I’m a recovering perfectionist. I say recovering, because I still fall into those old ways of thinking all too frequently.
I’ve been this way since I was a kid–nobody ever told me I had to be perfect, but I’ve always felt like I have to be anyway. Perfectionism is a viscious cycle: you push yourself to achieve insane standards, wanting to impress people (parents, teachers, friends, random people who have no idea who I am), but then get even more stressed when you assume that people have now come to expect perfection from you and will be upset with anything less.
The other crappy thing about perfectionism is that it rears its ugly head over everything. You start imbuing every paper, email, conversation, whatever with tremendous importance. And when you feel like you’ve done something less-than-stellar, it really can feel like your whole world is crashing down around you. You’re unable to do anything, afraid that you’ll mess up and disappoint everyone.
This is all obviously no bueño, right? It’s hard to realize that in the moment, though. About a year into grad school I finally realized I had to make a conscious effort to battle perfectionism. It was becoming impossible to do anything, because I was so consumed by the fear that I wouldn’t live up to other people’s standards (or worse, my own).
Talking to other people helps *a lot*. You start to realize that a ton of other people feel this way. I’ve found that keeping this in mind makes me much kinder to others and to myself. Having an awesome job and boss helps a lot, too–I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to work in an environment where innovation and experimentation are encouraged over perfectionism. Not only do I feel more fulfilled by my work now, but I’m also much more productive and have grown so much.
Crafting has also played a big part in my efforts to be kinder to myself and ditch my old ways of thinking. It is really easy to make a mistake when crafting. But if you read craft blogs or talk to your crafty friends, you realize that those mistakes–the hours spent ripping out seams, untangling thread, and re-cutting fabric–are seen as a rite of passage, rather than a source of shame. In talking to people about my frustrations over craft mishaps, they’ve all pointed out that that’s part of the charm of handmade crafts: they’re not perfect, and their imperfections tell a story.
I am so proud that this weekend I finished my biggest knitting project yet, a shawlette from Laura Linneman (you can find the pattern for Lala’s Simple Shawl over on Ravelry). I made lots of mistakes along the way, including…
These things are barely noticeable by anyone else. Previously it would’ve still stressed me out, and I would’ve been thinking about the mistakes the whole time I was wearing it. But now, I focus on the wins: I tried a new method of binding off that I really liked, I got to use gorgeous yarn that makes me happy every time I look at it, and I made a freaking shawl in a month! Those are the things worth dwelling on. Instead of trying to make things perfect, I’m just going to make.