NEW JOURNEY: The Seventh Step

I learn that trying to be perfect limits your options.

Another quick thought to share with you today.

I read a comment that Quinn McDonald (of Quinn Creative) left on my last post about my hospice training experience.

(And btw, let me thank all of you who took the time to write such thoughtful, beautiful, powerful words of support to that post. Each of you, and your words, are a gift to me.)

I had a coaching session with Quinn a few months before I began hospice training. She said several very valuable things to me, thoughts that helped me stay centered and calm.

The most pragmatic were her observations on perfectionism.

When she asked if I were a perfectionist, I answered, “Yes!” I’ve worked hard at everything I’ve undertaken with my art biz. I’ve always tried to come up with the best solutions for everything. When I teach, I try to create the perfect workshop experience. When I speak, I work hard to say exactly what I want to say to an audience. When I write, I cull and edit and re-edit to make sure everything flows logically. It drives me nuts to find a spelling error after I publish a piece.

I know that is perfectionism exhausting. I recognize it eventually produces diminishing returns for our efforts.

Quinn pointed out another drawback:

“When you are a perfectionist,” she said, “then you are full of knowing. And when you are full of knowing, nothing new can come in.”

Nothing new can come in….

I had to really think about that one. If I am to learn as much as I can from this experience, I have to be open to what is there.

And what I’m learning so far is that there is no need to excel in the class. There’s no need for intellectual brilliance, or to even ask great questions. There’s no need for extreme competence or great listening skills or excellent communication skills. This is not the place for perfect anything. The skills I’ve relied on all my life do not serve me.

In fact, as our training leader says over and over, every class, it’s not about “doing” at all.

It’s about “being.”

Being present. Being there.

We can help by simply offering the gift of ourselves.

This is new territory for me. But what an odd place to end up, this year. Somewhere where nothing is asked of me, except to have an open heart. In a way, it feels a lot like yoga….

I feel like I am learning to simply listen. And breathe. Perhaps hold a hand.

And be.

P.S. I edited this little article about two dozen times. Until it was almost perfect. Obviously, I am still imperfect at being imperfect.

additional P.S. The implications for my art–and my life–are not lost on me, either.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

9 thoughts on “NEW JOURNEY: The Seventh Step”

  1. Luann:
    I really enjoyed reading your blog today. I like the idea of simply listening and breathing. Instead of having to be perfect and worry about outcomes, it is such a relief and blessing to just BE.
    I enjoyed meeting you at an ABI workshop in which you participated at Haywood Community College.
    Take care.


  2. Thank you for this lovely post. I, too, am a perfectionist. Overly so. And everything you wrote absolutely resonated. Especially that part about being full of knowing. I’ve never really thought about it that way, but it’s absolutely the case. I think I shall strive to not know something today and see what happens. 🙂


  3. “Trying to be perfect limits your options”. Boy, do I like that one! That sums up a feeling I’ve had for a very long time, but never quite could put into words. I’m all about doing the best you can with what you’ve got and where you are at the moment, but I’m also about lateral thinking, keeping on keeping on, never slipping into “the rut”, and *unlimited* options.

    This comment is a gift. Thank you!


  4. There is a whole sisterhood of us perfectionists out here. Your words make me see how futile is the attempt at perfection. I also want to be less rigid and demanding of myself. Knowing that I have company is very helpful.


  5. Yes! I’ve had to recite to myself over and over to accept that my experimental pieces will look UGLY. And not be saleable. But that I have to keep making them in the name of Practice. I try to make note of improvements that justify the effort and seeming “waste” of time and materials.

    But Luann, you don’t seem paralyzed by your perfectionism, and I appreciate your efforts to hone your words. It shows, and I feel the benefit.


  6. Another (hopefully recovering) perfectionist here… it’s good to hear from others!

    At the start of every silk painting class that I teach, I tell my students to leave any perfectionist tendencies at the door, since striving for perfection with this fluid and unpredictable medium will only lead to frustration. I’ve found that repeating this mantra to my students and encouraging them to ‘go with the flow’ has helped me loosen up in my own painting. It’s an going struggle but I keep trying…

    I love the nothing new coming in quote – I’m putting that up on my wall.


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