Progression and Growth: Understanding Why You Are Hard On Yourself

 If you are like me, you are extra hard on yourself and your art. You are your own worst critic and often you're overly critical nature of how you are doing something hinders instead of helps you grow. I think this is due to a number of reasons but the graph below explains exactly why I am so hard on myself.

What I am trying to say here is that my concept of "good" and "skillful", or my perception of them and what constitutes them, is generally on a consistent rise. As time goes on and I work more and look at more art, I develop my perception of "good art". This comes into conflict with my own progression and skills. They are not as constant. There are moments on the path of becoming a better artist where you plateau for a time. This means there is a time when my perception of "good" and my ability to meet that perception or expectation of good are not aligned and my perception is at a higher level than I am capable of meeting. Only very rarely on this scale are my perceptions of good and my abilities at the same point, which explains why my moments of feeling "good" about my art are infrequent in comparison to my constant criticism of myself.

The solution to my problem (and maybe yours if you are like me) is to be aware of this pattern. That way when I see myself being too hard on myself, I can stop and realize that I am at a plateau with skills and abilities while my perception of "good" continues to rise. I can take a deep breath and know that eventually I will reach a point where they meet up. That I will improve if I just keep at it and practice.

I can also prepare myself. When I feel proud about a painting I will know that very soon my skill graph and perception graph will depart from each other again. I can mentally prepare myself because half of the problem is the shock of feeling really good about a painting one day, starting a new on the next and feeling like this one can't live up to your standards. It isn't that you have become worse, it's that you are still just as talented and skillful as when you were proud of yourself the day before, your expectations merely moved forward at a quicker pace than your skills could. This is a good thing ultimately.

Another solution is to look at old art and compare it to new ones. Here are some examples of my own work. I post them here as a reminder to myself to look at these examples and see that while I may be down on myself at the moment, I am still better than I was.










Looking back on where you came from and seeing that improvement is one of the best ways to shut that stupid critic in your head up. It works for me at least.

I will say that I am not perfect. I still get down on myself and overly criticize my own work. I am sometimes unable to let myself have any joy in my art due to my overly critical nature. So I am speaking on this while I am trying to master myself and my negative reactions to my own work. But even in curbing the zealous critic inside me, I'm making progress just like I am with my art. That's something.

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