How can crafting help overcome perfectionism?

Emily Whitton
By Emily Whitton,
updated on Nov 30, 2023

Person dipping paint brush into green paint.

Rubbish crafting is the new way to unleash your inner child. We explore how it can help overcome perfectionist tendencies

Has the fear of not being good at something ever put you off taking up a new hobby? It’s a feeling that most of us have probably experienced at some point in our lives. Naturally, the first time we try something, it’s unlikely to be perfect. For people with perfectionist tendencies though, this can lead to spiralling self-critical thoughts, high levels of anxiety, and can impact their overall wellbeing.

What does it mean to be a perfectionist? 

Being a perfectionist or having perfectionist tendencies typically means that a person has exceptionally high (and often unrealistic) personal standards. They often think in very black-and-white or ‘all or nothing’ terms – accepting nothing short of perfect and can experience feelings of failure when it comes to anything less than.

There are a number of reasons why someone might develop perfectionist tendencies, such as having a negative childhood experience, fearing disapproval from others or wanting to feel in control. 

Perfectionism has also been associated with mental health conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Whilst someone with perfectionist tendencies might be more likely to have OCD, there is no causal relationship between the two. Someone suffering from OCD may not experience perfectionist tendencies and vice versa. 

Signs of perfectionism include: 

  • fearing failure 
  • procrastination 
  • being highly self-critical or critical of others 
  • setting unreasonable goals 
  • results-focused
  • low self-esteem 
  • struggle to overcome feelings of disappointment 
If you find that perfectionism is having an impact on your daily life, you may find working with a counsellor helpful. Therapy can help you change the way you think and behave, and challenge any self-critical thoughts. Learn more about counselling for perfectionism on Counselling Directory.

How can crafting help overcome perfectionism? 

Wanting to succeed can, of course, be healthy – it can motivate us to do the best we can and strive to achieve our goals – but unhealthy perfectionism can have a negative impact on our mental health. 

Crafting can help overcome these tendencies. This may seem counter-intuitive because we often judge our own abilities based on what we see others doing, particularly when it comes to being creative. Surely crafting will only exacerbate these self-critical feelings? 

In fact, crafting can help us shift our perspective away from focusing on how good the final product is, but rather on the effort that we’ve put into it. By acknowledging that whatever it is you want to produce is going to take time and effort, you can focus on the journey, not the destination. Knowing that it’s a work in progress gives you permission to recognise that we cannot expect perfection when something isn’t yet finished.

The power of ‘rubbish crafting’’

‘Rubbish’ or ‘messy crafting’ takes this one step further. This involves doing exactly that - creating silly, rubbish works of art. This style of crafting provides the headspace to tune out for a short while, offering a welcome distraction from work, parenting or life in general when it perhaps just feels a bit much. Not only can this help ignite your creative spark, but it can quieten self-critical thoughts. It helps us learn that it’s completely natural to not be very good at something when you try it for the first time.

Life Coach Michelle Elman explores the benefits of being rubbish at a hobby in her article, ‘Michelle Elman on perfectionism and how to break free from it.’

... the best advice I have to put an end to perfectionism is to get a hobby you are rubbish at… and make no attempt at improving. Allow yourself to enjoy something for the fun of it, let yourself enjoy time that is not productive or improving towards a goal, and allow yourself to be seen, even when you look silly or you aren’t at your best.

How to get started with messy crafts

The key to overcoming perfectionism with messy crafting is to allow yourself the time and space to get creative, without fear of making mistakes. So, you might want to start by simply having a dedicated notebook or pad of paper where you can scribble to your heart’s content. Not worrying about how it’s going to turn out can be really healing.

Below are some other messy art ideas you can try:

  • Finger painting.
  • Splatter painting: Grab a paintbrush and simply flick the paints over the page
  • Line drawing: Take a pen and just let your hand float across the page, creating any pattern you like. Leave the shapes you create blank or colour them in!
  • Stamping.
  • Doodling: Pick up a pen or pencil and draw whatever comes to mind!

Hopefully, the above tips will help you overcome the fear of getting creative and gently steer you away from focusing on perfection. Take this as permission to unleash your inner child. Happy crafting!

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