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Perfection is the enemy of good

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Perfection is the enemy of good

We've been talking a lot about perfectionism in the shop lately. From beginning knitters who are frustrated with the irregularities in their practice swatch, to very experienced knitters so critical of their work that even the tiniest of errors can send their project to the frog pond (rip-it, rip-it, rip-it)

There's a huge gulf between perfectionism and healthy striving. Healthy striving is working hard and doing your very best. We're all about that at the shop. On the other hand, perfectionism is a paralyzing focus on doing something perfectly or creating something perfect. Perfectionism is not constructive. Psychology researcher, Dr. Brené Brown explains it best when she calls perfectionism a shield we use to protect ourselves from vulnerability and pain. If we're perfect, then no one can criticize us, right? No one will make fun of what we've made because it's perfect, right? And if they do criticize us or laugh, then what we made, and by extension, who we are, isn't perfect enough, right? So begins a very dangerous false logic. Sometimes the vulnerability and fear is so powerful that we can’t even get started. We don't even try because we're paralyzed by the idea that only perfect is good enough.

Over the past 13 years, I have taught a lot of knitting classes, and I can tell pretty quickly which students have this tendency. Takes one to know one, I guess. But seriously, it's an easy trap to fall into. Here we all are creating something with our own hands - maybe for ourselves, or maybe for a gift. How vulnerable we are when we wear it or give it. But as Dr. Brown says, allowing yourself to be vulnerable is the key to happiness and what she calls, "whole-hearted living" - a willingness to open yourself up and be seen - to trust that the people who matter will receive your offer with love. It's something we really have to work at - maybe that's why she calls it practicing vulnerability. It's not easy, but it's an important component of happiness. There's a balance to be struck between perfect and good enough, and that point of balance is different for everyone. You have to know what you can tolerate in your finished projects, but as you are deciding, I would urge you to be gentle with yourself.

Our goal in everything we do at Crazy for Ewe is to help you make beautiful things. Notice that we say beautiful, not perfect. The perfect is the enemy of the good, or as restated by Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg's, "Done is better than perfect." So true. I would add that the perfect is not only the enemy of the finished object, but the enemy of the creative process and the joy of the journey.

I look forward to seeing you and your beautiful projects around the table. You are always welcome here. ~Ellen

Back to 4 February 2020 Newsletter

Comments on this post (6)

  • Feb 04, 2020

    So very well said, Ellen!

    — Susan Dyer

  • Feb 04, 2020

    Thank you, Ann. I do think it was a mindset of another time or generation, perhaps. I wish you lived closer too. I think it would be quite something to know you ❤️

    — Ellen

  • Feb 04, 2020

    Amy, you and your projects are indeed beautiful ❤️

    — Ellen

  • Feb 04, 2020

    This is one of my husband Everett’s favorite sayings, “Perfection is the enemy of good.” My p/arents were perfectionists, saying, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing perfectly,” a crippling belief indeed. I rebelled.

    Your essay gave me a good batch of thoughts to add. Thank you, Ellen. I’d love to live nearer to you all. May you, your family, and your team stay well and know joy.

    Ann

    — Ann

  • Feb 04, 2020

    I will tell myself that my projects and I are beautiful, if not perfect. I will also remember “sending things off to the frog pond: rip-it, rip-it”! Hahaha! Then I can chuckle instead of crying over missed or twisted stitches. 😊

    — Amy Henderson

  • Feb 04, 2020

    Your words are all so true!!!

    — Mary Hansen

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