How Perfectionism Has Kept My Joy On Hold


To begin, I might as well admit that I’ll never ever feel ready for any of this. Read on and you’ll see how two giant stupid misbeliefs have literally kept me living small. And if you’re about to say something like, But Alex you always look like you’ve got your sh*t together! All I can say is, I wish.

“I’ve never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit.”
- Elizabeth Gilbert

Funny self portrait of Alex Mitchell in pink tulle dress and magic fairy wand looking like she’s up to trouble.

Confession time.
What if an introverted kid who spends her childhood making art alone in her room and secretly wishing she had superpowers grows up to become a headstrong artist and designer with lofty dreams. Only to find herself forever stuck in a teeny apartment plagued by perfectionism and nightmares. That is, until the day she discovers that her sassy misfit attitude is a superpower for getting herself unstuck and inspiring others to do the same.

Yep, this is my story.

My sassy misfit attitude kicked in when I got tired of my own bullshit.

Namely, I got tired of not letting myself dream big.

Even though I’ve achieved plenty of things I’m super proud of, somewhere along the way I decided playing small was easier than having big dreams. And ya know where that got me? Stuck in a teeny-weeny apartment, that's where.

Turns out the Universe has a wicked sense of humor. My surroundings shrunk to match my desires. The good news is I’ve figured out that perfection is a big fat lie. Yeah, I’ve become aware of how perfectionism has kept my joy on hold. Pretty much all my life. Yikes.

I’ve been ashamed about not having a big studio to work in.

There, I said it.

Giant stupid misbelief #1:
I can’t possibly be a real artist and successful business owner if I don’t have a big studio.

Feel free to write your own giant stupid misbelief:
I can’t possibly be a ________________ and successful ________________ if I don’t have ________________.

Funny self portrait of Alex Mitchell in pink tulle dress and magic fairy wand leaning forward and pondering.

Flashback.
So let me back up a bit to give you some context…

When I first took the plunge to make art, everything pretty much lined up for me. I quit my well-paying interior design job to make theater props. I found a waitressing job to make ends meet. And surprisingly, I made lots of art.

My first art show happened in a fun restaurant about a year later. Then I found my first gallery. My work sold well and I went full-time making art. I had my first fancy solo show about a year after that. I’m leaving out a ton of details, but the main events happened about a year apart.

Fast-forward a few years and there I am living in another country and making sculptures. I started making art with toylike qualities. It’s been my obsession since 2001 to make art that allows for play. Anyway, it looked like everything was gonna work out great. At first.

I found three galleries in Madrid and one in Lisbon to show my work. And although my work sold well, the galleries were not all that “professional.” A few years later, I’d had enough. Instead of owning up that I’d chosen these shady galleries because I was desperately looking for validation, I got super pissed about working with galleries altogether and quit. As in, f**k all y’all cheating lazy-ass galleries! I’m outta here!

I kept making my art on a commission basis and started making books. And that had a deep three-year learning curve. Why? Because I was such a freaking perfectionist about the illustrations and book design. Of course. Duh.

Mind you, I was living in a big apartment at the time and had plenty of room for my office and studio. No teeny-weeny woe-is-me apartment blues quite yet.

And because I had a great studio space, my best friend Laila suggested I give art classes in English to her ten-year-old daughter. Hello! Do you mean someone will pay me to have fun making stuff with a great kid? And all I have to do is speak in English?

My first student is now in college. I’ve been teaching English via art and play to kids in Madrid for over twelve years. And when the pandemic hit I figured out how to give my classes online. That’s something I’d never imagined possible for the hands-on classes I teach.

Not only do I love teaching kids, but it’s been a steady source of income for me. And yet, the truth is I've been feeling bad about myself.

I’ve been ashamed about not making art full-time.

Ya see I had this snobbish attitude about artists who make art part-time while working another job. I figured they were scared to take the leap. I was a total snob. No lie. I’ve only now figured out that I’ve been a snob to myself.

Remember how I said the Universe has a wicked sense of humor? Yep, I’ve become one of those artists I used to frown upon because they didn’t make art full-time.

Giant stupid misbelief #2:
I can’t possibly be a real artist and successful business owner if I don’t make art full-time.

Feel free to write your own giant stupid misbelief:
I can’t possibly be a ________________ and successful ________________ if I don’t (do) ________________.

Funny self portrait of Alex Mitchell in pink tulle dress and magic fairy wand with encouraging and kind look on her face.

My big self.
So there you have it. For many years I’ve held on to my giant stupid misbeliefs as truths.

I’ve had big studios and I’ve worked on my art full-time. But when my circumstances changed, my perfectionism had me arguing for my own limitations. I stopped taking chances. I stopped stepping out of my comfort zone and into my big life.

The Universe can only give you what you ask for.

All it takes is the willingness to fess up and give yourself permission to shine.

That said, I’m kicking my life-sucking guilt narratives out the door. I’m too old for this crap. I’m gonna be kind to myself and let it go. It’s all part of my inspired rebel living philosophy which seems to expand with every confession I make.

The fact that you’re even reading this is proof that I’m stepping into my truth. Twinki-Winki is the next level of my big self.

Because now that I’ve told everyone my studio is tiny, nothing can stop me from doing my quirky photo shoots. And now that my teaching is no longer a secret, I can create that vision board course I’ve always wanted to teach.

Funny self portrait of Alex Mitchell in pink tulle dress and magic fairy wand with her arms crossed and a knowing smile.

I like to preach that all the good you want in your life starts with feeling good about yourself.

Looks like every day I’m a little smarter about living what I preach. Yay!

Uh-huh. Watch me jump back on my unicorn and ride off into the sunset!


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