Broken Promises

I used to feel horribly guilty if I failed to keep a commitment I’d made to myself and sometimes, when I didn’t follow through on one of my “self promises”, I would even shame myself by whispering scornfully inside my head, “How can you expect others to respect you when you don’t even respect yourself enough to keep your promises to yourself??”

While there is certainly an element of truth in that scathing accusation (that element being the fact that we should always treat ourselves with respect!), I finally woke up to the bigger and deeper truth that I am ALLOWED to not only make mistakes, but I am permitted to break promises to myself, and even to fail utterly at something! … yet still remain a person of value and worthy of respect from others and most especially from myself!

It’s taken me almost an entire lifetime to learn that sometimes the greatest pressures put upon us are not placed on our shoulders by others, but by ourselves. I have learned too, that often these self imposed burdens are the heaviest and hardest to bear because when we fail ourselves, we are usually our own worst critics. And those of us who suffer from “perfectionism” are all too familiar with that scathing, critical voice that lives inside our heads and never lets us get away with anything that even remotely resembles a mistake! Fortunately though, with age and/or experience comes some degree of wisdom! Both age and experience have taught me that Life is quite challenging enough with just the run-of-the-mill expectations we must all live up to and the ordinary everyday commitments most of us have to meet, without adding what amounts to unreasonable self imposed pressure to “measure up and keep our promises to ourselves!”.  And so, though I don’t make promises to myself lightly or dismiss them easily, I no longer berate myself when I am unable to keep a “self promise”. Instead, I shrug and choose to look at my “failure” to live up to my self imposed commitment as a valuable lesson learned and to use the lesson to improve myself in some way going forward.

From imagination, about 20 minutes.

From imagination, about 30 minutes. Idea for future painting or drawing.

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 All this is explanation for why I am not profusely apologizing or otherwise beating myself up for not following through very well on my promise to myself to “sketch something at least vaguely tree-like” every single day for my September Sketchbook project! LOL  Things got a lot busier for me throughout the month than I expected them to be and I ended up with more on my plate on a daily basis than I thought I would have and, well, something had to give, so I didn’t end up with nearly so many sketches of trees as I’d hoped for — though I still managed more than I’d have done had I not challenged myself in that way! 🙂

From imagination, about 20 minutes.

From imagination, about 15 minutes.

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Ultimately, I’m very glad that I at least attempted this project because it taught me a couple of valuable things. It reminded me that I lovelovelove to sketch … and that I don’t do it nearly often enough. It also taught me that I don’t do especially well when I have to stick to a pre-chosen subject. Part of the reason I love sketching so much is because it is usually a pretty spontaneous thing for me and I very much enjoy sketching whatever I feel moved to sketch in that very moment. Feeling compelled to sketch a subject that I either am not much in the mood to sketch or for which I have no immediate reference (to be clear, I include “inspired imagination” in my definition of “reference” material) feels very unnatural and, in a way, is almost painful. And so, I ended up with very few tree sketches completed for my September Sketch Project.

From imagination, about 10 minutes

From imagination, about 5 minutes

Going forward, I intend to re-commit to trying my best to sketch every single day … but I will only sketch subjects that move me to sketch them, at the time they move me, and will do so with the understanding that Life and other commitments will very likely take precedence some days … and when that happens, I will remind myself that everything is as it should be and all is well! 🙂

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4 comments to Broken Promises & Twisty Trees

  • Joanne

    I hear you ! Self imposed stressors…who needs them. Must be because our birthdays are the same..similar characteristics. I like seeing your work so I will put more stress on you …just kidding. So much presure to do art that we can lose that inspiration. guess it needs to be a balance….i think if we waited for inspiration … there are periods nothing woud get done. have a great day!

  • haha! It’s so true, Joanne! We definitely can’t wait just for inspiration…or nothing would ever get done! I also like to write, and I read years and years ago, that if writers (authors) wrote only when they were inspired to do so, there would be no books in the book stores! If you want to accomplish anything in your chosen art (goes for writing, art, music, sculpting… even gaming! haha), then you have to make time for it…and the best way to make sure you have the time to devote to your art is to *schedule* time. If you want to “produce reliably” or “succeed” or just “improve” for your own personal goals, then you must treat your art almost as a job, with defined hours in which you “work”. Develop a “work habit” for your art, then you won’t need inspiration! Of course, if you just want to treat whatever creative thing you do as a hobby, then there’s no need to put that “work habit” pressure on yourself. For me, I want to keep my sketching as the “hobby” side of my art, so keeping it as pressure-free, while at the same time sketching on a regular, frequent basis, becomes the challenge for me! hehe

  • Yes, you are way too hard on yourself Lissa!! I only sketched 2 out of 4 Sundays, I wasn’t thrilled about it but I’ve been so totally gentle with myself…like you said there are only so many things you can do in a day and with life “stuff” is always coming up that is unforeseeable. I think if we can be kind, gentle and forgiving with ourselves, we can be much more so with others! I am positive you did the best you could, sometimes life just has other plans for us!!! And besides you created that great sketch (the woman with the tree crown), which looks super interesting!!!

  • hehe yes, I must confess, I am definitely a work in progress when it comes to being hard on myself, Kathryn! But, I’ve been doing a LOT of practicing and so it’s getting easier every day to treat myself more gently and lovingly. “Breaking my word” and not living up to commitments and expectations is something I have always been almost ridiculously hard on myself about. I’m just thankful that I discovered that the world won’t end (and most people likely won’t even notice!! LOL) if I happen to not follow through on every single thing I say I will do, while I still have the years left to relax and enjoy this new discovery about life! 🙂 And yes…I am really pretty excited about that sketch and can’t wait to explore the idea a bit further!