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Perfectionism and making do

how to get over perfectionism

I grew up in a house of doers. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say 'make do-ers'. Clothes were from jumble sales, altered and spliced; beautiful vases were displayed chips to the wall; recipes were followed very loosely, sweeping substitutions made for absent ingredients. My parents' garden was full of allotment-style cobbled together structures, the beans grew up old mattress springs, cassette tapes were disembowelled to scare pigeons from the cabbages, there was no worry about having the exact tool for a job, there was no feeling that you had to learn everything before you began.

I think that this was a very common type of 1970s childhood - I've since bonded with several people over memories of car exhausts being mended with baked bean cans - people just got on with things and there was no idea of 'perfect'.

It has been the very best upbringing possible for an entrepreneur. The precedent of working a way to do something with what you already have, rather than waiting for everything to be affordable and available is invaluable. The main point in my childhood was that you got something working even if it was a bit rough around the edges. It was a time of practical skills.

It has meant that I grew up without a perfectionist bone in my body. I am quite details oriented, I like things to look nice and to work well, I spend a lot of time walking and thinking, but, once I've decided to do something, it is all about the going for it, the process, the jumping off.

So when I find myself fussing over something inconsequential like a font size, I absolutely know it isn't 'perfectionism' it is fear. It is just a form of worry, a putting off the performance.

Many people, largely younger women, complain to me about their perfectionism and how it prevents them from completing things and putting them out in the world. I used to think that this was really just a bit of an excuse, a way of not doing the hard work by keeping busy with editing and re-editing and deleting. In the past I may have rolled my eyes and I routinely put all job applications mentioning perfectionism to the bottom of the pile.

But now I'm more sympathetic and just wonder if people simply missed out on this stage of life and now need to deliberately re-cultivate the make-do in their lives. I wonder if this perfectionism that seems to hobble so many people in their 30s and early 40s is partly because our society began to throw out and replace things rather than mend them from the 1980s onwards. Maybe their perfectionism was encouraged by so many things becoming disposable, short lived, with parts that couldn't be replaced. Lots of people's income went up, media got shinier, there was less making do.

"Making do" could feel like selling ourselves short - for we were 'worth it'.

Rather than working on altering mindset or reading books of how to recover from the paralysis of perfection, perhaps we just need to work with our hands and mend our clothes and improvise recipes and just give things a go and celebrate all the glorious shonky results.

Which - rather neatly - as well as freeing all the amazing blocked ideas out into the world, would also help us move from the consumerist cycle which is causing so many problems in the world with its mantra of more and more and more.

What could you 'make do' with today?

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The hazel tree on the back lawn was the only tree when we moved here 16 years ago. 
Over the summer, when Euan was repairing the shed floor, he found thousands and thousands of empty hazel nuts under it, all neatly gnawed open by tiny, tiny teeth. 
Imagine those field mouse parties, the hazelnuts held up between tiny paws.

We tend to just pick the easy to reach nuts, tonight I’ll make a carrot and green hazelnut salad and I shall feel nicely smug at eating from the garden! 
I’ll leave the windfalls for the mice and the high ups for the red squirrels. They were here before us. 
Hazel trees fruit at a fairly young age. The ones we planted as tiny whips in the hedge 10 years ago are fruiting this year and I’m sure they would have been faster if they hadn’t been growing in long grass, part of a deliberately neglected wild area. 
I’ll put the recipe up on stories later.
When I was on holiday last month I messaged a number of close friends with a three point 'priority list' that I wanted them to hold me to. ⁠⠀
It read-⁠⠀
1. Simplify things so that people actually know what the Studio Membership is.⁠⠀
2. Make amazing things for my members.⁠⠀
3. Talk about what I do to lots of people in lots of ways.⁠⠀
The point was for the to stop me doing other things as a distraction from my main job, a job that is feeling more and more important, helping people being more small joyful things into their lives.⁠⠀
I've been working on 1 and 2 since getting home - the website now has 1/4 of the categories that it had, the link to the membership is now actually on the home page, I've been finalising new products and working on next month's members e-course (about how to wrap beautiful natural seasonal inspired gifts without the Pinterest fuss).⁠⠀
The third - the talking - is always a struggle for me and I suspect it may always be. There is too much conditioning there, too much being a nicely quiet, head down, work hard, Scottish girl at heart. ⁠⠀
But I am trying hard . . . . and have resolved too email some people this afternoon and tell them what I do.⁠⠀
I love bracken at this fleeting time of year - the burst of bright gold before it blends back into the forest floor. ⁠⠀
An unusual photo for me perhaps but over in the Snapdragon Studio Bee we have been having a really interesting and honest conversation about what people look for when they are buying things - whether it is eco packaging or organic contents or everything made in the UK.⁠⠀
It was such an interesting topic that it made me realise that I have really not done enough to show the thought and reasoning behind all the things in our products.  I think I felt it was a bit eco-smug at the time. ⠀
Anyway . . . I have begun with the calendula balm kit and you can see the result above - making a flat lay of all the contents and a key as to what everything is, where it comes from and whether it can be recycled.⁠⠀
If you want to join the Facebook group it is completely free and open to all - just google Snapdragon Studio Bee and let me know what makes you smile.⁠⠀
And the balm kit now has all its info in place and you can see it on the website www.snapdragonlife.com
Natural dyeing.⁠⠀
I think that the most amazing thing about my little foray into natural dyeing is how adding a modifier, in this case a little bit of rust, can transform a colour.⁠⠀
⁠⠀ Both of these were dyed in the same pot.  I chopped up willow leaves and bark and soaked them in water for two days, before simmering for an hour and leaving to steep overnight. ⁠⠀
I then removed the willow and simmered my 2 hanks of silk yarn for an hour and let the liquid cool.  One hank was removed - which is the gorgeous pale pink - and I added some rusty metal to the pot and watched the silk turn dark grey as though by magic.⁠⠀
Natural dyeing has been something that I have meaning to try at home ever since I went on a course with @debbiethedyer years and years ago.  I'm so glad that I actually thought to make it into a little project and actually put it in my diary this year.
Since I got back from holiday the bottles on my bedroom windowsill have been empty.⁠⠀
They looked pretty - like an art installation - but also sad.  There was so little left in the garden that it felt a shame to pick it and turn all views from the house into a sludge of frosted stems.⁠⠀
Yesterday I decided enough was enough - that there must be some small things that I could pick and Dixie and I went for a walk along the road with a pair of secateurs.⁠⠀
This was the result - a windowsill that Euan claims is overstuffed! - berries and leaves and seed heads all tucked under the long grass.⁠⠀
It was a lesson in remembering to venture out and look.  What have you seen recently?
Sometimes it takes a long time to see things clearly, to actually see what it is that is the heart of what you want to do with that ‘one wild and precious life’. I finally feel I’m getting there and I’m tagging a whole bunch of amazing people who have helped me figure it out and winnow it down over the past couple of years.
Who else is dreaming of planting spring bulbs at the moment? 
I can’t think of another activity that sums up that Audrey Hepburn quote “to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” - the tucking up of smooth bulbs in the cold ground, the watching for shoots in spring. It feels miraculous. 
This month’s Studio Members e-course is about Spring bulbs, how to choose, how to plant, what I have learned here over the decades. 
It has been lovely hearing about what people are planting and why.
Overwhelm - I wrote a blog this week about how I fell prey to overwhelm and what I did to get over it - you can read it by clicking through my profile.⁠⠀
I had actually always thought of myself as someone who didn't get overwhelmed, who had so many tactics in place to stay present, stay slow, stay engaged and take action.⁠⠀
I thought I was immune to getting caught up, tangled up in overwhelm.⁠⠀
Until that wasn't the case and I ended up weeping at the sheer difficulty of everything.  All I wanted was someone to breeze in and do all my adulting for me.⁠⠀
It was a lesson in not taking things for granted and to stop and take stock more often.  To avoid drama, to sit still, to do meaningful things.⁠⠀
I'd love to know your tips, in a comment here on on the blog, or as a direct message.⁠⠀

About Snapdragon

At Snapdragon we gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

Learn more about why here