Tag: Perfectionism

Improvement & Impatience: 3 years, 2 art works, 1 Kate

Art improvement does not happen overnight.

We know this. I know this. You know this. That old man sitting at a nearby park probably doesn’t care about art improvement but, still, even he knows this.

And yet.

It is the one of The Most Frustrating Thing Ever. Why couldn’t I just be good at the things I like to do in an instant? Like, why do learning curves even have to exist?? Why can’t I just become the next Einstein or the next Picasso or the next Marie Curie tomorrow???

You’re probably not as dramatically ambitious as yours truly, but I bet you’ve been frustrated and impatient before, right?

The Case of Improvement for Artists (hint: iz torture)

I love progress. And if you’re a self-improvement junkie like myself, obviously, one of your biggest goals in life is to consistently be a better version of yourself. But progress is slow and tedious and it kills me. (Well, not really literally. But you know what I mean.) Creative progress, especially, is a specific kind of torture for me.

See, I’ve always been an impatient person. But I’m more so an impatient creator. When it comes to my art and my writing, I want to hurry, hurry, hurry.

Hurry up and improve on your anatomy, Kate.

Hurry up and draw good noses, Kate.

Hurry up and write engaging stories, Kate.

Hurry up and create awesome content, Kate.

Hurry up, Kate.

I keep on pushing myself to hurry hurry hurry. That I need to keep moving forward. That I need to get better. And the thing is, in art, you don’t really see you’re improving. So I become even more greedy. I become more and more frustrated, and more and more impatient of myself.

Sometimes, to a point where I’m mentally scolding myself for not seemingly getting better.

We are our harshest critic already. But with myself and to myself, I am unforgiving. I never tolerated even an ounce of imperfection. It’s sad. Because we are also our most frequent company.

Can you imagine being in the company of someone so critical of you?

That drive for art improvement became toxic. I made it toxic, and it backfired. And so, in an attempt to gently remind myself that um Kate? You HAVE improved tho, I did the #DrawThisAgain art meme. It’s where you try to draw an old art and see the differences and changes.

Two pictures of two girls both with short turquoise hair, the half up styled in  a mini bun. She is wearing a purple galaxy turtleneck. A white text above on a plum rectangle says, "2016 vs 2019." Image linked to related Instagram post.

I chose a really old work, one I did in 2016. Back when I still a complete watercolor noob and just starting out. I loved it — I still do. But recreating it with all the creative arsenal I picked up for three years, it was amazing.

And once I was done and took a step back, I thought to myself, “If 2016 watercolor noob Kate could only see me now…” I mean, I know she would never see the me now. That’s just how it is.

Who you are, right this second, will never get to see how much you’ll improve in the future.

But who you are, right this second, is also the only one who can look back to where you’ve come from and see how far you’ve come.

I now take comfort in having this truth. I’m probably going to tuck myself into it forever. Because, man, it’s far far better than the rusty old thoughts of “Not Being Enough.”

In business and management, looking at historical data is a sensible way of self-evaluation. But looking back is also a gift. A gentle reminder to your all-too-focused self, a small shift in perspective. That you are doing just fine.

So here I am, doing exactly that.

I first published this post on my Patreon page but I added a few words and wrote additional thoughts. You may see the original post, in its infancy, here.

Featured image by Yura Fresh via Unsplash

Perfection and Success: A Story of Cut Hands and Dreams Smashed


At 11:23 in the morning, a young girl who has only ever cooked eggs and rice in her life was in the kitchen with the stove top on. She was chopping an onion, preparing for her younger sister’s meal when she accidentally sliced her finger. As she ran around looking for Band Aids, she heard her uncle laughing in the living room. It was the kind of laugh that was three-quarters snort and a quarter derision.

“If you can’t even chop onions without hurting yourself, you’ll never be cut out as a chef.”

Now, the girl never thought she would ever be a Michelin-star cook. She has never even aspired to run her own restaurant. But those words still cut through her heart and crushed her.


I’m telling you this story for a reason. And I hope by now you get it.

We all have that one person in our lives, that young girl’s uncle. Someone who aces at being a Jamie Raincloud. A put-downer. A positivity vampire (you know, someone who sucks the positivity out of you).

And sometimes, it doesn’t even matter if what they’re saying is actually a big deal to you or not. You would still be hurt.

And as much as I want to explore that complicated area of feeling hurt on things that ultimately don’t matter, I want to take a rain check on that for now.

What I really want to focus here is that subtle nag at perfection and success the uncle in the story did. It’s like he was saying that the young girl, who has barely cooked a meal in her life, cannot be a chef just because she hurt herself in the middle of cooking. That someone completely novice can’t become a master all because of committing one common mistake.

Now, as an avid fan of Masterchef Australia for the past couple years, I think that’s loaded bullcrap.

I know for a fact that even home cooks, those people who are passionate about food and cooking, can hurt themselves in the middle of a panicky situation. Those well-renowned chefs only seem effortlessly perfect and successful in the kitchen now because of all the mistakes and little injuries they got early on in their careers. Mistakes that, well, they learned from. Their so-called perfection and success are only achievable by learning through their failures.

See, we all make tiny mistakes.

To say that one tiny mistake can cost you your success or your career or your entire life is utterly foolish. Click To Tweet

For years, I’ve had this voice whispering to me, my very own inner negative uncle. That perfectionist, positivity vampire telling me every tiny mistake I’ve done is pushing me farther and farther from perfection and success. I guess, these voices contributed to the anxious-filled, overthinking perfectionist that I have become.

Just last month, I was on my way to my first ever job interview. And I forgot to bring any valid I.D. to get inside the building. All throughout the bus ride, I kept thinking how I have screwed things up. They’re never gonna interview me because I’m incompetent. The HR of the company will whisper it throughout all the HR of all other companies in the city. No one will hire me. And so, I am an utter failure.

All these thoughts… because I left my I.D.

But see here’s the thing: I am still here. I’m still alive. And little by little, I’m moving forward. Making progress and achieving small successes.

Related: My Two Cents on Failure and How I Dealt With It

We, as a society, have reached a point where we condemn or ridicule every mundane mistake a person has made. And to be honest, it’s not a great time to be in. We can be so hung up on the smallest details and the tiniest flaws. So much so, that we forget to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

And I’m not saying mistakes are great. They aren’t, obviously. Mistakes suck balls. But judging someone’s character based on the mistakes they did is a bit… unfair, don’t you think?

So if you’re like me, beating yourself over every small mistakes you commit, here’s a reminder:

No one should ever be measured by the mistakes they did. Your failures cannot measure what you are worth. And it should never. Click To Tweet

It’s how you respond after such failures that matters more. Be it changing for the better. Or striving for improvement and progress, whatever that may be for you.

I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

How do YOU define perfection and success? Have you ever had a non-dream be shattered before? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments!

Kate xx

Photo from Lucas Swinden via Unsplash

The Lost Art of Trial and Error: Why we need to try and fail to succeed

Out of complete boredom, my younger brother borrowed my phone to play a Merriam Webster quiz.

And look hey. It’s not for the lack of games in my phone. I have one! A difficult puzzle platformer called Catbird. But my brother only wanted something to waste his time on, not his patience or his brain cells. And I get it; Catbird is basically like Flappy Bird. Definitely not something to just kill off boredom. But when I looked over his shoulder to check on how he was fairing, I was surprised at what I saw.

“What are you doing?” I asked him suspiciously.

“It’s okay,” he reassured me, “I have a plan.”

You know what he was doing? His grand strategy for the Merriam Webster quiz? He was clicking on random choices. Random. Like, zero consideration on whether that choice was the right one or not. I wasn’t surprised at all that he got a really low score afterwards.

I mean, how was that a winning plan?? You’re obviously bound to fail when you don’t think things through.

And then he did his grand game plan the second time. But this time, because the questions tend to repeat and he remembered the answers, he got more questions right. And he did this repeatedly until he passed.

Quite a cheeky strategy coming from my pure little brother, but it worked! So I figured this is something I could apply when playing Catbird. That instead of obsessing over winning, I could just try my best and learn from my failures.

Then I realized… whoa. This is a mindset I could have beyond games. I could apply it in my LIFE.

In this age of instant gratification, we have forgotten the importance of trial and error. I make a case in defense for it and why we need it to succeed. Click to read the post!

Perfectionism in games and in life

See, what I found disconcerting with my brother’s game plan was that it was not what is perceived to be a game plan. This idea of deliberately failing felt like an anti-thesis to the main goal of playing any game – to win. And as a card-carrying perfectionist, I was quite familiar with this.

Succeeding at first try is even next-level dopamine hit for me. And I’m sure it is for other people too. In fact, I recently found something on Pinterest about how to become a superstar blogger at day one, so I know I’m not alone.

The idea of being a successful blogger on your first try is also a kind of next-level dopamine hit. We bloggers have aspired to be that way, at one point or another. And maybe you still are.

The thing is, no one wants to fail.

Failing leaves an unpleasant taste to the mouth. We spray away failure like we spray away bad breath. We wouldn’t want to experience it if we could. This is why we want to succeed at first try. It means not going through all the awful feelings you get when you failed. It means going straight to medal. And foregoing trial and error is a concept that’s too good to be true.

But see, the heavy truth is this: Less than one percent of bloggers – or anyone for that matter – become successful at day one.

I admit, I pulled that number out of nowhere. And it really isn’t reflective of any statistics made on success. But you get my point.

Rarely anyone becomes successful at first try.

I already shared my two cents on failure before, and how it’s important. And I still stand on that ground. Failure is necessary for us to eventually achieve success. But more importantly, it is through failure that we learn from our mistakes. And eventually grow from it. And therefore succeed.

But how could we fail if we don’t give ourselves permission to do so? How could we experience failure and grow when we’re so adamant to avoid trial and error?

The Lost Art of Trial and Error

My mom, a mathematics teacher, taught me that when all else fails, when you can’t think of any other math technique to find the solution to a problem, do trial and error. It is the most underrated yet useful thing you can have for solving math problems.

Surprise surprise, it is also the most underrated yet useful thing you can have for solving any life problems.

But see, the problem with trial and error is that it is tedious. It takes suuuper long to get to the answer. And no one wants to take the long winding path, when they could just go for the shortcut. Honestly, even I don’t want to. But in this age of instant gratification, we’ve somehow completely forgotten the idea of trial and error.

When you start your blog, you want it to be seen and successful at day one.

If you’re trying out a new product, you want to see its effects overnight.

When you take on a new creative project, you expect things to go your way.

But you might not be successful at day one. You may not see if the product is effective until a month of consistent use. Maybe you’d reach a creative dead-end sooner than you anticipated.

You may not succeed at first try but that doesn't make you a failure #quotes

Click to pin!

Maybe all you had to do was change a few things a bit. Tweak your process or try out a different one. Maybe you need to stop thinking things through so much and just click on whichever choice is in front of you. And if you make a mistake, you could always take notes. Eliminate that choice from your list for next time, and move forward.

And maybe, like my pure little brother with his cheeky game strategy, you too will pass your quiz.

I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

What do you think about trial and error? Can you think of a time when you couldn’t wait for the outcome to show? Share them in the comments below!

xx Kate

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The One Question I Ask Myself when I’m Having Self-Doubt

So you come up with an idea.

And it is an Amazing Idea™. It’s so brilliant, the old masters will roll over their grave with envy if they learn about this. You have to do something about this awesome idea stat.

And so you did. You started working on it. Days and nights passed by your window. Your work desk is getting more and more cluttered. An upbeat and incredibly motivating music is playing in the background while you are in a montage of maximum motivation.

But then– the needle scratches.

The music stops and you realize… what you’ve been working on this whole time? It isn’t like anything you’ve had in mind. It is not the Amazing Idea. It is, in fact, nowhere near amazing.

You plunge into that deep, dark hole of despair. Repeatedly beating yourself over and thinking, “Maybe I’m not good enough to do this.”

Does this sound familiar?

Self-doubt comes unexpectedly to the best of us. And if you're ever bombarded with all the heavy thoughts and doubting yourself, here's one question you can ask.

I like to think of perfectionism as a creative’s very own Kryptonite. See, we somehow follow this unsaid memo that whatever work we’re doing at the moment must be perfect.

That first draft of a novel? Must be perfectly outlined.

That sketch you’ll later post on Instagram? Must be perfectly messy.

That blog post you’re currently writing? Must have no typos.

(Seriously, I’d like to go back in time to find out just who the heck among our early ancestors passed that perfectionist tendencies into our DNA.)

And what happens when this unsaid memo doesn’t get accomplished? You frazzle. You start to panic. You become so caught up in making things 100% perfect that you have 0% energy left to actually finish the work.

You end up repeatedly editing that one line that does not make any sense. Or rereading your unfinished draft to look for typos. Or desperately using water to wash out that part of your drawing that you painted with the wrong color.

At the end of the day, you’re completely exhausted and you realize two things:

1) You’re not perfect.

2) You did not finish anything.

Have you ever felt that way? That you don’t feel happy or satisfied with what creative work you’re making? And you either do a complete overhaul of it or want to throw it to Davy Jones’s locker where you can never ever see it again ever?

Yo I’ve been there too.

Perfectionism was as constant in my adolescent life as acne is. And it was very prevalent in my relationship with my art.

I hated all my drawings. And in the off chance that I do love them, I’d see a mess in the colors or a tiny scratch a second later. And I’d immediately have this urge to do it all over again. Or burn it. For a long time, my perfectionist tendencies made me hate any creative work I made. Be it an essay or a school project collage or a blog post.

This you?

Well then, I want you to ask yourself one simple question. The one question I ask myself now whenever I’m bombarded with the need for absolute perfection:

“Will anyone, other than me, notice this flaw?”

Will anyone else take notice of this tiny flaw and think it ruined the entire piece the way you do?

No.

And I learned this is true most of the time. Most people probably won’t see anything. I know this because whenever I point out a small imperfection that has been bugging me for the entire creative process, you know what people usually say?

I don’t see it.

Or, Oh yeah, there is. But that’s so tiny!

Or, It’s not relevant, Kate. What are you talking about?

And this goes both ways. A friend of mine showed me her work and said she wanted to burn it. And I was totally confused because her work was awesome! We sometimes overlook the fact that we spent the most time looking over our work. (That was a mouthful so yes, you can read that again.) It comes to a point where we’re basically seeing everything in a magnifying glass, focusing on the tiniest specks rather than seeing the bigger picture.

Look, of course I’m not saying it’s okay to half-ass around and overlook the little mistakes you make.

You can’t really fully ignore them. You can’t erase the existence of the form/from typo you’ve written, or that stray stroke of watercolor that doesn’t go anywhere. They’re all there. They exist.

But here’s the thing:

Flaws, perfectionism, fear, quotes

Try taking a step back. Hold your paper at arms’ length. Zoom out that Word document to 10%, until all you could see are the pages you’ve written so far. Look at what you’ve made, the work-in-progress in front of you. It’s a messy work-in-progress, sure. It’ll need a tweak or twelve. But sometimes you need to remind yourself that you created something out of an idea.

Bask yourself in that. Because YOU made that.

And all those tiny flaws you see when you’re hunched down, laser-focused on one certain area? They are just that: tiny. Single specks in the huge amazing canvas you’ve created.

Own that amazingness.

That’s all you.

How do you move past the tiny flaws you find in the creative process? Let us know in the comments below so we’ll learn from your wisdom! 🙂

xx Kate

Photos from Aaron Burden and Ivory Mix

What Color Pencils Taught Me about Things You Can’t Control

Okay, Kate. How in the world are color pencils connected to control and perfectionism???

If you’ll just read on, it’ll make sense. I promise. Or I hope it does. So here goes.

What Color Pencils Taught Me About Things You Can't Control | Inspiration, Personal Growth, Perfectionism

Yep. I’m a perfectionist.

Or well, I used to be a hardcore one…? Now, I’ve loosened up a bit. (I think. Kind of.) The thing is, I’ve always tried to look into every miniscule detail of what I do.

I wanted to make sure that everything, every last little thing, every single tiny microscopic little thing* was perfect. To a T. That includes my art. So while I’m drawing something, various anxious perfectionist questions pop out of my head like,

Is the anatomy alright?
Are the color combinations aesthetically pleasing?
Did I get the skin color right?
Are there any unnecessary marks?
Is that stray hair strand dramatic as I want it to look?
Or is it just totally awkward?
Oh god, it does look awkward, doesn’t it?
Why does the cactus look like a rotten, withered cucumber??
And why does her skin color look like Donald-freakin-Trump’s**???

I know right. Why am I stressing over a hair strand. Ugh.

The thing is, I used to avoid color pencils because, like watercolor before, they’ve given me artistic trauma***.

*Please tell me you knew this reference. Halloween is coming.
**True story.
***Yes, it is a phrase. And yes, I’m exaggerating 😉

You know how when you use regular color pencils you have to put light pressure when sketching because it’ll be hard to erase if you don’t?

Yep, I learned that the hard, artistically traumatic way.

See, I’m the kind of person who has a really pressured penmanship. Sometimes I’m super focused on writing that I literally tear the paper in half.

It’s scary, I know.

And I also sketch that way. So you can just imagine little ten-year-old Kate who tried color pencils for the first time in her art class and ended up making this hot mess because she spent most of the time frustratingly erasing the color pencil.

Literally how I felt afterwards

Scarred, little Kate vowed to never touch a color pencil for the rest of her life. (Lol I should stop talking about myself in third person, it’s creepy)

Anyway, the point here is: little Kate is such a hardcore perfectionist. And back then, I wanted control in every aspect of my life, even my drawings.

I avoided color pencils and watercolor back then like the plague because I knew I won’t be able to have as much control with them as I do with pencils and pen. I wanted something I can easily control. But now that I think about it, you really can’t have that.

There are things that are totally out of your control.

This was so hard for me to accept, by the way.

Most likely because I was a stubborn perfectionist.

It always frustrated me when things get out of hand and everything becomes a hot mess and before I knew it I’m crying like a toddler who didn’t get her candy. But I’ve come to accept that there really are things that are uncontrollable. That no matter how you stubbornly want to micromanage things, they may not go the way you want it to be.

And you know what? No amount of effort on your part will make the uncontrollable controllable.

It’s harsh, but the truth is often that.

So instead of whining about how you can’t control the uncontrollable, focus instead on what you can actually control.

I tried to sketch with color pencils last week (much to ten-year-old Kate’s despair, I’m sure) and I thought, “If color pencils aren’t easily erasable, I’ll just have to try to put as light a pressure as I possibly could.”

Let me tell you: that first time was sooo hard. I had to squint my eyes to see the lines and in several occasions, I was sooo tempted to darken them. But I can’t control the unerasable-ness of the color pencil. So I had to control my pressure instead.

The whole ten or so minutes was an exercise to my perfectionism and need for ultimate control. But when I finished the sketch, I was so delighted with how it turned out!

It looked so good and, compared to a graphite pencil sketch, it looked so soft and feminine! Why didn’t I do this before??

Oh right. My control-needing perfectionism was hindering me.

And maybe, if you’re a perfectionist (or at least an aspiring micromanager) like yours truly, it’s hindering you to try out new things too. Maybe you’re stuck in the morning traffic and you’re already late and you sorely wished to be like Hancock and just throw all the cars in front of you.

But you’re not Hancock. And the morning traffic happen every-freakin-day. So instead of trying (and failing) to control it, wake up early.

So I want you to think of all those things you didn’t do or plans you cancelled or frustrations you’ve had because of something you can’t control. Think of the color pencil you were avoiding like the plague. Now think of what you can change. Try to look at it at a different angle and see what controllable thing you can do instead.

Who knows? Maybe, like me, you’d delightfully think: “Why didn’t I do this before?” 😉

Let’s talk, yeah? Are you a perfectionist? Have you avoided something like the plague because you’re afraid you can’t completely control the outcome? What did you do? Do share them in the comments below!

Have an awesome day! <3