Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fear of trying

I’m working on an acrylics painting. Since I’m picking up a paintbrush for the first time in years, I’m not exactly Picasso. This process is stressful because there are expectations- majority of it internal.

I was heavy into art in high school. I took AP Art my senior year and spent hours upon hours working on watercolor paintings. I enjoyed it and my technique was acceptable. But painting remained a hobby. I didn’t think I was throwing away some God-given talent in pursuing the sciences.

I was painting wooden magnets this week. And who really cares about making little fridge magnets perfect? I was having fun when mom said “You used to have a great sense of color.” That is an avalanche of expectations falling from the perfect mountain of a disillusioned parent. I used to paint half a decade ago and I didn’t have time to keep up painting in college. But the fact that she held onto that notion and- even more so- that she voiced my unacknowledged concerns was upsetting.

I’m “supposed to be” good. Did you see my high school portfolio? I was good. What happened?

The fact that people hold expectations is hard because letting others down is hard. When you have expectations for yourself, letting yourself down is painful. It is painful enough to never even want to try.

These are the kinds of fears keeping me from making deliberate attempts and making ugly mistakes, because I’m supposed to be (and I believe I should be) certain way. And these expectations can come from different sources.

Because you are so smart.
Because you spend so much time on X.
Because you used to be good.
Because your parents are experts.

Even with making this menu, I was being a neurotic perfectionist. I kept erasing and rewriting until it was almost closing time and we still didn’t have a menu board up at the café.


And I wish I could show you my painting in progress, but I’m afraid that someone (not you Dabel!) might comment on how my painting abilities have magically evaporated. Or I will look at it every time I come on and feel like giving up painting all together. Voltaire said “The perfect is the enemy of good.” I know it’s silly (recognize irrationality) to let my internal fears paralyze me from taking action but for now, I’m making little brush strokes and reminding myself that I’m just having fun.


  1. I remember having a conversation related to this matter, I would like to see it. Text it to me, please. :)

    1. I lost my camera in Korea THEN my dad just found it yesterday! I might try to find the video clip of the travel show & send it to you.

    2. Great! I'm looking forward to it. (What a happy coincidence that your camera was found so recent.)