a) You should! It's so rewarding.
b) I know a great class at _________.
c) I can teach you.
d) Forget it, you don't have the patience.
(Sorta kidding on that last one).
And how many times has someone told you about the (usually better than yours) sewing machine they have stashed away in a closet (and that they have never used)?
If you're like me, I'm guessing many.
My mom once said to me, "I've always wanted to learn how to canoe." My mom lives on an island in the Pacific Ocean — where the weather is pretty temperate most of the year. Oh, and in Canada, where Parks and Recreation programming is so cheap it's a sin not to sign up for something. She could probably go canoeing seven days a week for about 10 months of the year. So why hasn't she?
And why haven't those people we all know just dropped a damn bobbin into their (better than ours!) sewing machines and started stitching?
Lack of time is a reasonable excuse for only so long. So is access to knowledge: I can tell you where to get free patterns and online tutorials, and that there's no shame in practicing on old bedsheets.
It's the same reason I put off learning an instrument, taking up a sport, or attempting to make bread again: fear of failure.
When it comes to sewing, there's the fear that whatever you make will be so horribly botched, it will resemble Denise Huxtable's "Gordon Gartrell" shirt. Or for canoeing, that you will fall into the water, embarrassing yourself in front of your (really, no more advanced than you) classmates (or drowning, I guess?).
In the past few years I've become pretty risk-averse — a side-effect, I think, of becoming a parent, as well as some minor PTSD following an attack in the park, and the fact I haven't had health insurance. But fear of losing life and limb — those are OK to cling to, in my mind. However, if the only danger of taking up a new task is bruising your ego a little, there's never going to be a better time than now to just go for it.
Over the holiday break while my husband was home, I should have been sewing. But I don't have any good fabric in my stash and our personal fiscal cliff is still on the horizon for the moment, so I took up a different project — something that I'd been thinking of for some time, but had put off out of fear of failure. It did involve some sewing — freestyle machine embroidery — as well as painting. And, because I'm prudent like that, I used an old bedsheet as my canvas.
Here's the photo that inspired me. I took this last summer while we were visiting my dad at his ultra-remote West Coast British Columbia home. It's probably the best photo I have ever shot. I love the colors, composition and pure joy on my kid's face. I've been wanting to do something with it since then:
This is not a humble brag, though I know it may look like it. I'm not actually that thrilled with my execution of this art project. But I hung it up anyway, and I'm sharing it here to show you that nothing bad actually happened when I attempted something new. I'm down one ripped bedsheet, a quarter-spool of thread, and a few small bottles of fabric paint. And the only person who has criticized my effort can't wipe her own butt (not naming names).
This is both my pep talk for today, and the crux of my New Year's resolution: don't let fear of failure get in the way of anything this year. If you've been wanting to start stitching, grab an old bedsheet and fire up the Google box to search for "how to thread a sewing machine." If you want to make art, turn off that part of your brain that says you can't draw. If you want to play guitar, don't worry about your roommates' judgement of your feeble strumming. Nobody is Jimi Hendrix (or Sandra Betzina) at first. You'll get better eventually.
|Can you tell the outline is stitching?|
But already I can see the fear of failure creeping in. She'll walk away from a game if she's not winning, crumple up a drawing and have a tantrum if it's not exactly as she'd hoped it would be. And sometimes, she'll avoid an activity altogether if she suspects she won't be the best at it — even when her dad cheerfully says, "Everyone won, because everyone had fun!"
I don't think anyone or anything is to blame for this. It's natural; success feels so good, that we can begin to fear its opposite, even though the anticipation of failure is usually far worse than the actual act of losing. It's an exceptional person who can try something new without any fear of failure. It can be debilitating if we let it. I know it's something I'm still trying to shake (and the reason I never played sports or wear white after Labor Day).
One way to help my kid channel her fear of failure into something positive, I've decided, is to let her see me fail. More specifically: let her see me fail and NOT freak out about it. So that's my resolution this year: try more — and fail gracefully.
Any sewing (or other) new things you've been avoiding out of fear of failure? Name it and claim it! (Did I make that up? Or Oprah?)