Knock it off.
I mean that. Its choking the creativity out of you. Perfectionism is not a virtue, its not to be admired, and its not a trait you should encourage. Perfectionism is an expression of fear; the fear of failure or inadequacy or being judged by others. Or something like that. I’m not a mental health professional of any flavor and I’m not going to pretend to know more about this then I actually do. But here is what I do know: when you hand over your knitting/crochet/quilting/etc to someone and point out all the imperfections that you just can’t live with, you actually handed that person your fear and asked them to deal with it for you.
Knock it off.
Most of my posts around here are positive and uplifting and hopefully a little funny. I’ll do another one of those tomorrow. Today I have a few things to say about perfectionism and none of it is very funny. I’m trusting you to come back after you read this. Also, I’m trusting you to know yourself well enough to recognize how big of a problem perfectionism is in your life and your work and act accordingly. Lastly, if it feels like I’m talking specifically to you, you’re wrong. Many crafters suffer from perfectionism. Unfortunately you have lots of company.
Perfectionism is Defeatism
You’re not perfect. You know that. If you’ve been alive for more than ten years, you’ve been told this before. Here is something that you might not have been told: trying to be perfect is bad for you. Trying to be perfect is not the same as trying to be better. Trying to be perfect is setting yourself up to fail and you’re doing it because you want to hurry up and fail and get it over with.
I’m not sure how common perfectionism is in non-crafting circles but is rampant among people who create things. You know what? That is just ridiculous. Creating is messy. Always. When you create something, anything, you never really know where you are going, how you are going to get there, or how it will turn out. Yes, even when you are following a pattern you are fumbling around in the dark. With every new pattern there are decisions to make. You’re using your own colors, and materials, and needles. When you start a pattern you don’t fully understand it. You won’t understand it until you’ve worked it. So all the decisions you make are best guesses and that’s where things get messy. Any time you create something new its not going to be perfect. How could it be?
Perfection, or something close to it, comes from practice and repetition. If you are trying for perfection by making the same hat over and over, well that’s different. Then at least you are measuring improvement from one hat to the next and recognizing your achievements. There is a certain satisfaction that comes with getting better each time. Getting better is possible and reasonable. But before you can get better at something you have to be willing to accept a few mistakes.
Mistakes are not failures. If this was a spoken conversation I would repeat that phrase. I would chant it at you. I would make you write it down on a sticky note and put it in your wallet. If you have trouble with perfectionism then you will have to tell yourself that mistakes are not failures over and over before it sinks in (just like you have to tell a kid with ADHD to settle down 17,000 times).
Still with me? Good. Here is the next true thing I want to say: You can make mistakes and still be a superstar.
Do those mistakes matter? Not really. Anyone can see the talent and vision of the artists in those pieces. People can see the talent in what you make too, even if it does have a mistake in it.
People are impressed when I wear a nicely made shawl. However, they are more impressed that I have an entire drawer full of shawls to choose from. Some readers will notice an exceptionally well-written blog post. Most notice that I post (usually) six times a week. Volume and effort and production get noticed more often then perfectionism and you should keep that in mind. But that’s not why I post so often or keep cranking out non-perfect shawls. I focus my efforts on production because I get better with practice. If I want to be a better writer I have to write, proof and publish. If I write, proof, re-write, proof, erase, start over… I never get any better. All creative effort is like that including yours.
So stop worrying about mistakes. We are not judging you. Stop handing your WIPs over to your friends and pointing out your mistakes. No matter what they say, no matter how critical or supportive they are, they don’t really care. Your friends are too busy accepting their own mistakes and forgiving their own inadequacies to really care much about yours.
So I say this with love in my heart and good intentions in my mind: Knock it off and just keep stitching.