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The Perfectionism Trap

Why is perfectionism a trap? I think most of us are perfectionists, recovering perfectionists, or we've never had this dis-ease it at all. Although I suspect, that is probably only about .009% of the population that doesn't have it. The funny thing about perfectionism is that, although we do have this dis-ease, most of us don't realise it.

I had an interesting conversation with my father once, who was most definitely a perfectionist. I told him that he made it really hard for the rest of us, because he was so good at everything and that in fact, he was a perfectionist. He looked at me over the top of his glasses, and said, " You've got the wrong person, I'm not a perfectionist, why on earth would you think that?" Posted below is a section of one of his paintings. He was also an artist, however the interesting thing about that was, he didn't take up art until after I was halfway through Art School. The thing about perfectionists is that they always want to do it better than everybody else. And dear old Dad, was no exception to that rule, he was also, annoyingly so for the rest of us, one of those people who excelled at everything he turned his hand to.

I remember watching him doing this painting as he pored over it for hours, paintstakingly using tiny brush stroke after tiny brushstroke. Frankly it drove me nuts just watching him!

So as you can see, I have had a very intimate acquaintance with perfectionism from an early age, and yes unfortunately, some of it did rub off on me, although it took me years to recognise that fact and work at unconditioning myself from its insidious grasp.

Perfectionism is one of those things that has many very subtle flavours to it. There is a New Zealand artist Rei Hammon, who works with pen and ink and all of his work is composed of tiny little dots. My worst nightmare. I totally admire what he does, however at the same time you would have to be an incredible perfectionist, to be able to paint like that.

Waimaria - Rei Hammon
Waimaria - Rei Hammon

The trouble with perfectionism, is that along with it comes a lot of stress and anxiety because it's all about getting it right. In fact one of my favourite sayings is that perfectionism kills creativity. Perfectionism makes brilliant copy artists and hyperrealist artists, but it is generallyat the cost of originality, and I am generalising here because of course not every perfectionist artist is incapable of being original as well.

I find when I'm teaching, that those people who are the most intensely perfectionistic, are those that struggle the most, particularly in the beginning. The problem is you see, that if you find it difficult to accept anything less than perfection, then you will really stress over making mistakes, and of course all artworks are simply going from one mistake to the next - do it better, paint over it, do it better and so on.

So how do we get around this problem......?

Tune into next weeks blog post and find out some strategies for overcoming perfectionism.

NEXT WEEK: Strategies for overcoming perfectionism.

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