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Perfectionism and Art-Making: Learning How to Let Go of Expectations

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC


Creativity takes courage. Making art is risky. You are putting yourself out there, exposing your feelings and ideas to the world. Creative people are constantly taking risks, exploring new ideas and pushing boundaries. This can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. Perfectionism is a common challenge for artists and those involved in creative practices as often there are moments where we encounter the unknown and are faced with decisions where the outcomes of our actions may be unexpected or unfamiliar.


Making mistakes is a natural and important part of the creative process. It’s how we learn, how we get better. The fear of making a mistake can lead to paralysis and a reluctance to start or finish a work and can hold us back from expressing our ideas fully. Perfectionism can lead to procrastination, self-doubt, and anxiety, which can be . It can also prevent us from taking risks and from growing as an artist. One might consider this fear as a mental block that stands in the way of progress and our ability to reach our full potential.


Making art can be a very personal and emotional process. We all have fears. Fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, fear of the unknown. For some of us, these fears can paralyze us and keep us from doing the things we want to do in life. This is especially true when it comes to creative endeavors like art making. Fear is one of the most powerful emotions we experience. It can keep us safe by warning us of danger, or it can paralyze us and stop us from taking risks. We might often lose sight of the lesson that with every mistake we make, there is an opportunity to learn and grow and without taking these chances we are also preventing ourselves from progressing forward.


For those struggling with perfectionism, art making can be a very effective way to express these fears and insecurities while working through the difficult emotions. However, it is not uncommon for the fear of not being good enough to get in the way of being able to engage in this therapeutic process. Here are some strategies for overcoming a fear of making mistakes and embracing opportunities for learning and growth:


1. Accept that making mistakes is part of the process.


2. Give yourself permission to be creative.


3. Set realistic goals for yourself and meet your skills where they are at.


4. Take breaks when you feel overwhelmed or stuck.


5. Find a creative support group or community.


6. Try not to compare yourself to others.


Mistakes can be a valuable learning experience. When we make a mistake, we learn what not to do next time. And, if we are lucky, we might even learn something new about ourselves.

So don't be afraid to make mistakes. Embrace them! And then learn from them so you can move on to continue making new creations.


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