A Recovering Perfectionist


My earliest memory of suffering from perfectionism is me sitting in front of an empty piece of paper, creative juices flowing, ideas forming and morphing in my head. Love and excitement taking over. I am going to draw. I know what I am going to draw, I know exactly what it is and what it’s going to look like.

Pencil and paper meet, the first line is drawn, the first step taken. By line seven I am starting to question the outcome of my endeavor. And that is where the problem lies, I am already focused on the finished product, unable to enjoy the process itself. But more about that later. I look at my drawing, I decide that it’s shit. It’s that simple, it’s shit. I clearly have no talent. I crumble up the paper and start over. Somehow I believe that I should be good at this without having to learn it, without even having to put effort into it. Somehow I believe that talent is knowing how to do things perfectly without ever having done them before.

This was the first of many crumbled papers. Crumbled papers turned into not attending certain classes in high school. Because without being gifted it’s better to not try than to fail. Right? Right!, says 15 year old me. Skipping school turned into ending love relationships as soon as they were not perfect. It turned into believing that if a relationship wasn’t simple and easy it was clearly not meant to be. It took someone truly special to make me challenge that belief and even though we didn’t get a ‘happily ever after’ I will be forever grateful to him.

Before yoga was a part of my life I envied creative people. I envied them so much that at a certain point in my life when I decided that I wasn’t prejudiced enough I chose left handed people as my target group for dislike. Purely because they were known to be more creative. And as much as I was joking about the whole thing there was truth in my envy. Then I started surrounding myself with ‘yoga people’. People who talked about unleashing our creativity, about everyone having access to this universal energy. I shyly wondered if maybe, possibly I could be one of them, of the people who created beautiful things.

Now this is when things get a little mystical. This name kept appearing around me. ‘Saraswati’, I would hear her name mostly in songs, sometimes in conversations. I got curious, I liked the sound of her, I liked the way her sound made me feel. Saraswati is the hindu Goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and learning. I wanted to try again, see if I could create, see if I could relearn to enjoy the process, regardless of the outcome.

I took a huge board and covered it with chalkboard paint. And as the chalk was dusting in all colors across my giant board I felt possessed, excited, unstoppable. I continued for hours, loving how I felt, loving that it didn’t matter how it looked in the end. Saraswati was coming out of me. At some point I stopped, I took a step back and liked what I saw. I remember the clear thought. ‘When you let go of your attachment to a specific outcome, you can see the magic of the path that gets you there’. And then fear took over again, her body was finished, her surroundings accomplished, her face… ah, her face. I can’t do her face, this is where I’ll fuck it up. Did you not just have a massive epiphany? Did you not just hear that brilliant thought you had?

So, I painted the face and I didn’t fuck it up. But even if I did, it wouldn’t have mattered. I am happy to report that I am in a loving and casual relationship with painting.