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Updated: Jun 3, 2023

In the art world, a picture can not only say a thousand words but express dozens of emotions, convey hundreds of stories and reveal thousands of ideas. Art is the only form of communication that can be perceived in so many different ways and all of them are correct and meaningful.

Having a type A personality means that every aspect of my life is motivated by my desire to 'be the best’. I am a perfectionist. Any mistake I make is immediately recognised, ruminated and reflected on in my brain on a continuous cycle. Whether it's as petty as saying ‘good morning’ instead of ‘good afternoon’ just after midday or as big as paying a large sum of money up front to a tradesman that had no intention of completing the work. These errors, whether big or small and everything in between, are dwelled on and circulate through my mind on repeat. I believe that it is this personality trait that contributed to my vulnerability of getting unwell in the first place.

I know that this attribute is a fairly common thing that many people experience in daily life and it’s more consistent with anxious personalities. In fact, this type of negative-focus mentality is a natural phenomenon that transpired in the human race during our evolution. We are hardwired for negativity. It makes a lot of sense that we wish to focus more on our negative experiences as this is what our ancestors needed in order to keep safe and prevent the same thing from happening in the future. When I first heard this scientific theory I was fascinated by it and felt pleased to know that my thought processes were deemed normal by the scientific community.

Another thing about this negative bias is that in many situations I believe it does help me improve and be a better version of myself. For example, during my teacher training, I was highly self-reflective. During and after every lesson I would dissect each part instinctively in my head and I would immediately know exactly what I could do better for next time. The ability to self-reflect plays a crucial role in development and self-improvement, particularly in the workplace. Most employers now highly value this as a pivotal trait when employing someone new. So my negative bias is not all bad. I know that it’s part of my wiring and it is something I need to monitor and manage for the rest of my life, like many others.

Take yoga as an example. I have tried it at varying intensities over the years with different practices and different instructors. I have never clicked with it. I know many people experience the ‘click’ with yoga when it all starts making sense all of a sudden. Maybe I needed to of done it for longer to encounter this myself. I just could not get into it. I was far too focused on what others were doing. "Why could they do downward dog better than me?". "She can touch her toes so much better than I ever could". "Gosh, I wish I could make it look so effortless like that!". The funny thing was that these thoughts haunted my entire practice and I would leave the studio feeling mentally worse than I did before the start of the session. I know that this mentality is something you have to actively work on and practice. I was aware it was something I had to train my brain on. But I was still even self-critical about the brain-training exercises I tried. It was a catch-22! I assumed that this aspect of my personality was something that was part of me, for better and for worse.

However, it is not until I got ill that I realised how much my self-criticism influenced every aspect of my life. Even my recovery has been dominated by schedules, plans and in the early days, internal statements such as "I need to feel better for this specific date". It’s now only these last few weeks that I have realised just how damming this thinking has been for my rehabilitation. I was so angry at myself for feeling so unwell. I felt like I had disastrously failed because I was unable to be at work. I had to let people down and disappointed them and this caused my tendency for self-deprecation to multiply. I was unable to endeavour to be perfect and this only made me feel worse.

About 5 weeks into feeling unwell I met with a yoga instructor for a massage. I say yoga instructor but she does far more than that job description. Coincidentally, she, unfortunately, suffers from fibromyalgia so knows a lot about chronic fatigue. We discussed my symptoms and she was able to offer me lots of guidance and advice but most importantly she was able to provide me with lots of encouragement and hope. The most helpful thing I have heard since feeling this way was what she casually mentioned during our chat. “It is important to know that your body is protecting you right now,” she said, “it was not sustainable what you were doing, you burnt out and your body shut down to protect you”. I don’t think she realised what a lightbulb moment this was for me. It was like the fog had lifted. Something had clicked. My body wasn’t doing this to punish me. The last thing I should do is to be critical of it. I should only be thanking my brain and body for shielding me from further damage. I entered into a shut-down mode to force myself to change my unsustainable ways. It was the only way I would truly be able to heal entirely. I have now been coerced into this state of ‘nothingness’ where the only thing to do is focus on myself to try to get better. The more negative I am about myself, the fewer steps in my recovery I can take. It is as simple as that. I have had to focus on just existing with no judgement. I allowed myself to no longer strive for ‘perfection’. Finally!

That’s why I believe art has been a therapy for me during this time. I am not good at art, in fact, I would even say I am bad. In another lifetime I wouldn’t have even given it a go. I am far too impatient and lack the meticulous skill set that real artists possess. I have always been creative though. Always with a new hobby neatly packed in an Amazon parcel on my doorstep, awaiting its prompt use the second it’s opened and its even prompter store underneath the bed in the spare bedroom. Underneath that bed are boxes filled with tools, paintbrushes, paints, canvases, sketchbooks and so much more. Jeff Bezos would be thrilled. All for my newly acquired hobbies of jewellery making, clay work, embroidery, acrylic paint, oil paint and many more fads and fashions. Name any calming home-based hobby. It has probably passed my hands, all of which have been explored and ultimately put away.

One type of art that I have always gone back to though has been watercolour painting. I like using watercolours. I was able to make a mistake and go over it again and again. I would typically just drip more water all over the areas I didn’t like and it would flow and splurge making a far better image than I could ever do myself. Don’t get me wrong, I still rip out the pages from time to time when I don’t like how it looks (something I am working on!). At the start of April, my boyfriend’s mother gave me a sketchbook and she set me a challenge to draw a picture a day to help with the boredom. Initially, my perfection-seeking ways constrained my creativity but a few days in I just drew whatever came to mind and I really looked forward to doing it. It turns out that although my artwork was far from perfect, it simply did not matter, I loved them and that was the most important thing. What is perfect art anyway? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I was the only beholder. It has certainly made me think I could apply this to other areas of my life.

I know as a teacher I will never be perfect. Perfection does not exist in the industry. Even though I’ve been striving for it since my first day in teacher training. I know when I do go back to work I will no longer be working towards something that doesn’t exist. I will still try my hardest, but I know now I won’t beat myself up when things don’t go 100% right or I miss the mark by a few centimetres. I have concluded that my wonderful brain which has always had a yearning for excellence, does not need to do that at all. I just need to live my life, work hard (but not too hard!) and know that I am enough just as I am regardless of my achievements and my interpretation of success. What a relief!

So for now, it’s time to get myself some scissors. To cut myself some slack!

(Quote I just heard from a TV show I am currently watching: Ted Lasso. Highly recommended!).

Below are some of my recent art pieces from my sketchbook for you to look at. Enjoy!

'Colour splash'

'Splendid change'

'Poppyidepop corn'

'The fox amongst the cats'

'When life gives you lemons'


'Fun Guy'

'Making a living'

'Fish n Chips'

'Turtley Awesome'

'Sunday Lunch'

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4 comentários

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Membro desconhecido
10 de out. de 2023

Wow, Jemma I’m lost of words… your posts and the way you said the things are really interesting… continue doing that! It’s incredible how words can make a difference.


Chloe Frensley
Chloe Frensley
29 de set. de 2023
Avaliado com 5 de 5 estrelas.

Art can really be a therapy for people. Right now I’m a sophomore in college, but when i was a senior deciding what college I wanted to go to, I saw that lipscomb offered a major In Art Therapy. I had never really heard of it before and I thought that would be a really cool degree to have. I knew art could be relaxing, but i never really thought about it in a way to truly help people. The art you added is gorgeous!


Ian Walters
Ian Walters
09 de mai. de 2023

Hey Jemma, thanks for sharing - you are such a gifted communicator, rest up and I hope nature will nurture you through your recovery. Ian xx

Jemma Bella
Jemma Bella
11 de mai. de 2023
Respondendo a

Hello Ian, Thank you so much for your lovely message, I really appreciate it! You kicked me into gear to write another one! Hopefully see the fam soon xx

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