I have a problem with perfectionism. I'm sure it stems from a need for affirmation, praise, and recognition from my dad when I was a kid. Success was expected, acknowledged, and rewarded and was the ultimate goal. At an early age I tied doing the best with getting attention and ultimately, love. That's a deeply rooted connection and a hard habit to shake.
I always remember Martha Stewart being asked if she needs to be perfect and her reply was (and I'm paraphrasing), 'well, of course I do! Why wouldn't you want to be perfect?'. Perhaps that is the reason for her drive to succeed and excel at whatever she does and I agreed with her view that one should always strive to be perfect. I realize, intellectually, that it is neither attainable nor realistic to actually be perfect but I still believe that it can be something to shoot for. I know it's not healthy to put that much pressure on yourself and it can lead to feelings of inadequacy, guilt, the need to compare and perhaps, low self-esteem. It is a totally self-imposed standard.
It's amusing that I recognize this trait in myself so vividly when I am working on a quilt. Quilting is a craft born from a simple necessity for basic warmth and lack of supplies. Although beautiful creations were hand-sewn from scraps of old clothing and feed sacks, perfect construction and even stitches were not critical components of the project. Today, with all the high tech machines, tools, and techniques one would think that a perfect quilt would be the natural result but that is not the case, whether from a factory overseas or a sewing machine in North America. Piecing and quilting still require concentration, attention to detail, and skill.
Joining the blocks in my DWR quilt has been a challenge and I was unsure whether my points were meeting correctly in the arcs and setting triangles. I asked instructor Gail Kessler whether I was hitting the mark and she replied that I should just relax and enjoy the process and when the quilt is done, and quilted, and on my bed, no one will either see or care if the points match perfectly. It has been difficult for me to let go of that goal - even though it is a totally frustrating pain - and let the process occur. I struggle with the line between the pull to make it perfect and 'close enough is good enough' (that's an Angela Walters quote).
I think I will work on taming my need for perfection - and it does get easier the older I am. My father is gone and as I head soon into my 50th year, I'm learning to believe in myself more, relax, and appreciate the person I am and what I have achieved. It's easy to end up comparing one's work to everyone else's on the internet and to feel inadequate as a result. However, the realization that there will always be someone more advanced, more talented, more creative, and more successful than you (or more fit, more wealthy, or more attractive, if that's your thing) should hopefully calm the need to self-judge because you need only be the best you can be.
As Gail suggested, I will stop worrying about perfect points and enjoy the process! The advice has led me to complete three rows of joined blocks - some great joins, some not-so-great(!) - in much more pleasant and less frustrating sewing sessions. I'm half way done and starting to see the secondary designs forming in the pattern. It's very exciting and rewarding!
Do you have thoughts to share on this topic? If so, please leave a comment! :)