Madeleine Eames

- Psychotherapist
- Mindfulness Teacher

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Perfectionism, Paralysis and Painting

Every week I talk people into their dreams. 

Dreams to do something, to speak up, to do the thing everyone says is crazy, or to make that simple change they know would make them feel better. 

‘Playing it safe’ has become a mantra that, if you think about it, can be dangerous and the biggest killer of all dreams and creativity.

We have growing evidence that the emotions of fear, resentment and depression contribute to pain and illness, and when we play smaller than our dreams, or some version of our dreams, you can be sure there will be pain. 

As a recovering perfectionist, I know how hard this can be, to let it all go, toss away fear and just do the thing. 

The most common fear that rises as an obstacle to freedom in people is a fear that they will fail, or it will turn out “wrong”. 

And they look no further. 

I have spent the last week painting our old cabin.  Since it’s probably 80 years old, I’m not too concerned about doing it perfectly.  No fear of failing or doing a bad job, and as a result…

pure enjoyment, 

loving the process, and

it’s turning out great. 

I’m not obsessing over the details and have my eye on the big picture. I’ve done my fair share of obsessing in my life, and I can’t say it has helped any outcome.

So I ask:

What if life was not ever about getting it right?

What if life was simply about enjoying the process?

Because one of the biggest regrets people have on their deathbed is:

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

If you get a lump in your throat or stomach as you read that, maybe there is something there for you. 

When we realize how short life is, we might see how insane the paralysis of perfectionism is and reach out a little beyond our comfort zone. 

Because guess what…

You will survive not “getting it right” (what is ‘right’ anyway? And whose ‘right’ is that?)

You will survive rejection, disappointing others, ridicule, humiliation, losing friends…

you already have a 100% success rate of surviving.

Often it is not the big dreams, but the small everyday things that are important and meaningful to people. They also cause an enormous amount of stress and tension.

I just need some space to myself. 

I just need to make that phonecall.

I just need to ask for this, or express that…

If this is you today, perhaps have a good chat with that perfectionist part of yourself that feels scared and is just trying to protect you by making mountains out of molehills.

Then ask…

What if that fear did happen? Would I survive?

(hint: not only would you survive but you will have healed a big fear that has held you back)

What would I do today if it was my last?

Now do the thing, slap some paint on the wall and let go of the outcome.

Are you ready?

Secret: You are always far more free than you think and you will never feel completely ready.

Hit reply and let me know what you are daring to do,



2 thoughts on “Perfectionism, Paralysis and Painting”

  1. So with you, Madeleine! My nemesis is getting a craft or sewing or kit and never doing it, fearing it won’t look like the pictured one. Til I realize that many “mistakes” are really never noticed by novices or non participants and that the creation becomes an extension or expression of “me”! I also have some very old projects that I use in different ways, letting my creativity flow! But it can be a big step for people like us! Once that first step is taken and it can be a real push, it gets easier. Funny how perfectionism can morph into other avenues with creativity and upcycling. I like getting those different ideas or uses, which tell me where I am in the present moment.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • So true! Once the first step is taken and we focus on the process and not the outcome, the possibilities open up!


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