If it isn’t immediately apparent, I love crocheting, but just as with any love there usually comes a period of inevitable frustration. Since starting this website and trying to develop my presence in the Maker Community, I have been feeling that frustration quite often. This frustration has many roots, and although I have not identified all of them, I think I have a handle on a couple that I believe many Makers experience. I have had such a difficult time putting all of these difficulties and emotions into words until I woke up the other morning to this post written by Lindsay Oncken of @bundlehandmade. She dives into the topic of what makes someone a Maker and tackles the idea that for one reason or another, Makers often feel pressured to fit into a mold and I honestly couldn’t agree more. Her post really helped me organize my thoughts and find a central theme to all of the frustration and anxiety I have been feeling. For me it has come down to the idea of “Image”.
I am so new to this world of sharing and promoting my work to an audience outside my immediate family and friend group, that when I first started I honestly didn’t even contemplate the fact that you are semi obligated to also promote yourself as a person. In other words you need to create an image for yourself, something that I am not incredibly well versed in. I truly do love making meaningful connections with others, but when it really comes down to it, I am an incredibly shy person. If crocheting has confirmed anything for me it is that I am NOT good at math, but one thing I do know is being shy + promoting yourself = probable disaster. In person I have virtually no issues being 100% honest and being myself with others once I get to know them, but in a business/social media world, you don’t personally know a majority of your audience, you don’t even get to see their face most of the time. So how can you possibly convey a professional, likable, and wholesome image to hundreds if not thousands of complete strangers?? Personally, I am still trying to work on developing that image and it certainly isn’t simple.
Just like Lindsay explains in her post, behind every single Maker is a real person with a real background and often times those background are anything but perfect. I think wether we realize it or not, we think a negative background is something to be ashamed of, to hide from others in order for us to appear normal and likable. Both fortunately and unfortunately this charade is incredibly easy to do in an online community. You only share with people the version of you that you wish for them to see and believe, with the ability to leave out any aspects of your life and personality that you think will deem you different and unlikable. With this being said, it is so easy to promote an image that is not completely honest and true to who you are. While that is not necessarily a bad thing as some might find it empowering, I don’t think that is how I wish to have people view me.
Since I haven’t had an incredibly consistent presence in the Maker Community for very long, I truthfully have no idea how the individuals that “follow” my work perceive me as a person or if they even care enough to come up with an image of the kind of person they think I am. However, I do think that I have been leaning toward the side of not really being myself and I don’t think that is fair to me or to the people viewing my work.
Recently I have been seeking out blog posts and podcasts in which Makers “Get Real” about what the life of a maker is really like and every time I read or listen to the emotions and experiences that these Makers have to share I start to feel some of my anxiety go away. Like any Maker, I get occasional compliments on my work and I always reply with a “Thank You” and for some reason, a little comment about how making it “wasn’t that hard”. I never intend for that comment to come off as though I am profusely talented and/or conceited, but just as encouragement that if they are interested, they could learn to make these things as well if they put in the time. This may be what I tell people, but the reality of the situation is that although sometimes creating the designs and executing them isn’t necessarily difficult, it more often than not takes huge toll on me mentally.
All of the emotional distress that comes with creating is due to the fact that I am a “Perfectionist”. I know that this may be an incredibly cliche word to use, but I honestly don’t know any other way to put it. I have an often debilitating “All of Nothing” mentality, if it isn’t going to turn out “perfect” and exactly how I pictured it, why even bother? You can see why this mindset is awful for anyone who likes to create. Nothing is ever going to be 100% perfect, and therefore you would never create anything again, sounds terrible right? Obviously I manage to get past it a fair amount of the time, but that doesn’t make the process any less exhausting. When it really comes down to it, hardly anything I have ever made has come out exactly how I pictured it, and, though some designs grow on me over time, a lot of them just don’t turn out the way I was hoping and that can be incredibly discouraging and lead to a lot of self doubt. I may post the patterns and pictures and tack on a caption about how excited I am (and don’t get me wrong I am so excited every time I get to share something with you guys) but in the back of my mind there is always that frustration that it wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be and somehow I never really forgive myself for that.
It’s feelings and issues like this that lead you to understand that being a perfectionist hinders you from being anywhere close to realistic with your expectations and goals. While this mentality causes a lot of difficulties in my life outside of crochet, I find that it is most frequently felt when it comes to any kind of creative outlet. As makers we are generally our own boss and therefore need to set our own deadlines and goals and often times making any kind of realistic goal can feel next to impossible. For example, in my mind, making a new design, finishing it, making the pattern/writing the blog post, and taking pictures of the finished product ONCE A WEEK is a realistic goal. Never mind the fact that I have a day job, relationship, friends, a dog, and a million other things that I need to balance on top of that. Obviously completely burning myself out by trying to accomplish this goal is not the recipe to success, but it is actually still hard to convince myself of that even now.
Of course there is much more to my actual personality than just being a “Perfectionist”, but as a Maker that is one of the biggest struggles that I have to overcome everyday, and from what I have heard I honestly think that a lot of the Makers in the community face the same challenge. In this world of Social Media where you can project any Image of yourself that you wish, you can make yourself appear perfect, and thinking that other individuals are perfect and that you are not, is the perfectionists kryptonite. It is because I have felt this multiple times a day that I am choosing to create an image in which I am honest with the fact that my designs as well as myself are NOT perfect and I don’t want to trick anyone into thinking that I am.
Beyond that I really wanted to open a discussion about how other Makers deal with the emotional challenges of not feeling good enough or “perfect”, because like I said it is something that I struggle with everyday and I think the more open we are about these things will make us all feel a little less alone with our problems. So if anyone has any advice for me or anyone else reading, I encourage you to share you thoughts, stories, feelings on how we can get out of our minds for a bit and create in peace!