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Snapdragon blog

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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Today is the last day to become a member of Snapdragon Studio for a while. I close the doors to new members at midnight. ⠀
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I actually took the decision a couple of months ago, while doing @simpleandseason ‘s excellent course The Playbook, when I realised that I really wanted to work with a settled group of members instead of constantly looking for new ones.⠀
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Now the decision seems even more right, the opportunity to hunker down and support each other through this. ⠀
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The plans I had set out at the beginning of February aren’t the right ones now, so I need to make new ones, and this gives me a chance to make new plans together. ⠀
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Tomorrow I’m going to be sending out a survey to members to see what their new circumstances are and what would be most useful. ⠀
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If you had thought about joining then you can still find all the details on www.snapdragonlife.com today or DM me.
Twelve thousand years ago, when Loch Lomond was frozen solid, glaciers grinding out the soil, the ridge where I live would have been the outermost bank, the bit reaches just as the ice retreated. The terminal moraine. ⠀
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This has become my daily walk - the fields falling away on either side of the road, hills circling in the distance, blues and greys and increasingly bright olive greens. ⠀
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And now lambs. An animated landscape.
Last week Euan forwarded me a spoof article about “Middle Class Quarantine”, people making sourdough bread, transforming the flower border into a vegetable patch, collecting eggs from their flock of bantams. ⠀
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This is Caspar, the head of my flock of bantams. ⠀
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I’ve never felt so privileged in my life as I do now (and I’m a pretty privileged person at the best of times). ⠀
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Part of it is the gift of having space, of being able to walk out into beautiful countryside from my front door, of having a studio in my garden so that I can keep working. A proper spare room to move into, an extra bathroom and back door. ⠀
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But it’s more than just the circumstances of the life we have built here - it goes right to the core of me, the luck of having a temperament happy to work alone, of having grown up daughters who came home and get on with each other.  It is being an introvert, getting my energy from being by myself, my comfort from cooking and gardening and making things, the way I always, always have food in the cupboard. ⠀
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I look out from my isolation here and I see the gaps opening wider and wider in society with this and it frightens and terrifies me. When we get out again we will have so much work to do. ⠀
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There is something so 'Old Mastery' about fritillaries I think. ⁠⠀
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I planted (or more accurately @eileentisdall planted) hundreds of fritillaries under the plum trees and they are beginning to bloom.⁠⠀
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We also potted some up for indoors and kept them in the cold greenhouse - and I planted those ones into these tea cups as soon as they had full buds.⁠⠀
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Once the flowers are over they will join the others in the orchard.⁠⠀
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If you want to try this - with any small bulbs - you can dig them up from the garden and bring indoors temporarily, water lightly (remember there is no drainage), top with moss and keep coolish.⁠⠀
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Watching bulbs unfurl and bloom is a wonderful way to take advantage of having to stay indoors more.⁠⠀
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Like many people I have been racking my brain as to what I can do to help.⁠⠀
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I am stuck here so I can't deliver or run errands, I'm not a natural maker of cheerful phone calls and it will be a good few weeks before anything I am growing is actually ready.⁠⠀
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I do however have a Royal Mail pick up in place - on Tuesdays and Thursdays from the garage - and it seemed that I should make use of that while I have access to it.⁠⠀
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All things on our website can be sent direct with free gift wrap and a card - and, more importantly I think, I am also hand drawing cards and sending them with your message inside (or letter - I can print it out and put it inside the card). ⁠⠀
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For members I am only charging postage, for everyone else there is a minimal charge to cover supplies.  The details are on the front page of my website www.snapdragonlife.com.⁠⠀
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I know that my elderly relatives are oblivious to all things digital, all the ways that I keep in touch with friends, have passed them by and I do worry about how isolated they must be. ⁠⠀
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A letter through the mail might make someone's day so much brighter.
One of my blessings at the moment  is that my daily walk is along the road that passes through our neighbours’ farm. ⠀
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A sheepy maternity unit, where the heavy, still sheep of one day will be joined by bright, bouncing, tumbling lambs the next. ⠀
Lupin - in a halo of light here - has recently become top cat in the house. ⠀
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Minou, my morning cat, has given up the job reluctantly in a flurry of spats over the past 6 months. ⠀
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What has been fascinating is how Lupin has not changed his routine, he still sleeps 90% of the day moving only to keep in the sun and to eat, yet he has mysteriously transformed into a  massive and dense ball of fluff coated muscle. ⠀
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It just shows how much is in the mind and the role taken on. ⠀
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This weekend I was very down, worried about what comes next for NHS staff, frustrated at the thoughtless actions of others.⁠⠀
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Today though, I have decided to draw a line.  I cannot change anyone's behaviour.  I doubt that the people who watch my stories are the same people who are treating this pandemic as a Bank Holiday.⁠⠀
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Instead I'm going to try and produce as many useful things as I can.  On Friday I published a blog about all the things that you can do to bring the feeling of the outside into your home.⁠⠀
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It is actually a piece I originally wrote about chronic illness and the fatigue that can trap you indoors, but it has a wider use now I think.  It is about the science behind the way that our brains perceive nature and how you can get a lot of the wellbeing effects of being outside without leaving your home.⁠⠀
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The blog is on the home page of my website - www.snapdragonlife.com - and you can get to it via my profile too.⁠⠀
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If you have any other tips please comment and I can add them in.
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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

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