Art and Perfectionism

Perfectionism: a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.

Perfectionism. I hate hate hate to admit it, but I totally struggle with perfectionism, and it makes me absolutely crazy when it rears its ugly head while I am making art. Anyone else familiar with this struggle? I don’t know where it stems from, but boy can it be debilitating when it comes round. This necklace I recently put up for sale in my Etsy shop serves as the perfect example of how difficult it can be for me to overcome sometimes.

I began putting this necklace together back in April last year. Actually, it’s a funny story. I was working in speech therapy with a boy who loved to throw things. Before I realized this, I had an idea to try and engage him in therapy by playing different musical instruments together– cymbals, bells, tambourines, maracas… The day I brought the maracas, he promptly threw it towards me, and before I could duck, the heavy, wooden instrument smacked me right in the middle of the forehead. That afternoon, however, I came up with a couple of new designs I was excited to try out, this turquoise and agate necklace being one of them. I’ve always wondered about the connection between getting hit in the head in the morning, and coming up with all sorts of ideas in the evening… One of the mysteries of science, I suppose.

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So I started crafting the different parts of the necklace, but found after a time, I could not go on. I started doubting the colors– maybe the composition was too bright, or the turquoise and the red were a little too much for each other. And then I started questioning my wire-wrapping technique, something I have spent so much time practicing– am I really sure this is how you construct a bail for this type of gemstone bead? Is it really going to hold? Will the wire space out? Maybe I need to start again…

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I was able to come back a week later and start connecting pieces together again, but then, the fear of it not being “perfect” resulted in these pieces sitting on my bench for nearly nine months. All I had to do was figure out the chain and clasp, and integrate it with the beaded portion, but the fear of it not being perfect made me avoid this necklace for far too long. Recently, I was finally able to make myself finish the piece, calming my fears about its imperfections, and telling myself, it’s enough. Yes, I know with my critical eye I can critique this piece to death. But really, when I look at this necklace for what it is, I think it’s beautiful in spite of the things I wish were “perfect.” And then I realized how this little story so easily fits into the greater story of my day to day life.

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It’s weird how that works. How you can have these small moments in life and see how they serve as metaphors for a bigger lesson to learn. In our culture of social media, it is so easy to fall into the trap of comparison, to look at other people and put ourselves down– maybe we don’t feel pretty enough, adventurous enough, or we make terrible-looking food, or don’t have enough friends, or the right friends. It is so easy to feel like we are not enough, or as if we are falling short when we do not live up to the perfection we perceive around us.

As a Christian, I know I am not perfect. No one is. That’s why I need a savior. And yet, in spite of this knowledge, I struggle day after day to reach this idea of perfection, knowing in my head that it will be forever out of reach.  This process served as such a good reminder to me that I can only do what I can, and trust that God will make my attempts beautiful and acceptable, knowing that where I am weak, He is strong. But boy, it sure is easier said than done. So this year, I am going to try to hold onto this lesson and not be afraid to try my ideas and see where they take me. After all, sometimes the dents and scratches and asymmetry are what make things unique and beautiful.

xo

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