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Never Being Satisfied

“Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.”

Zadie SmithZadie Smith

The acclaimed novelist, essayist and short story writer offers more advice on creating in the post Zadie Smith’s 10 Rules of Writing, by Maria Popova.

Smith is among the finalists for the Women’s Prize, known formerly as the Orange Prize, for “NW: A Novel.”

Her comment about “never being satisfied” reminds me of the famous quotes of dancer Martha Graham: “No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.

“There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

[From my post Keep the channel open.]

The urge to create, to keep on creating, always seeking the next project, can help fuel achievement – but also dissatisfaction. Perfectionism can also be part of it.

School and formal education can incubate our passions to achieve, but it can also instill self-limiting patterns of thinking and behavior, including distorted ideas about perfection and excellence, and judging satisfaction with our creative efforts.

Robert Kiyosaki recalls his early school years: “Today I don’t use much of what I learned after the fifth grade. But that’s not to say school didn’t leave its permanent mark on me. The fact is, I left school with several behavioral traits I hadn’t walked in with.”

Writing in the book Einstein’s Business: Engaging Soul, Imagination and Excellence in the Workplace, he continues: “Engraved in my mind was the belief that making a mistake, or ’screwing up,’ got me ridiculed by my peers and often my teacher. School brainwashed me into believing that if a person wanted to be successful in life, he or she had to always be right. In other words, never be wrong.”

He adds, “School taught me to avoid being wrong (making mistakes) at all costs. And if you did happen to make a mistake, at least be smart enough to cover it up. This is where all too many people are today—not allowing themselves to make mistakes and thus blocking their own progress.”

This urge toward unhealthy perfectionism can deeply affect us, he notes: “The symptoms of this ‘disease’ are feelings of boredom, failure, and dissatisfaction, although most of us never come to understand why we feel this way. After having it drilled into us for so many years, it’s hard to imagine that being ‘right’ could cause such unhappiness.”

As creators, we may never ­be satisfied, on a deep level, and that may help motivate exploring and creating. But it can be helpful to look out for the destructive aspects of perfectionism.

See multiple posts on perfectionism on my High Ability site.

The quotes by Robert Kiyosaki are ones I also use in my book Developing Multiple Talents: The personal side of creative expression – follow the link to the website where you can read more excerpts.


Never Being Satisfied

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2013). Never Being Satisfied. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 16, 2018, from


Last updated: 15 Mar 2013
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Mar 2013
Published on All rights reserved.