I like lists.
They give structure, direction. Make goals clear and concise. They make life easy and manageable. They put controls in place and make me believe I can define an outcome when much of life is actually completely out of my control.
They have also played a part is helping me realize that I am a perfectionist....bugger.
I have never considered myself to be a perfectionist. Back in childhood my Brother was the perfectionist. He was the one who openly agonized about his work not being up to par. Time and time again I saw the frustration, tears and torn up homework that came with that way of thinking.
That scared me and because I wasn't exhibiting those perfectionist behaviors - I was the 'good girl' The one who didn't cause any problems and was happy to just get by and scrape a good grade if I could.
I bought into that 100% It seemed so much more cool that my brother's perfectionist title. It made me 'almost a rebel' and what teenage girl wouldn't like that label attached to her.
The truth of it, I can now see, was entirely different. My struggle was internal. When I became anxious about not passing a test, it could never been seen outwardly. My sleep was disrupted, I would have panic attacks and I developed an eating disorder.
I realize now these were all my controls, put into place because of the perfectionist in me.
Up until 2 weeks ago, I would have argued that I have zero perfectionist qualities in me. Over the course of 11 years of marriage, I have seen that it is my Husband who has been given the label of perfectionist. I have always agreed with that label and thought of it as a positive. I mean, who better to design and build your aircraft than a perfectionist huh?!
So again, I am happy with my place - going through life right alongside a perfectionist but happy not to be one myself.
Then a couple of weeks ago I was sat with two friends - wise, sweet ladies who were talking to me about my quilts and creations. I told them the struggle I have with finishing many of my quilts because throughout the process I always look and see the things I have done wrong on them, how I could have made them better, how any creativity and beauty I once saw in them - is pretty much gone by the end.
After finishing most of my quilts, I pack them away for a while. Shove them upstairs in the linen cupboard, not wanting to see them anymore. Some of the quilts I have made for others have sat for years, packed away before I was able to pluck up the courage to give them to the recipient.
One of the ladies said 'You are a perfectionist' and I quickly let her know 'No! No! My husband
is the perfectionist - I just make things and then they aren't good enough...'
I left my friends later on that morning, still steadfast in my non-perfectionist trait and found myself looking under my cutting table. Staring at 6 or more quilts in progress that I am paralyzed to finish because of my belief that they are not good enough.
Realizing I have a solid pattern of getting a creative idea - followed by a flurry of activity to put that idea into practice - starting the project and realizing that it has flaws - packing project up and stuffing it under cutting indefinetly.
Brene Brown's quote puts it perfectly: 'Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance. Research shows that most perfectionists were raised being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule-following, people-pleasing, appearance, sports). Somewhere along the way, we adopt this dangerous and debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Please. Perform. Perfect. Healthy striving is self-focused— How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused — What will they think?'
And it hit me...if our kids are being raised by 2 perfectionists, what hope do they have of not following in our footsteps?? We are raising little people-pleasers who care more about others acceptance of them and don't fully know their own self worth.
Who cannot open up and just create - with flaws and all, because of the fear of failure or disapproval.
Maddy is a little artist. She enjoys drawing, painting and creating in general. But she also has moments (which are becoming more frequent) where she is crippled by the fear that what she is creating is not as good as "....." or "....." does this so much better than me. It irritates me when she comes to me with a drawing that she has done, which she is already critizing. I ask her why she can't see how good it is?? or how wonderfully creative she is??
And, you know what - I (we) taught her that.
She sees the whole process from me, over and over again when I get a new idea for a quilt/doll and then it ends up under the cutting table, hidden...or from her Dad when he tackles a new house project and grinds to a halt because he doesn't have the time or energy to finish it perfectly today. So it must wait for another day when hopefully their will be time...but their usually isn't.
Perfectionism is the killer of creativity.
Brene Brown also quotes "Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life-paralysis. Life-paralysis refers to all of the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect. It’s also all of the dreams that we don’t follow because of our deep fear of failing, making mistakes, and disappointing others. It’s terrifying to risk when you’re a perfectionist; your
self-worth is on the line.'
Crap. That's huge.
She goes on "Perfectionism is contagious. Be mindful of the messages that you’re sending the people around you – your kids, your partner, your co-workers, your friends. Make “embracing imperfection” a family project. If the house is messy or you’re late for church or dinner is overcooked, let
yourself off the hook and celebrate being imperfect. Doing this has changed our lives."
Today, I am going to dig out some of those projects I had shelved and try my best to look at them in a new way. A way that sees their beauty not in spite of those imperfections, but because of it.
And try and be more mindful of the messages I am sending to my children.