DIY and the Fear of Sucking

Control your caveman brain! Dare to suck!

My creative writing teacher in high school once lectured us all on the fear of sucking. “If you sit there, staring at a blank page, so afraid you’re going to screw up whatever you write that you can’t eek out a single word, you will never get anything done,” she told us. “You have to let go, and tell yourself that even if what you produce does indeed suck, it’s okay.”

Overcoming the fear of sucking is a difficult thing. It is normal and human thing to want to avoid mistakes. Something in our caveman brain stirs and says, “Nuh-uh, if I don’t do this right the first time, I get eaten.” But as instinctual as human beings can be, we are also rational creatures! So tell yourself to relax, that it’s okay if the first iteration of whatever you’re doing will suck. You’ll find that you’ll get a lot more out of life AND save money (bet you were wondering when this would become an actual personal finance post).

DIY is scary for a lot of people. You don’t want to screw it up and leave your house in shambles, or mess up your new gaming rig by installing one of the parts wrong. As a woman, I’ve found it exceptionally hard, because unlike my fiance my parents didn’t show me how to do a lot of “handyman” things. However, the rewards of DIY are too hard to ignore. For example, just last night I saved myself $100 by installing a ceiling fan myself instead of having someone else do it. Instead of calling a plumber, my fiance and I fixed our toilet with a few Google searches and a $4 rubber flapper from Lowes. And aside from saving money, being able to do things yourself allows you to customize things exactly to your liking. Here are my tips for getting over yourself and doing things on your own.

  1. Everything is a Lego Set: From installing a ceiling fan, to constructing IKEA furniture, to swapping out your own thermostat, you’d be surprised how much of life actually DOES come with a manual! And you’d be surprised to know just how straightforward some of this stuff is if you manage to READ that manual. Installing our fan was a lot like putting together a Lego set–piece one into piece two, take the screws from bag one and insert them in the bits from bag two, etc. It really wasn’t that hard. And if whatever you’re doing doesn’t come with it’s own manual, I bet you can find instructions for a similar project on the internet, including plenty of informative videos on YouTube.
  2. You Won’t Blow it Up: There are some things you don’t want to mess with. If a project will negatively impact your health or has the potential to severely damage the stability of the thing you’re working on, you might want to trust it to the professionals. But those projects aside, most things you DIY won’t blow up your house if you mess them up. And if you’ve tried, screwed up, and can’t figure out how to fix things, you can always call in the cavalry. Take the toilet-fixing example. Worst case scenario would have been that our toilet was a little broken for a day or so until we gave up and called a plumber. Sure, maybe there would’ve been a little water on the floor, but in the end it would have been fine.
  3. Pester the Professionals: If you do break down and decide you really need some help, don’t be afraid to ask some questions of the people who come to help finish your project. Be polite and nice, ask them as much as you can without getting in their way, and you’ll be able to use that knowledge in the future! This obviously depends on the temperament of whoever you’re working with, but my fiance and I have gotten more than a few tips from the people we’ve had work on our house.
  4. You Can Do It: Whether by attending a class (for homeownership stuff, Home Depot often offers free classes, and other similar stores or your local colleges might, too!), watching a ton of YouTube videos, or simply calling a friend or relative over to teach you, find a way to increase your confidence in your own ability to get shit done. I promise you that you are just as able as every other person out there to learn this stuff. You don’t have some kind of mental block that keeps you from learning to manipulate a screwdriver.

Do you remember your first DIY project? What projects have saved you the most money for the least effort in the past?

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