Did you know that I’m a perfectionist?
Seriously, I’m asking you the question – did you know that I’m a perfectionist? Because to everyone I’ve asked lately, my perfectionism is wildly obvious. Or, I suppose, obvious to everyone but me.
I mean, I know I like things done a particular way. I know I’m a pretty stringent rule-follower. I know I’m a bit of a control freak.
But perfectionist? Nah. Because you have to be perfect to be a perfectionist.
And have you seen my hair? And how little make-up I wear? Have you seen my wardrobe, or the fact that I wore a green wedding dress? Don’t you know that we’re planning to build a tiny house and move out of our already small 900-square foot house? Haven’t you noticed that I only come to yoga class 1-3 times per week, instead of 6? Haven’t you seen my dog, who I sadly neglect to walk daily?
No, perfectionists are blonde bombshells with model-type bodies, who drive perfectly clean cars and always wear eyeliner. Perfectionists live in big beautiful homes, and create perfect-looking children, and get married and have kids who get straight A’s and wear polos and khakis. Perfectionists have the perfect career, and wore the perfect white wedding dress, go to yoga every day, and have perfectly happily, always-exercised dogs. So I am obviously not a perfectionist.
Except, maybe I am.
You see, I took this painting class. I’ve told you about it before. I didn’t really mean to take this painting class, but I did, and oh boy did it teach me about life.
Like, the fact that I’m a perfectionist.
There was this painting I was working on, see? And the teacher, she said that nothing is permanent. And if you don’t like something, it’s okay, because you can paint over it. There are no mistakes. There are no rules. Just layer your colors and see what happens.
I loved that idea. I could unleash and not worry or plan what I was going to paint. I could let the painting paint itself, through me.
Except I kept re-painting the same canvases over and over and over. I might like something a little, but not love it. She said if you don’t love it, re-do it. So I kept re-doing. And re-doing. And re-doing.
Until I spent all damn three hours working on a painting that, when I walked into class that evening, thought was done.
I brought in my paintings just to show, you see? They were done. I was finished. I brought a new canvas, and started to work on it. Within 15 minutes, I had the first layer done, but it needed to dry. So I started looking at my other paintings, and the inner critic of mine came out. I noticed several spots that I liked, but didn’t “love.” So, I took the teacher’s advice, and began correcting them.
I spent three hours of tedium working and re-working the same places on this canvas. And you know what? I finally gave up. There are things I still don’t like, but enough is enough.
The other one that I brought in to finish? Well there was a spot I wasn’t so sure of. But, I liked the rest. I chose to accept the flaw and move on.
And that painting I did in 15 minutes? Well, I loved that one the most. It was the first layer. I had so many ideas for different designs and images that would be put on that canvas. But, as it turns out, I like it as it is. I don’t want to keep working. I want to keep my 15-minute painting.
So, by the end of the night, I had pretty much figured out that maybe I am indeed a bit of a perfectionist. I asked my co-worker and boss and friend, who happened to be taking the class with me (and encouraged me to re-register after I dropped it), if I was a perfectionist.
Apparently it’s common knowledge.
It reminded me of a project in high school. We had evaluation forms, and on these evaluation forms, our strengths and areas to work on were listed. I don’t remember the project, and I don’t remember who the evaluator was or what it was for. But I remember distinctly, that one of my given areas to work on was “perfectionism.”
I remember being appalled. I remember being heartbroken, that here, on this evaluation form, someone was telling me that I needed to be more of a perfectionist. That the quality of the work I turned in was not up to par; I needed higher standards.
It was only after my last painting class that I realized – maybe what the evaluation form meant, was that I needed to work on not being a perfectionist.
Interpreted like a true perfectionist, huh?
Live and learn. Below are my paintings and brief descriptions.
This is my perfectionist painting. I painted and repainted this canvas completely no less than four times. When I thought it was done, I nit-picked and continued to paint. Of all three paintings, I spent the most time on this one, and I like it the least.
I learned to let go a bit in this painting. Only re-painted fully once. There are still things I dislike about it – most notably, the black lines in the upper right corner and the three translucent blobs of color at the top center-right. But, I embrace these imperfections and I’m learning to accept it as is.
I had many plans for this painting. I just wanted to get a layer down to build it up, and decided to use a bit bolder color. What came out was the style of gestural painting I had always wanted to pursue, but could never achieve with my rigid plans. This took me no more than 15 minutes. Though I planned for this to be the bottom layer, I like it and I will not be adding to it.
Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed my painting class. I’m planning on integrating this more into my life and future business plans. Love to YOU (and send me some good vibes for dropping this whole perfectionism thing!).