Think back to the last time you made a huge mistake with a sewing project. Maybe you were trimming threads and accidentally cut a huge hole in the fabric instead; maybe you skipped some fitting steps and ended up with something way too big or too small; or perhaps you just chose the wrong fabric.
Everyone makes these sorts of mistakes, even those who have been sewing for decades. But the big difference between people who stick with sewing and find joy in it and those who get frustrated and give up isn’t about the mistakes – it’s about how you treat yourself when they happen.
In this episode, Sarai and Haley share 9 ways you can find self-compassion in sewing.
Below are the show notes for this podcast episode, and a brief summary of what's covered, followed by a full transcript.
- Oliver Burkeman
- Carol Dweck
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9 ways that sewing helps you build self-compassion
It offers a way to express yourself. Having an outward way to show your creativity (literally—you are wearing your creativity!) helps boost your confidence and strengthen your sense of identity. You can celebrate being different from everyone else.
It encourages self-exploration. Whenever you engage in creative activities, you’re exploring your inner world and connecting to your authentic self. Your point of view is unique, and that’s the magic of creative expression—nobody else can offer the lens you have on the world.
It provides a sense of accomplishment. You feel proud. You feel good about what you’ve created. The special thing about self-compassion is that it doesn’t matter if you accomplish things or you don’t. You can be nice to yourself either way. But when you do accomplish something, it doesn’t hurt to feel proud.
It promotes self-care. Creative activities like sewing give yourself the space to take care of yourself. It helps you to relax. It helps you to unwind. And it can also be a signal to your brain that you deserve these things and that you can take the time, even if you feel busy or stressed out.
It fosters a growth mindset. This is a concept from psychologist Carol Dweck who proposed that there's two types of mindsets—a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. With a growth mindset you see any sort of failure as an opportunity to grow and not a reflection on you as a person. Whereas with a fixed mindset, you tend to see any problems as a personal failing, and you might not be as open to learning. You think, oh, I'm just not good at this, or I'm not good enough.
It offers a way to connect with others. Shared creative activities build a pretty awesome community—like the Seamwork Community!
It encourages more experimentation. Creativity inherently helps you take risks and try new things, and you’re likely to find self-compassion in these new things.
It provides a sense of purpose. Sewing can help you find self-worth. You’re a part of something bigger.
It provides an opportunity for self-reflection. Creativity can be introspective. You become more aware of your needs and wants, and learn how to listen them. This really helps you actively practice self-compassion.
You. I'm Sarai.
And I'm Haley.
And this is Seamwork Radio. Welcome back to Seamwork Radio, where we share practical ideas for building a creative process so you can sew with intention and joy.
Today we're talking about the relationship between creativity and self-compassion. And we're going to cover how creativity and self-compassion relate to each other, how to build more self-compassion, and why it will enhance your creative practice. Haley, icebreaker for today. “What do you do when you aren't feeling creative?”
I think that it really depends on my energy level because sometimes I feel like I'm not feeling super creative because I'm very low energy, in which case I know I need to prioritize rest. And sometimes I don't feel creative because I'm full of energy and I want to be in my body. I want to be outside doing things, seeing people. So I always try to get to the root of what it is that's blocking me and try to nourish whatever that need is.
But primarily, I tend to prioritize some self-care, whether that's like taking a bath, reading a book, going for a walk, things like that, really help me to come back to my creative self I would say.
I think that's so important to figure out the why behind it so you can address it in a way that makes sense for you. I think in addition to the things that you mentioned about energy level, I think there's also the emotional side of it where there might be something else going on that's making you feel—you might have the energy for it—but you might also feel be feeling judgmental towards yourself, which is a lot of what we're going to be talking about today. Or you might just feel deflated because the last thing you made didn't turn out the way that you wanted.
So I think there are a lot of different reasons that you could not feel like being creative. And like you said, it's important to figure out what that is so you can address it in a way that makes sense for you. I think when I'm not feeling creative, that's usually a good time to switch gears for me and either do something that's not necessarily—doesn’t require creativity, but might still help me to get back in the groove of things, like maybe baking something. You just follow a recipe or something like that.
It can often make me feel like being creative again, where it's more of about the execution of it rather than coming up with ideas or having to use your brain in some way. So I feel like that's always helpful for me.
Totally something the idea of baking something or cooking made me think of is that sometimes I think that for me, at least, this happens where I feel like a lack of creativity if I don't feel like I've had enough variety and external stimuli, so doing things like cooking or eating a meal or doing something that I have to use my hands for, or listening to music can sometimes kind of—it’s like a cup of coffee for my creativity.
Yeah, that's a good way to put it. A little caffeine jolt.
Well, this is a good way to start this episode. And if you have an icebreaker for us for a future episode, if you're a member, you can go to seamwork.com/go/icebreakers, which will take you to a thread on our community where you can leave your idea for an icebreaker, and we'll probably use it in another episode.
So that gets us started today on this topic of creativity and self-compassion, which I think are kind of two sides of the same coin in a lot of ways. They have a lot of similarities I think in various ways. They’re both practices, and you have to be really intentional about creating these practices. I think they are something that you can put a lot of thought into, and the more thought you put into them, the stronger they become.
They both, I think, also really enhance each other, which is a lot of what we're going to be talking about today, is the various ways that they enhance each other, because the more you practice self-compassion, the more it fosters your creativity and vice versa.
So what is your relationship with the idea of self-compassion, Haley?
I would say that it's a work in progress. I think something that struck me as you were talking about the similarities between creativity and self-compassion, is that something else that I find they're very similar in is that it seems it's my thought that everybody is capable of creativity. Everybody possesses creativity. It's a muscle, though, and it's something that you have to practice. And some people might have a little bit more inherent creativity than others, and maybe that was something they were born with. Maybe that's something that was fostered in their childhood. I don't know. Who am I to say?
But I think that self-compassion is kind of the same in that way, where some of us seem to be more naturally self-compassionate. I'm a very empathetic person, and sometimes I do struggle to extend that same empathy and compassion to myself as I do to other people. And that is something that I always work on, and creativity definitely helps me with that.
What about you?
I feel like this is something, self-compassion, is something that I have had to work very intentionally on, and I have done that in the last few years, and it's been extremely helpful. I think I have a pretty strong inner critic, but at the same time, I think, like you, I feel like I extend a lot more compassion to other people than I do to myself, and learning to do that has been a total game-changer for me.
I think most people struggle with it, to be honest. I think it's something that most people have sort of, for whatever reason, I think had it trained out of them as they go into adulthood, this idea of being nice to yourself. And I have really found a lot of enrichment out of rediscovering what it's like to just be nice to yourself. So I think there are some very specific things that I've had to do to nurture that and it's just been really helpful to me. But like you said, it's definitely a work in progress and it changes all the time. But I think it's very important for our mental health.
How would you say that your relationship with self-compassion affects your creativity?
This is a great question and something that I have been thinking about a lot recently. I took this workshop from a writer named Oliver Burkeman, if you haven't heard of him. He wrote a book called 4000 Weeks, which is really awesome, which is about called Productivity for Mere Mortals or something like that.
The basic idea of it is you can't do all the things, you can't be endlessly productive. You have a limited amount of time on this earth. So he did this workshop recently, this live workshop that was building your system for creativity is what it was called. And one of the points that he raised that really struck me is that creativity is largely about emotional management. And most of what goes into being creative is just being able to handle your own emotions around it and overcome things like self-judgment and be able to just keep going in the face of all the roadblocks that we put up internally to our own creativity.
That really, really struck me. So I think self-compassion obviously plays a huge role there because the more compassion you have for yourself, the less judgment is going to get in the way of letting things out into the world.
So I think they are just so vital for each other. I think they both really enhance each other. Self-compassion allows you to be more creative and then creativity is a place where you can practice self-compassion.
I totally agree. I think that in times where my self-compassion has been a little stronger, that my creativity definitely benefits from that. But also, I feel like when I've been in not as good of a place, creativity also calls me back home to compassion for myself and is like, I want to say, kind of like a way to fake it till you make it kind of thing. It helps us to strengthen that muscle within ourself. I mean, I think that obviously it's not enough to just practice creativity and hope that self-compassion comes along with it. There's more to it than that. But I think that it can be a tool, and I think it can help us flex those muscles.
I don't think it's possible to really be creative in the world without exercising some amount of self-compassion just because, if you're a writer, for example, and you sit down to write every day and you're editing yourself as you write, every time you write a sentence, you're erasing it and thinking it's not good enough, you’ll never get anything out there. You kind of have to, at some point decide it's good enough and it's worthy enough.
And so I think it's just necessary in order to put anything out there. So you are practicing it, whether you know it or not, if you're creating things.
So can you tell me about a way that you've practiced self-compassion recently?
Absolutely, yeah, I've had to recently. I don't know, for whatever reason, for the last couple of weeks, I've just been really busy and really struggling with anxiety around that. And what I find is that there's like this tipping point for me when it comes to busyness and anxiety where, I get over that edge, my brain just flips into this other mode where I'm just not being myself and I'm not being nice to myself, and I'm being very regimented and harsh with myself.
So one of the things that I decided to do is put together a list of nice things I can do for myself when I start to notice that. And that might be going out for a walk for ten minutes, or sitting at my sewing machine for half an hour and making something or doing a project with my hands or whatever it is, like different amounts of time, take a stretch break, whatever it is, but to force myself to do those things when I notice.
So whether or not I feel like doing it, whether or not my brain is telling me that I deserve to do this, I'm just going to do it.
That's one of the things that I've been trying out recently when it comes to self-compassion. Your brain is telling you not to be nice to yourself. Doesn't matter. You said you would do this, so you're going to do this.
Yeah, totally. That's actually really similar to what something that I've been doing lately. And I've also been really busy and so something I've been doing is every morning—this is something I've practiced in the past, but I got out of the habit of it. And so I'm getting back into the habit is every morning I always make a to-do list for myself, for work, and on the lower half of the page, I make my personal to do list. And my rule is that half of the things on my personal to-do list have to be something just for fun, something that serves no purpose other than that it's going to be—I’ll be thankful that I did it for myself and not necessarily just for fun. Sometimes when you're having a day, that thing can just be making lunch for yourself and sitting down to eat it. And that's when I also get into that mindset of just human checklist kind of thing. And it's a way to take care of myself even through those moments.
I think that's so important because I do think there's some kind of switch that can sometimes go off in our brains that's just, you're not acting normally because there's too much pressure from outside.
And I feel like since reincorporating that and taking some steps to take care of myself in that way, that it's definitely helped me just to prioritize some creative time for myself. And also just in the creative work I do for my job, it just helps me with that. It kind of helps eliminate some of the white noise.
Well, let's get into some tips and some ways that we see specifically this relationship between creativity and self-compassion taking place. So just as kind of a disclaimer, developing self-compassion is a long process and it can be kind of complicated. But I think being creative is just a really great way to practice it. It's kind of what we're talking about today.
So we're going to go over nine ways that a creative activity like sewing helps you to become more self-compassionate. And I want to apologize. There's a weed whacker outside. I don't know if you guys can hear it, but I think it were a leaf blower or something. So if you hear any background noise, that's what that is.
So number one, I think creativity really offers a way to express yourself. And having an outward way to show your creativity helps to build confidence and really strengthens your sense of identity. And I think that is something that can have a big effect on self-compassion because your sense of who you are and being comfortable in who you are I think is one of the components of self-compassion. It's just kind of like this notion of self acceptance.
And so I think creativity, especially sewing in a lot of ways, really offers a way to do this. Because for me at least, I think it's a way that I have come to accept ways that I'm different from other people.
Maybe I'm not like everybody else and that's okay. And I can express myself outwardly through the things that I create. And so I think that's a gift, I think. So that's one.
Number two is that it encourages self-exploration. So whenever you engage in creative activities, whatever they are, you might be more likely to explore your inner world and to connect more with your authentic self.
I think that's also a really interesting part of any kind of creative process. You are an individual, obviously, and your point of view on the world is going to be different from anybody else's point of view on the world. And that's kind of the magic of creative expression. Nobody else can offer that lens on the world that you have. And I think when you're doing something creative, you're investigating that and you're finding the ways that you personally are different.
And I think that's what makes you you. It's a great way to celebrate that, I think. So that self-expression and self-exploration is what we've talked about.
I think the third one is that it provides a sense of accomplishment. And when you create something, you feel proud, you feel good about what you've created and your abilities. And that in itself can boost your self-confidence and build a more positive self-image.
I think that is actually a little bit different from self-compassion—related, but different. To me, self-compassion is more it doesn't matter what you do. It doesn't matter if you accomplish things or don't accomplish things. You can be nice to yourself no matter what. But I think having that sense of accomplishment does feel good and it does trigger those positive feelings about yourself, which I think can be a good contributor at the same time, it doesn't hurt by any means.
So I just wanted to point that out because I think even though a sense of accomplishment is wonderful and obviously one of the things that we turn to sewing and other creative hobbies for, you don't need to accomplish anything in order to be nice to yourself.
And then the fourth thing is that it promotes self-care. I think all of us have an inborn need to be creative. And so when you actually engage in those creative activities, it can be a form of caring for yourself. It can help you to relax, it can help you to unwind. And it can also, like we were talking about earlier, kind of be a signal to your brain that you deserve these things and that you can take the time, even if you feel busy, even if you feel stressed out, even if this or that, to take care of yourself and do something that feels good to you. So I think that's really important too, when it comes to hobbies like sewing.
Those are all great ones and I have a few more to add. The next one is that it fosters a growth mindset. And this is something that Sarai and I talk about a lot as being something that's really worthwhile to cultivate. Creativity inherently involves taking risks and trying new things. And this can help you to cultivate that growth mindset which can enhance your feelings of self-compassion.
When you see everything as an opportunity to learn more about, in the case of sewing, learn more about sewing or learn more about yourself, then you can kind of like flip your, I don’t want to say failures, but things that might be perceived as failures on their head and see them through a more compassionate lens, really.
And also it just promotes a sense of curiosity and openness. And I think that's a really beautiful approach.
And for anybody who's not familiar with the term growth mindset, that's a term that was popularized by Carol Dweck at Stanford, and she proposed that there's two types of mindsets. There's a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. And a growth mindset kind of sees any sort of failures, the quote unquote failures, as an opportunity to grow and not a reflection on you as a person.
Whereas a fixed mindset, people who have a fixed mindset tend to see any problems as a personal failing, and they tend to not be as open to learning because they think, oh, I'm just not good at this, or I'm not good enough. And I think we can see, obviously there are some parallels with self-compassion because if you don't see everything that goes wrong as a reflection on your personal abilities, and you can actually see it as, oh, okay, well, I didn't do it right this time, I'm going to try a little bit harder. I think self-compassion can really contribute to having that kind of mindset.
The next is that sewing offers a way that we can connect with others. Creative activities help you to connect with other people who have similar interests to you, helps you build a sense of community. And I think for many of us, that there's a certain sense of community that can be lacking in our day-to-day life. And having something like sewing that can be a shared interest is really wonderful.
I know for me that it's been like a huge gift to be able to connect with people who are totally different than me over something like sewing. And I think that this really creates an increased sense of empathy. And when you increase your capacity for empathy, that also extends to your empathy for yourself and your compassion for yourself. It helps you to connect the dots of if I wouldn't hold these thoughts to be true about others, then why would I hold them to be true about myself?
Sewing and creativity also encourages experimentation. Creativity involves trying new things and involves taking risks and encourages you to really experiment with different ways of doing things. And I think that this experimentation kind of helps you to, again, to develop that kind of growth mindset, which also can help foster feelings of self-compassion.
Sewing and creativity also provides a sense of purpose. Engaging in creative activities provides that purpose and meaning that some of us I know for me, that I definitely feel like I need in my life. And this helps you to feel more compassionate for yourself. It helps you to enhance your own feelings of self-worth and to circle back to what Sarai was saying, you don't need to. I think compassion and worth and productivity are complicated to tie into each other but they do have a relationship with one another.
And then lastly, creativity provides an opportunity for self-reflection. Sarai mentioned before, spending that time in her world engaging in creativity. Creative activities can provide an opportunity for that reflection and introspection. And this can help you to become more aware of your needs and cultivate a more compassionate inner voice.
I think a lot of the time that we tend to spend in our world, in our heads, sometimes can be stuck in very critical mindset when spending some time with yourself that is dedicated to exploration and iterating and creativity is just so valuable and can kind of help you to turn the switch to bring more of that kind of thinking to other parts of your life.
That reminds me of an article I just read this morning that was about instead of thinking in terms of work life balance, what I was advocating was thinking in terms of psychological needs and how different parts of your life can fulfill different psychological needs that you have. Like maybe your work fulfills X, Y and Z psychological needs and your hobbies fill other psychological needs and kind of bringing those all together to kind of create this harmony in your life rather than thinking about it just work on one side, life on the other side, and how do you balance the two. Which I thought was a much more nuanced way of looking at it.
And I feel like that is kind of speaking to what you're saying here, doing that self-reflection and recognizing how your hobbies are fulfilling certain psychological needs for yourself and that it is an act of self-compassion to allow yourself to have them and to allow yourself to recognize those needs and fulfill them in the way that you want to.
These are all, I think, really cool things to think about and really consider when you're thinking about your hobbies, and especially if you're maybe reaching a point where you're kind of either struggling with your creativity or struggling with your ability to be nice to yourself. I think it's really interesting to think about how they can feed off of each other and enhance each other.
So I'm just going to recap really quick what we talked about. So first of all, we talked about the fact that self-compassion is kind of a lifelong process and it is not something you can just switch on and off, but that being creative is a good way to practice it. And that's kind of what we're getting at today.
So the nine ways that we think that a creative activity can help you with that is offering a way to express yourself, encouraging self-exploration, providing a sense of accomplishment, promoting self-care, and giving yourself the space to take care of yourself. Fostering a growth mindset, offering a way to connect with others, encouraging more experimentation, providing a sense of purpose and providing an opportunity for self-reflection.
And I think these are all really awesome ways that you can use these two really important practices to enhance your life. So what's your big takeaway from today's episode, Haley?
Well, I think that, reflecting on all of this stuff has kind of made me recognize how it's really interesting that self-compassion has been for me and my personal journey a really huge focus. And also I've dedicated in my life to sewing and creative pursuits, and I think that that's really interesting that both have held so much weight in my world, and I don't think that is something that is by accident. So it's just made me curious about that, I guess, is my big takeaway.
I think, for me, this idea of emotional regulation and this idea of self-compassion being a necessary part of creativity is my biggest takeaway, that you can't really be creative without at least practicing a little bit of self-compassion, because otherwise you're just editing yourself constantly. So I think that's a really interesting thing to explore. And to use your creativity as a way to consciously practice being kind to yourself, I think is a really interesting way to approach it. So that's my big takeaway.
That kind of wraps us up for today. I wanted to mention real quickly our Seamwork Community. We mentioned how creativity can be a way to connect with other people, and I just think our community is so amazing. We have some of the nicest, most helpful sewists you can imagine, in our private community. And our team, along with thousands of Seamworkers, are here to talk to you and cheer you on in your journey. So it's a great place to ask questions about absolutely anything with no judgment, and you'll always get some amazing answers. And you can also share your projects, and you can create goals, and we'll even email you reminders to keep you on track with whatever your goals are at the moment.
It's the perfect place to go if you need a quick boost of creative energy. So shout-out to the community.
If you want to check that out. We have a promo to join Seamwork that we'll put in the show notes, and I'll mention in just a sec if you like this episode. We'd also love it if you would leave us a review.
We have a review today from Drop Dee Dee, who says, “I'm new to sewing mending embroidery. This is a solid podcast that sticks to each topic and explores it well. Five stars.” All right. Thank you, podcast. Thank you, Dee Dee.
And that wraps us up for today. I'm Sari.
And I'm Haley.
And this is Seamwork Radio.