July 25, 2015

How I’m Finally Releasing Self-Judgment at 61.


I grew up believing I was not creative. I don’t remember ever hearing anyone use that word to describe me.

This was at a time when “playing pretend” was very trendy. I loved to make up stories and act them out, both alone and with friends. I dreamed up mini-movies that might involve Barbie dolls living in makeshift houses made of stacks of books and adorned with my mom’s costume jewelry.

I produced rag tag talent shows with neighborhood friends, held in our stuffy garage on a summer’s day and attended by our mothers and our younger siblings who sat on cardboard boxes, applauding politely.

But to me, that wasn’t creativity. Being creative meant being an artist and to be an artist you had to draw. No one ever told me differently.

I cannot draw a straight line. Thus, I was not creative. And I held on to this mindset for nearly a lifetime.

A few years ago, on a whim, I signed up for a social painting class. Wine and some gal pals were involved, so it didn’t feel like a serious commitment. At 58, with my belief about my lack of creative ability firmly intact, I went to that class having no illusions about becoming the next Grandma Moses.

What I did have was fun. Nothing serious, very lighthearted and a lot like playing pretend. I fell in love with putting color on canvas. I completely lost track of time.

I know now that was a sure sign that something creative must be going on.

One class turned into over a dozen more. About a year later, I was ready for a next step in my burgeoning hobby. I discovered an open studio class for aspiring painters of all levels. Beginners were welcomed and that certainly felt like me.

The instructor taught me more than how to layer acrylic paint—he taught me that I just might be a naive artist. Wiki defines Naïve art as: a classification of art that is often characterized by a childlike simplicity in its subject matter and technique.

My creativity had a definition! Considering myself as naive meant I was allowed to make something simple that didn’t follow too many rules. I was freed from having to be perfect, needing to get it right.

I was allowed to free my genius, however humble and bumbling she was.

I had permission to have a beginner’s mind.

I was at long last silencing an inner critic.

Ever since that first paint-and-sip class, I’ve come to cherish the word naive. I see its magic being worked now in other aspects of my life: naive author, naive business owner, naive grownup. Permission is granted to find my way, to make mistakes, to not take things too seriously…to ever embrace a beginner’s mind.

I am kinder to myself about a lot of things and I’m no longer chasing an ideal.

Painting has helped me battle those “perfectionist demons” that show up in many areas of my life. At long last, there is no perfect, there’s only progress along with joy, awe, inspiration and a lot of other lovely words.

I’ve also learned to value the importance of taking a step back—from my paintings, from my other efforts. When I do so, I gain perspective and pat my brave little creative self on her back.

I’ve realized that being creative is unavoidable. Just living life is a creative act. We are all constantly evolving, changing, adding colors and shading to our self-portraits.

Consequently, creativity doesn’t have a shelf life. It morphs and grows as we do. It can be expressed in as many ways as we have ideas.

Anyone can tap into his or her creative expression at any age. Thankfully, Grandma Moses was right…there’s no such thing as “too late” or “too old” where creativity is concerned.

Perfection and creativity are born of self-love and self-respect and by taking risks in the spirit of fun. That perspective and lack of self-judgment brings me peace and the courage to keep going—and to keep beginning again.


Author: Marcia Smalley

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

Photo: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Marcia Smalley