of perfecting it, I play “That’ll do”. I found playing this game much easier when I moved every single stamp, ink pad and stencil out of the home, so that I have to leave work at work.
My job as I see it now on TV, is to showcase our beautiful products, and show you some techniques, tricks and applications – not create masterpieces in 5 minutes! And when that penny finally dropped, it was like a new found freedom. I stopped panicking and started enjoying the job!
If my art isn’t as good as it could be, that’s fine. Move on…
If I smudge my work, so what? Keep going…
If I’m getting too fussy, stop, let it go…
I have no interest in being the best; I just want to be happy, and run a happy ship. And that’s the truth.
with love from