Are you your own worst critic?

I came across this unfinished sketch last night while rummaging through a box looking for something else completely…and it made me think….

When I drew this over a year ago (I haven’t drawn anything since), I wasn’t particularly happy with it. Whilst I was drawing it I was so intensely focussed on it that all I could see were the parts that were unfinished or not quite there yet. Looking at it now, I take a different view. Dare I say it, I think it’s just lovely as it is.

I have a tendency to over analyse, over criticise everything I do. Work, home, hobbies, parenting, everything. While all those around me are telling me, “that’s amazing” I am telling myself  “that’s not good enough”. I instinctively dismiss compliments from loved ones as ” just being kind” or coming from a place of bias. I’m harsher on myself than I would EVER be on anyone else. For the longest time, I felt this was an admirable trait. Always pushing myself to do better. But there’s a negative side to that too. If you can never allow yourself to be happy with what you’ve achieved, then when will you ever feel that sense of fulfilment and achievement that is surely the end goal of any pursuit?

I’m not saying I’ve found the answer, and I don’t think the answer is to stop pushing myself to do better. But maybe I….maybe you too…maybe we need to give ourselves a break now and then. Just allow ourselves to believe what others our telling us. That actually, what we do, whether that be sewing, sketching, work, parenting…whatever…is actually pretty ok. And we are allowed to feel a bit proud of what we do now and then…?

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  1. Helen February 26, 2014

    Good point! I am never truly satisfied with my sewing. Occasionally I need to take stock. The fact that I made a dress/skirt/whatever is an accomplishment in itself!

  2. Tiffany February 26, 2014

    I know what you mean and I’m often too judgemental of my own stuff, as well. It’s a good idea to put it aside and come back to it later. Usually, when I do that, I’m no longer super focused on the parts that I thought were bad/wrong and realise that it looks fine or even great.

  3. Wakeymakes February 26, 2014

    Stunning! When I am not happy with a make I look at a similar RTW and check the mismatches and places where it pulls and think well actually mine is not bad and it’s original. Glad I am not alone xXx

  4. Jenny February 26, 2014

    So true! one of my recent sewing realisations was that no-one else is critical of your work like you are… I always think people are going to notice a wonky seam but they never, ever, do!

    I wrote up a few other thoughts too, here:

  5. Gemma Roberts February 26, 2014

    Completely with you on this!! Always too hard on ourselves, just a bummer when it holds us back, like with your outlook on that beautiful picture. Glad you finally see the beauty in your drawing.

    Gemma x
    Faded Windmills

  6. tialys February 26, 2014

    I have a dreadful habit of actually drawing attention to my mistakes and people say ‘well, I would never have noticed that unless you had pointed it out’. It’s almost as if I need to preempt a possibly embarrassing situation whereby somebody might have noticed something but is too polite to tell me so I want to get in first.
    Anyway, I certainly can’t draw for toffee – I don’t need anybody to point that out to me – so I would be delighted if I could produce something as good as your lovely sketch. Be proud!

  7. tlc246 February 26, 2014

    Beautiful art piece and a wonderful sentiment.

  8. Sewing Princess February 26, 2014

    Fantastic drawing! I can’t draw or sketch. I find aiming for perfection is only good until it doesn’t make you unhappy…being too critical is not nice…especially towards others… I am guilty of that sometimes

  9. Claire Cooper February 26, 2014

    It’s a lovely drawing, I like work that I doesn’t cover every square inch of the support, it gives a drawing a sense of place/ time a moment caught

  10. Lauren February 26, 2014

    I really needed this post today! I find this is also the case with my own work, too. I am working on a huge project at the moment, and I keep second guessing myself. I need to remember that it’s going to be awesome because I am doing my best. And my best is much better than good enough! 🙂 Beautiful sketch!

  11. MaciNic February 27, 2014

    Thank you. And your drawing is beautiful.

  12. EmSewCrazy February 27, 2014

    Perfectly said! Thanks for the reminder!

  13. Jacq C February 27, 2014

    That’s a wonderful drawing. I’m naturally terribly hard on myself too, my husband’s aunt is a very wise woman, she told me to treat myself as I would a good friend – if your very best friend had drawn that picture I bet your initial reaction would have been different, somehow it’s easier to praise other people’s efforts than to give yourself credit. You obviously have real talent 🙂

  14. pandchintz February 27, 2014

    Miss P, it’s stunning!! Definitely been too hard on yourself.

  15. Giggles February 27, 2014

    that is exactly it. I frequently get to the end of a project and I get all stressed and don’t wear it for 3-4 months, because I focus so much on what didn’t go quite right that I completely miss all the good things. In fact after the break I pick the garment up and think ‘hey, this is alright, why haven’t I worn this yet’. Every time I post something on my blog I immediately want to point out all the mistakes I made instead of just being happy and proud that I finished something successfully.

    Perhaps this should be what I give up for Lent: speaking negatively about my accomplishments 🙂

  16. Nidgeworth February 27, 2014

    Dear Portia, Your drawing is a lovely sensitive piece and I am so glad that you find yourself ‘loosening up’ and starting to really appreciate your skills. My mother was a truly gifted artist, seamstress and jewellery maker and my strongest memories of her were watching her create something wonderful out of fabric, yarn, metal work or paint. Sadly, I can also remember the endless ripping out of stitches, projects cast aside and an almost constant litany of ‘not good enough’. I am lucky to have inherited some of her skills, I have also spent most of my life believing anything I do is just not up to scratch. Finally, in my fifties I am unbending and realising the importance is in the creativity, the impact and the sheer joy of turning an idea into a reality. Revel in the moment, fudge if you have to and wear with pride!

  17. Erin @ Billy Button Design February 27, 2014

    Hit the nail on the head there. I think it comes with the territory (sewing) I was always told to rip a seam if it wasn’t perfect. It’s important to believe in yourself and love what you create.

  18. Marie February 27, 2014

    Very wise words young lady! You ARE incredible in so many ways, so please accept it ;o) But yes, I do think this is something many of us struggle with and we need to be kinder to ourselves for sure! FYI, your drawing is very beautiful!xx

  19. Sew little time February 27, 2014

    the sketch is great! i’d be happy if i could do it half as well! i think we (or maybe just me!) need to learn that there are times when something really should be done again – when we could make it noticeably better, and times when it’s actually fine!

  20. symondezyn February 27, 2014

    I think that’s part of the curse of being an artist – we often only see the things we don’t like or where we can improve – which is good because it drives us forward and keeps us getting better but often doesn’t do anything for our mood or self-confidence 🙂 That’s why we have loved ones – to give us the encouragement and support we often cannot give ourselves 🙂

    One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from an instructor who said “You’re never going to be 100% satisfied with any work you do; you can fiddle with it forever and never be ‘finished’, so the best thing you can do is learn when it’s enough” – in my career, where there are deadlines, this is sometimes easier, because the client tells you when it’s done, but when it’s your own creative work, it’s much much harder. I find if I view my work as a process of learning rather than trying to achieve a “perfect” finished piece, it’s easier to be gracious about it and just be at peace with what I perceive to be its imperfections 🙂

    In doing that, you may find that some of the “imperfections” you initially perceived, end up being what defines your style and makes your art unique from others 🙂 It’s also what draws people to your work because as humans, the humanity which is visible in it is what we often find most beautiful 🙂

  21. Helle March 1, 2014

    Dear Portia, These are true words and I think that a lot of people can relate to them. Unfortunately! We should be much kinder to ourselves, and treat ourselves the same way we would treat a friend.

    I think that one thing that we need to remember is not to compare everything we do with others. Look at art. No famous painters paint the same way. Still, their works still beholds their own unique story, beauty, etc. Finding your style or unique way of expression your self is the best you can do instead of trying to copy someone else.

    Developing and strive to be better is not a bad thing. You just need to remember that we are all imperfect, and that’s good enough. (Breneé Brown)

  22. Ann March 2, 2014

    I believe there is a fine line between having high standards and being overly critical of oneself. From my perspective, high standards are great, so long as they do not stifle creativity. It was good that you set your drawing aside, rather than discarding it, as distance allowed you to see it in perspective. I agree with you that it is lovely, just as it is.

  23. Youanna N. March 12, 2014

    Beautiful just the way it is!


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