When Your Work Isn't "Good Enough"

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Last month, my best friend Lux asked me "How do you find motivation to keep at something when you're starting out and bad at it?" and I've been ruminating on it. As a perfectionist, self-taught Capricorn, I felt a little silly answering this because I feel like this all the time. In fact, I can probably count on my singular hand how many times I've been really happy with how one of my projects have turned out. But over the past few years, I have been able to come away with some tips and tricks that I regularly need to tell myself before embarking on a project, and wanted to share them with you! Because I know, feeling like your work isn't "good enough" can be gut-wrenching. Let's do it!

Lower Your Standards
While you are seeing all the little mistakes, comparing the work to what it could have been, everybody is seeing simply what is - and without that comparison they can see what is great about it! Let's take a photoshoot I recently did for example. In my mind, I had mocked up a beautiful shoot in front of a location. I was so excited - but once I was there, the location was not looking how I wanted in photos, and I couldn't figure out how to pose with it in the way I had envisioned. Defeated, I took some more photos and went home. I studied the photos on my computer and wanted to cry. I woke up the next day, looked at them some more, and realized something: they were actually still pretty good. Once I let go of this impossible standard of what was in my mind, I was able to appreciate what was actually tangibly in front of me.

Rome Was Not Built in a Day
You absolutely cannot expect yourself to be wonderful at something when you are first starting out. Any experience, even what you might perceive to be failure, is still a success because you are going forward with that experience under your belt, and the knowledge of what not to do. You need to let yourself fail, just learn from what you did wrong (or right!), and take those lessons with you onto your next project. Start small, and allow yourself to grow.

And let me tell you a little secret - if you hate how it turned out, you can always try again! You can reshoot, rewrite, revamp, or reboot later, when you are "better", and rerelease it!

You Are Wasting Time
I know, I know. This is the last thing you want to hear! And it's the last thing I want to tell myself. But this is a reality. All this time you are wasting trying to get motivated to create something you fear is going to suck, you are wasting the experience you will gain from it. You are wasting the opportunity of learning from your mistakes or successes, and you are wasting the possibility of making something even greater then you imagined. I could probably make myself cry thinking about what I could have done or where I could be if I had gained the experience from all the projects I was too afraid to pursue. We cannot let the fear of failure consume and cloud our thoughts so heavily it holds us back and enables these opportunities pass us by.

One project I really wanted to do was a lookbook set at my grandparents' house. I had drawn storyboards, picked out outfits, even wrote a little narrative down. But I kept putting it off because I wanted to do it "properly". This summer, they sold their house. This Spring, I wanted to do some portraits up against my seamless paper background of my darling dog, Maggie, but wanted to do it "perfectly" so I put it off. She passed away from cancer in May. I had and have missed my opportunity. And I really don't want you to miss yours. Stop taking for granted you will be able to do these things "later" when you are "better", and do it now. Before it's too late.

Because if you keep waiting for when you feel "good enough", you could be waiting forever.

Perfection Doesn't Exist
There have been many times I've asked friends, family, and peers for feedback on something and they said they liked the piece. I would then tell them about the "problems" I had with it, and they said they never would have noticed had I not pointed it out. I have seen pieces that were so incredible to me, and when I complimented the artist, they would say "Thank you but (points out something they perceive to be a mistake)".

I know telling yourself a version of perfection doesn't exist is hard, but you have to. If you really looked for a flaw, you could probably find a flaw in anything. You cannot allow yourself to get so caught up in the small details you can't see the big picture.

I sincerely hope some of this will help, even if it's a little bit! Please be gentle with yourself and remember: any progress, good or bad, is still progress. Please don't hold yourself back, I believe in you and I believe in myself, and we can do it!

Unrelated photos of me by Jimmy Marble.


  1. Thank you for this post! I've been trying to reopen my Etsy shop for years but I've been putting it off for a long time because I don't feel like anything I create is good enough to be sold.

    What you said about 'you are wasting your time' was very eye-opening! I'm always thinking of seasonal projects I could make, but I wait and time flies by. Before I know it the opportunity for my project has passed. I will absorb these tips and try my best to just keep creating! ♥


  2. This resonates with me so hard! Dealing with chronic health stuff and motivation makes me feel like I'm constantly putting off/ short selling my creative projects, when in reality they're probably fine. It's so important to just put my nose to the grindstone, give it a go, and see how it turns out.
    My etsy shops:

  3. This reminds me of a great Ted Talk that I think rings really true - "teach girls bravery not perfection" https://www.ted.com/talks/reshma_saujani_teach_girls_bravery_not_perfection

  4. Thank you, i needed to hear this right now- the unrealistic expectations & pressure we put on ourselves only makes us feel like shit and they dont compel us to do anything, let alone anything good enough or great. You have articulated what i have been trying to work out xoxoxox

  5. I’m really glad you wrote this post, partly because it’s going to be really helpful for people who feel the same way, and partly because I’m sure it’s been helpful for you to get your thoughts down and really articulate these things to yourself.
    Honestly I know that when I look at a blog post, I spend maybe a couple of seconds looking at a photo before scrolling down, and what I get is an impression, say of it being beautiful, the softness and sharpness, the colours and lighting, what the focus is on, the general composition, etc. All of these things that make up my general impression of the photo and whether I like it or not, and then I move. Literally no one spends hours staring at each photo and thinking about it and picking it apart, and you don’t do that to other people’s photos either. But if you’ve taken the photo yourself then you’re so much more critical of it than anyone else would ever be, and there just isn’t any need to do that. Of course it’s good to learn from the aspects that you don’t like and try to improve your craft and it’s important to be happy with your work and feel like you’re putting out something you can be proud of, but not at the expense of driving yourself to misery thinking you’re never going to be good enough. Like you said, when you tell someone you love their work they pick out things they don’t like that you would never have noticed, and you do the same when friends and family compliment your work. I think we all just need to take a step back and realise that no one is picking apart our work like we are and there’s no need to be so hard on ourselves.


  6. Yes to "you are wasting time"! I am always putting things off so I can "do them perfectly" and then the moment has passed and they never get done. I'll keep that in mind as new inspirations and endeavors present themselves to me. Thanks!

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom! This is definitely one of the main things I struggle with. Lately also I've begun really valuing reality checks and just admitting the truth of the situation; so your "wasting time" section was very welcome. Learning from mistakes is one of the most valuable ways to learn and grow, and you can't do that unless you make mistakes! :)

  8. This is really helpful for people who are also new to blogging. It honestly gets overwhelming sometimes but I love the idea of just doing and going for it! Even with mistakes you miss and maybe the photo quality just isn't the best, I tend to easily forget the fun of blogging. It's what keeps me going! :)

  9. This post is wonderful, and just what I need to hear most of the time.
    I too am a perfectionist and can count on one hand the times I've actually been happy with my projects, and oftentimes I don't even post a lookbook I've made because the quality wasn't up to my own standards. But reading your post is a good reminder that we all need to lighten up once in a while and just enjoy what we've created rather than comparing it to what we envisioned.

    Keep the inspirational posts coming!



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