Perfectionism + Learning + Sewing – How to learn to let it go

by | Aug 24, 2020

If I had a pound for every time somebody pointed out the imperfections in the clothes they had made, I’d be… well a little bit closer to a millionaire than I am now!

And do you know the really crazy thing is 99% of the time I wouldn’t have noticed the ‘imperfection’ if they hadn’t pointed it out to me! And I’m the expert!

We are far more critical with ourselves than anyone else is. Let me tell you that I’m just the same as you are, but I’m trying really hard not to be!

I would describe myself as a natural perfectionist to the point of procrastination. I would avoid starting things because I knew that they couldn’t or wouldn’t be as perfect as I imagined them to be in my mind. This applies to everything from personal stuff around the home like cooking or cleaning to things that I do within my business such as writing a newsletter or planning the next terms courses and workshops.

I would spend far longer doing something, tinkering about with the details and finesses that I would be right up to the deadline and get myself totally stressed out about it and not feel good about it at all.  What did I gain from that?

Procrastination and perfectionism are both a form of fear. Fear of making mistakes and getting things wrong. But what’s the worst that can happen? A worldwide pandemic that stops life as we know it in it’s tracks? Well that has happened and we’ve lived through it! But in reality our mistakes are far from catastrophic and framed correctly we can learn from them and grow.

“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” was a phrase I heard recently and it really resonated with me. How much good stuff is held back and not released into the world, just because the creator deems it less than perfect.

The things we call imperfections could be the things that make it good, relatable, unique and worthwhile to other people. In fact I have one particular student who would say they’re not imperfections, they are her uniqueness!

A skill is something that requires time and effort and practice to get good at. And dressmaking is definitely a skill.

You wouldn’t expect to pick up a violin and play a really tricky concerto first time, but somehow beginner sewists expect to skip over the basics and use difficult techniques to make advanced garments perfectly without putting in the time and practice to build their skills. This will often lead to disappointment and to people giving up on a hobby that could bring them some real joy before they even really get started.

As a teacher I can demonstrate techniques, show you how and tell you tips that will help, but without actually trying it for yourself and understanding how the fabric feels and moves and how the machine moves the fabric and feeling where and how your own hands can make a difference, you are not going to build and grow the skills that will make you a better dressmaker.

Over time and practice your hand-eye coordination improves, your fingers remember the actions because you’ve done them many times before and they are where you need them to be without even thinking about it.

Don’t expect to run before you can walk, but also don’t be afraid to try more advanced projects once you’ve got the basics or you will never grow.

I have recently experienced what it felt like to be a beginner at something again. Over the last few months I have been learning new things that have stretched me outside of my comfort zone to help grow and expand my business. I have been learning how to: build a website, digitise my patterns and how to create and edit videos. It’s all real techy geek stuff and it’s far from my area of expertise, but I promised myself I would do it and get it out there and not worry about it being perfect. I have an important message to share with the world and the people who need to hear what I have to say, will hear it and appreciate it whether it is technically perfectly packaged or not.

I’m working towards 80% is good enough! I know as I do more, I will learn more and I will get better, The improvements will definitely come much faster by taking action rather than doing nothing for fear of getting it wrong.

So I’ve tried really hard to let go of my perfectionist ways, to ask myself gently, (as I do with my students regularly,) “Can you live with that?” I want it to be my best, but sometimes my skill level hasn’t caught up with where my head wants it to be. So I say, “Yes, I can live with that. I did my best with my skill right now!”

Strive for progress, not perfection. Understand that the more you practice a skill the better you will get, but that ultimately the only person who will be concerned by the flaws is you!

One of the best ways to grow and to learn is to make mistakes and I hope you’re like me, that you’re going to make plenty!

Love & stitches

Alison xx

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