I’ve been thinking about sewing and confidence for the past few months, and have written and re-written this post in my head so many times that it’s time to finally just get it off my chest. Here it is:
Stop telling yourself you can’t do it.
Stop telling yourself it’s too scary.
Stop telling yourself you’ll fail.
Stop being your own worst enemy.
In blog posts, in comment sections, on Instagram, time and time again I read, “I want to make X but I’m scared”. Each time you say this, I want to reach across the internet, take your hand, look deep into your eyes and say, "Enough".
If you can thread a bobbin, you can make a shirt. If you can sew a zig zag stitch, you can make a bra. If you can cut fabric, you can make a pair of jeans. The only thing stopping you is the little voice in your brain that is whispering, “You can’t do it. You’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, and when you fail you will only show everyone what a great, big fraud you really are”.
That voice is evil. That voice is some vestige remainder from our Neanderthal days when self-doubt kept us from being eaten by cave lions. That voice serves no purpose anymore except to bully you and prevent you from reaching your full potential, and that voice MUST BE STOPPED.
Here's how to stop the voice:
Start sewing. Pick that “scary” project you’re longing to make and just. Make. It. Pull out that fabric you’ve been fondling but are too nervous to use and just cut into it. Turn on your machine, put on whatever song makes you feel invincible (may I suggest this or this?) and just. Make. It. Already.
What is the absolute worst case scenario if it doesn’t look exactly like the Pinterest-worthy image your perfection-mad brain has conjured? Will you have to cut off your own arm? Will a serial killer throw you down a well with a bottle of lotion? Is a spider going to hatch eggs on your face? WHAT ARE YOU REALLY AFRAID OF?
Now, here’s the thing about failure, if this is what you fear; you’re giving it way too much power. Even if the thing you do or make is the ugliest thing that anyone in the history of mankind has ever done or made, it is still teaching you something about doing and making. And chances are, your Neanderthal Pinterest-scrambled brain is seeing failure where any random passing stranger would see aptitude and courage, because you tried. You made something with your bare hands, and that in and of itself is important and true.
The beautiful, priceless, magical thing about learning to sew is that you get to learn. Each project presents new challenges, skills to practice and opportunities to improve; how lucky we are for that. Few things in this life are enjoyable AND valuable in a meaningful way, and the act of making is one of them. When you push yourself, finally turn that self-defeating voice off and just go for it, the pay-off is enormous.
- You start to believe in yourself and your inherent capabilities; "the voice" gets quieter.
- You realize the endless potential of your own innate creativity.
- You satisfy that deep, primal instinct we all have to make things and leave a physical mark on the universe.
- You get to make and wear things that no one else in the history of the planet has worn, because there is only one, and you made it.
- You learn to love yourself more, because sewing your own clothes is at its very core an act of self-love.
- You start to admire and appreciate your body for what it is, rather than what you wish it would be; through sewing, your body becomes your friend, not your enemy.
- You learn that each mistake is just an opportunity to get better.
The next time you are beating yourself up about a wonky seam or talking yourself out of something you really want to make, ask yourself, “What would I say if I was talking to my best friend?” You would tell them that they are smart and amazing and totally capable of anything. Tell yourself that and just. Make. It. Already.
STOP MAKING EXCUSES
Approached a technique you’ve never used before? Google it. You’re blessed to live in a time when everything that has ever been done now has a youtube video. Our grandmothers had to rely on their peers, luck, trial and error; we have the internet. Take advantage.
Worried about ruining that "special" fabric? Is it woven from unicorn eyelashes? No? Life is short. It's just fabric.
Scared it's going to look like a hot mess when it's finished? It probably doesn’t (the voice), and even if it does, no one really cares but you. It’s not a reflection on your integrity as a human being. If you're committed to getting better, remember that everything you make is a step forward, a lesson learned. It may not happen as immediately as you would like, but that evolution is happening each time you try.
But what if it doesn't fit perfectly? Again, no one really cares but you. You are asking way more of your me-made garments than you would of ready-to-wear, and if that pressure is preventing you from getting started or simply stopping you in your tracks, you need to learn how to shake it off. A drag line is not the end of the world. Learn what you can for the next time. Resilience is about not getting tripped up by imperfection. Be resilient.
But my topstitching is off by 1 mm and this zipper is not quite invisible and my handstitching is uneven and and and and..... LEAVE IT. It’s fine; it really is. Finish it. Stop beating yourself up and just move on to the next thing. The next thing will be incrementally better.
Scared to cut? JUST CUT. Scared to get going? GET GOING. The secret to getting things done is just to do them. It’s truly that simple. The voice is the only thing telling you otherwise.
Need more convincing, my Debbie Downers? In all the time I have been helping people make things, I have never, ever heard a single person say after they tried something new for the first time, "I really wish I hadn't done that". No one. Whether it's online or in class, what they actually say when they challenge themselves with something "intimidating" is "OMFG I freaking made this!" That feeling is like heroin, only it's free, and it won’t ruin your life. And you can get that feeling every time you challenge yourself to try new things, even when they are intimidating or scary or hard. Because when you do, you create a positive feedback loop where you tell your brain and that voice that you are smart, capable and worthy, and the voice gets smaller and smaller, until eventually it's not really there at all. And that is called winning.
Sewing teaches us so much, but the most important thing is that you can do anything when you simply do it. If you have been holding yourself back, make 2016 the year that you jump forward. Turn the voice down, and just make it already. It wants you to.