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How I’m Learning To Let Go Of Perfection

by Elizabeth Madariaga
craft & maker

embrace imperfection

Imperfect — and perfectly ok.

This Christmas, I gave away more hand-made gifts than I have since I was a child. I gave them with a sort of ashamed “gee-I-hope-you-like-this-but-I-totally-understand-if-you-don’t” attitude. And I was floored by the response I got.

Perfection has always been an issue for me. I have the oldest-child, type-A need to be the best in everything. I am overly critical of myself when I make obvious mistakes, and this has led me to avoid doing certain things because I didn’t want to do them wrong. Because of this, I started gravitating away from things I deemed ‘too creative’ for myself at a young age. And I forgot how to relax, have fun, and just enjoy the process.

In June I got a new sewing machine for my birthday. I started working on the basics, and made an eyeglass case, a wallet, and a purse. I wasn’t impressed with my work – because I was too focused on the snarl of thread in one place, the wonky flap, the asymmetrical cut, the measurement mistake. But when I shared them with friends, no one saw them as I did. They saw fabric colors they loved, they saw where I had sewn everything perfectly straight, and they were impressed that I could create something that cool. It allowed me to see my creations from a different, kinder, and more accepting point of view.

For Christmas, I made clutch purses for both of my sisters and my mom. I took time picking out fabric I thought they’d like based on their individual styles. I looked for just the right buttons and linings. But I still worried about whether they were good enough to be used in public, and whether my family would like them.

I shouldn’t have wasted time worrying. My family LOVED the purses they got. They were amazed that I had taken the time to make them something by hand. I found tremendous joy watching them look at each detail of their purses. They didn’t focus on the things that weren’t perfect. They were so excited to have something that no one else had, that was made by someone they loved.

Project #4 as I restart my sewing skills. So far I'm the happiest with this one! (And the hot pink lining makes it even better!)

A photo posted by Elizabeth Madariaga (@madlizzymad) on

January marks a special anniversary for me. In January 2014, I took over programming the Craft channel on CreativeLive. I’ve gotten to spend the last year meeting some incredibly talented and creative instructors. I’ve learned that this worry about being perfect isn’t my own, but is shared with thousands of people out there. I’ve learned that I need to be kinder to myself, and that I should finally start listening to all those people who tell me I need to relax and not worry so much.

So this year, I’m going to spend more time making things just for the fun of it. I’m sure I’ll still focus on the imperfections (hey, I can’t quit cold turkey!), but I’ll also make a point to focus on things I really like about each of them too. I’ll share what I make here on the CL blog, and on my Instagram account (find me @madlizzymad) so you can keep me honest. And who knows – maybe by next Christmas I’ll be proudly handing out handmade gifts by the truckload!

If you’ve got your own Ugly voice in the back of your head, be sure to watch Kim Werker on February 10.

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Elizabeth Madariaga

Elizabeth is the head of CreativeLive’s Craft Channel. Unofficially, Elizabeth is responsible for the development of CreativeLive’s employee karaoke skills — a job she takes very seriously.