Hello lovely people. I am hoping you had a wonderful holiday season – whatever it looked like for you. Maybe in involved a cup of tea and a few minutes of uninterrupted crafting? I hope it did.
2013 was a pretty big one for me. Many many things have happened including the wonderful first ever Craft Sessions retreat. And given that this time of year is often about reflection, I thought that I would share something of a realisation I’ve had over the last year which may very possibly have changed my life.
I’ve never been too into resolutions but I am into practicing a new habit. I truly believe that we can change ourselves over time, bit by bit by making a conscious effort to change a behaviour we know isn’t doing us that much good. And so I am going to put the problem out there my friends in the hope that 2014 can shift it.
I am a perfectionist.
I would like to be able to not write that statement. Or to faff around the truth by saying that I am not that bad. Or that I do dodgy craft when the situation calls for it, and can appreciate things that aren't perfect - and that would be true! I do cut corners. I don't always hem kids knit pajamas. I do quick-and-dirty fixes when the situation arises.
But when push comes to shove I am complete perfectionist. And that my friends is a problem in so many ways. The worst of which is the procrastination and not-doing that comes from wanting the outcome to be perfect. I should state here that I don't create things that are perfect. I make a lot of mistakes. But that in my head I am always aiming for perfect. And I am judging myself if it isn't.
So the goal of the post is to explain why and how this is the year when I start to let go of perfectionism. And why 2014 will now be known as the year of completionism!
Now this is a great point in time to stop reading if you are one of those people that aren’t affected by perfectionism as an issue – I’m mildly concerned that by putting a description of my somewhat crazy behavior out there, you may think (if you keep reading obviously) that I (and other perfectionists) am a little nuts. I keep trying to think of this post as a community service.
Anyhoo, early last year, in the process of figuring out how to get the guts up to put The Craft Sessions out there into the world, I went to a few talks and met with a few smart people. I was lucky enough during that time to see Catherine Deveny speak. The talk was entitled “Criticism, narcissism and getting over yourself. The biggest mistake you can make is not making a mistake”. It was a little bit life changing. And life changing in ways I couldn’t even see at the time because it had a much wider effect on my life than I originally imagined. Yes, it did help to get The Craft Sessions up and running, by helping me to ignore the fear and take the risk. BUT more importantly it has really changed the process of creating and making which is such an important part of my life.
So what did Catherine Deveny say that had such an impact?
So when I first heard Catherine Deveney speak I was thinking “wow that’s a little bit confronting”. But after nearly a year of watching this stuff in myself, observing the crazy so to speak, I am ready to make some changes and to share some of the things I have learned….like that she was right!
One of the biggest things that stops me from making/doing the things I want to do (read procrastinate) is my fear it won’t be perfect or live up to my idea/ideal. My fear is that the idea in my head won’t translate. That I will make it and it won’t live up to my expectations, and even other people’s expectations of me. That I will be disappointed.
Let me start by taking you on a little tour of what this behavior looks like in my crafting reality*.
A typical example is of the latest dress from Tessuti – the lovely Eva. I saw it, loved it and purchased it the first day it was released. I printed it and cut it out (of some Nani Iro I had been hoarding) within the next few days and then it has just sat there. In the basket ready to be made. I know it is a super quick project. I know I could have it done within a few hours and yet I have avoided it, procrastinating, and prioritized all sorts of other things for other people, because I am scared that I won’t like the version I have made as much as I like the one I’ve imagined. And so I don’t make it as a way of avoiding being disappointed! And the disappointed feeling is about being disappointed in myself.
This is soo nuts!
And sadly it is only one example of how perfectionism affects my making. I have included a couple of pictures from a dress I made for xmas for my gorgeous niece. I love her and so I want what I make for her to be “perfect” – and I made a mistake. Right at the end when I had finished all the sewing. I took my unpicker to open up the buttonholes and sliced right through the end of one. I did some quick dodgy fixing which you can hardly see. But was still super sad because I wanted to give her something “perfect”.
It’s like my head /heart completely misses the point of making and giving. That the recipient won’t care that it isn’t perfect. That they will feel loved because of the making. That they won’t even notice the small issue. I still felt disappointed. And to me the gift was a little bit ruined. The crazy behavior then went a little bit further - I also then had to tell my SIL about the mistake so she knew that I knew that it wasn’t perfect. Arrrgghhhh!!!
I couldn’t be proud of what I had made for her. Instead I was almost ashamed that it wasn’t perfect. And I had to let her know.
I often find that when this fear is particularly strong in me, that I spend more time thinking and dreaming about projects rather than doing them. I spend more time dreaming about my perfect wardrobe and building my visual diary than making it a reality because the dreaming part of it is free from disappointment. It is all about the potential. In my head things are perfect. Each frock I make myself fits perfectly.
But this is a really empty process because the buzz of potential never translates into actual making and actual outcomes. It is all bubbles and no champagne. And by wasting my time on this "potential" feeling I don’t get the longer term, ultimately more satisfying joy of having made things. And I also miss out on the joy of practicing my craft – which is a different sort of joy again. And practicing means my skills are improving over time, which means I am more likely to achieve the outcomes I am looking for.
Instead I am left with procrastinators regret. The feeling of knowing that if I had spent my time a little differently I would have a different outcome.
The thing that Catherine Deveny simply asked was "have you ever failed?" and then quickly followed up with "and did it kill you?" Just the sort of perspective I needed to hear. What is there to be afraid of? Disappointment can't kill me. Who knew??
Through watching myself this last year I have found that I don’t start, don’t make and don’t complete the projects that are really important to me. Instead I prioritise smaller, simpler and less important projects as they mean I can feel like I have achieved while avoiding dissappointment. Out of fear! In doing this I am wasting my time, my ideas, my opportunity to live my life the way that is a true reflection of what is important to me.
So - 2014 is the year of completionism!
I will be watching myself for this kind of (crazy) procrastination and fear-based behaviour. And when I see it, I’ll be practicing my little heart out to complete things. Completion will be the name of the game to see if I can get a bit closer to living a life free from the expectation of perfection and it's subsequent disappointment.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
*I have found that this stuff affects all of my life (putting on The Craft Sessions for example involved a massive step outside my comfort zone) but as this is a crafting blog I am focusing on that.