As this blog has unfolded, I’ve talked a lot about times when I haven’t felt very confident. It’s a struggle we’ve all experienced at one time or another. We’ve all had moments when we’ve doubted our abilities or compared ourselves unfavorably to someone else, and I’ve always been very forthcoming about these experiences because it’s part of the human experience.
What we haven’t talked about it when the opposite happens and you have way more confidence that you should have. It’s not talked about as often, but it happens all the time. We set our sights on some lofty goal, and may even begin to go at it with intensity, only to find out that we’ve bitten off a bit more than we can chew. It’s at these points that we either give up entirely or we find a way to make it work, either by adjusting our expectations or doing what we can to sharpen our skills.
I know that I, personally, have a tendency to greatly overestimate what I can reasonably accomplish within a given time frame. This can range from simply thinking I can do more cleaning in a day than can be reasonably accomplished, to taking on a massive project for which I am greatly unprepared.
Case in point: recently, my husband went on a two-week trip to Oregon, leaving me and our child at home.
Of course, I made several to-do lists. I was going to deep clean and declutter every room in the house, finish at least 5 sewing projects with the machine I borrowed from his mother, and repaint and redecorate the bathroom. I also wanted to have 25,000 more words done on the draft for book 4, have 5 blog posts pre-written and scheduled, and have plans drawn up for the furthering of my career.
That’s….a lot, isn’t it?
Now, I did manage to make headway on a lot of things. I sorted every item in the house and took a huge load to Goodwill and created a large pile of things for my husband to sort through. I added roughly 21,500 words to the draft, thought up some ideas for book promotion, and outlined some blog posts. However…the bathroom and sewing?
I bit off more than I could chew with those projects.
The bathroom project definitely needed two people, and I had recruited my sister in law to help out. However, the hubs announced he was coming home early, so I rushed to do it on my own…and soon realized I just wasn’t tall enough to finish the job, even with a ladder. In this instance, I realized where my limits were and instead of being hard on myself, I put it behind me with the thought that I’d finish it once I had the proper resources. Moving on from that project was somewhat easy, after all, I knew it would be finished sooner or later.
Now the sewing projects…that’s where my overconfidence shined.
My first mistake was thinking that putting together a few pillows and doll clothes as a kid with my grandma meant I had any real experience. Now, I had done a handful of projects by hand with varying degrees of success and have always been the kind of person to look at something and try to visualize how it’s been constructed, so in my mind this was going to be easy. I’d gone ahead and cut out fabric for god-knows-how-many projects and had this idea that I’d just whip them up in an afternoon. I had a ton of tutorials saved and patterns at the ready (both purchased and hand designed) and was ready to rock and roll.
When my old Tiny Tailor bit the dust, my mother in law was kind enough to loan me her old machine. I was so excited when I picked it up, marveling at it’s case and all the fancy functions outlined in the manual. I couldn’t wait to get to work!
I soon found out that I know absolutely nothing about sewing. I spent days upon days troubleshooting as I figured out things like adjusting the tension and figuring out how to thread the damn thing correctly. I don’t know how many times I walked away in frustration and swore I was giving up entirely. This obviously wasn’t for me. If it was, I’d just pick it up naturally, right?
Clearly, the answer wasn’t taking smaller steps. *Insert sarcastic eye roll here.*
After one particularly irritating session, I got to thinking about how often I find myself in this situation. There are so many skills I wish were more finely honed because of this terrible habit. I get excited about something, but once it gets hard, I step back. Sometimes I find myself going back to it, but more often than not I let it go or accept that I won’t get any better at whatever it is.
The more I thought about this, the more I became disappointed in myself. Over the course of my life, there are very few things I’ve stuck it out with, and it’s never done anything but make me feel bad. Something had to change.
As I thought about the greater implications of this silly project, I became more and more determined. I needed to teach myself a lesson in discipline and adjust my expectations. No one is good at anything when they start out. Why have I been putting so much pressure on myself?
It’s silly, really.
From all of this, I think the two major lessons are rather clear, even if they seem to be a bit conflicting. On the one hand, setting your sights on a goal and striving to achieve it in a realistic time frame is important. On the other, putting too much pressure on oneself can seriously hinder your determination. The trick is to find that sweet spot, where you challenge yourself enough to keep growing, yet not so much that it becomes overwhelming.
Clearly, this is a lesson I’ve been needing to learn for some time and something I’ve contemplated off and on for most of my life. However, this time the revelation feels different. It feels vital.
This time, I have a tiny set of eyes on me, studying my every move and picking up the habits I exhibit. In a matter of months, there will be a second set of tiny eyes. If I allow myself to give up on a task, no matter how small, I’m teaching my children to give up when things get hard. If I continually take on more than I can realistically accomplish, I’m teaching them to live in a constant state of stress. I have to find that middle ground and show them how to face challenges in a healthy manner.
In light of this, I must press on at a reasonable pace. I must be gentle with myself and not expect everything to be perfect immediately. I must realign my priorities and put in the work with a smile instead of a scowl. It’s never too late to do better.