By Kristen Banks
Last Saturday, I blacked my own eye. This is not a metaphor, I literally blacked my own eye.
I reached to the top most shelf in our fabric room and pulled out a bolt of fabric. As I turned my head to the right to say something to a customer, I didn’t notice that the bolt I pulled dragged a friend along with it until I turned back to face the shelf and got clocked by a bolt of blue Grunge.
Mercifully it wasn’t a full bolt, as those weigh closer to seven pounds. I know it doesn’t sound like much difference, but hey, every little bit helps when something pounds you in the face.
The bolt hit me square in the left eye and I heard my glasses snap and felt them go flying from my face across the room. I immediately dropped to the floor in search of my beloved $9 prescription glasses. Anyone who wears glasses knows that, no matter how expensive or cheap they are, it is an instinctual move to immediately go grappling for them in the event they ever leave your face in an untimely manner.
I yelled for my sister and by the time she got to me I had found both pieces of my poor irreparable glasses. Thankfully, I keep a spare pair in my purse. By the time she had retrieved them a faint purple color and a pump knot had already started to rise at the corner of my eye. I reached up to feel the swollen lump and said, “I just blacked my own eye, didn’t I?”
That evening it was blacker, and the next morning blacker still. Surprisingly, this isn’t the first black eye I’ve ever had, as I was generally pretty active and athletic as a kid, but it’s definitely the only one I’ve ever physically given to myself.
Since my mind tends to wander, I started to think about black eyes and the subject of hurting oneself. I started to think about the fact that I knew how many times I had blacked my eye physically, but how many times have I blacked my own eye metaphorically speaking?
When I first started quilting I was really bad about saying negative things about my own work. I was insecure about my quilting. I felt like all anyone could see were the flaws when they looked at my finished product. If anyone ever complimented me on one of my quilts I would immediately start pointing out the flaws as if to say, ‘It’s really not that great.” The compliment giver would usually look a little confused and say something like, “Well, it looks fine to me” followed by awkward silence.
See, I was just sure that when someone complimented me they were just trying to be nice, because they really just saw how inexperienced I was. What I didn’t know was, that to most people’s eye, they were just viewing a pretty quilt. Most of them weren’t quilters and wouldn’t have known what was a flaw from what was planned unless someone told them anyway. And even most experienced quilters will tell you flaws are far less noticebale to others than they are to the person that made them, even if you know what you’re looking at.
When I would marginalize my own work with my words, I was verbally giving myself a black eye, and missing out on my prize of getting a great compliment on a job well done.
One day, after one of these incidents, my teacher got kind of stern with me. She said, “Stop saying that! When someone gives you a compliment you say ‘Thank you,’ and don’t say anything about the flaws. They probably won’t see them if you don’t point them out. If someone is rude enough to point them out to you then that’s their problem.”
What I didn’t realize is that it is also really rude when someone says, “You did a great job!” to say back to them, “Well, no I didn’t”. And that is essentially what you are doing when someone is praising you and you start pointing out flaws.
I had never thought about it that way, and I determined that day that I was going to stop acting this way. I was going to fight for my prize instead of becoming a prize fighter. I was going to resist the urge to run my work down and enjoy the compliment, instead of beating myself up with my own insecurities.
So, unless I’m using a flaw as a teaching opportunity for one of my classes, I don’t point them out anymore. When someone gives me a compliment now, I just say thank you. I enjoy the warm feeling I get when someone takes the time to appreciate my work.
And as far as the flaws go, once I’ve learned what I need to from them, I stop seeing them as well. I’ve learned to see the beauty and appreciate the journey, because each misstep is just another opportunity to learn and a stepping stone to something greater. And that gives me a lot to be proud of.