The Perfectionist and Procrastination

The Perfectionist and Procrastination

Perfectionism is defined as striving towards the impossibly high goal of perfection. The trap that exists with this type of standard is that the perfectionists can never be good enough – if it isn’t perfect, it’s horrible. Unfortunately, perfectionism (for example, the belief that your next project should set the world on fire) sets yourself up for failure often results in paralysis that leads to procrastination. At some level, you know that this level of achievement is unlikely.

Universal struggles experienced with “perfectionistic procrastination” are:

  • Because of the thought that a task needs to be perfect, you are not able to start the job, or you consistently delay the mission.
  • You experience negative self-talk, feelings of inadequacy, and constant worry that will not go away even if a task is completed well. Examples of these thoughts would be telling yourself things like – “it’s never good enough” or taking it even further with “I am not good enough.”

Strategies to fight this limiting perfectionism –

  1. Start by becoming AWARE of the perfectionistic voices in your head (no, you’re not crazy!). You cannot learn to ignore them if you don’t know what they’re talking to you.
  1. NAME THE FEARS – Make a list of your’ what if it is not perfect’ fears. By naming these concerns and making them concrete, you reduce that vague feeling of foreboding that often looms. An example might be – “people will read this paper and think I am stupid.”
  1. Identify HOW LIKELY it is that the above worries will occur?
  1. If these fears that you named become a reality, THEN WHAT? Play out this scenario to the end and look at how you would deal with it. In other words, how would you cope if these worse case fears came true? What have you done in the past to deal with similar situations or equally difficult times?
  1. Instead of focusing on the “negative what if’s” (worse case outcomes), make a list of good things that might could happen if you proceed with the situation you are avoiding or delaying. Practice consciously redirect your thinking away from these “what if it is not good enough?” to “what good things could happen if I stop procrastinating?”
  1. Finally, create a new self-statement for yourself that is the opposite of your old self-defeating talk. Instead of allowing your mind to continue along the path of thoughts such as – “it’s never good enough,” create and practice a new mantra that goes something like – “I can stop at good enough” or “good enough is good enough.” Practice by saying this new positive statement to yourself a few times each day, and then, when you find yourself starting to become paralyzed by perfectionism, anxiety, and worry, repeat this mantra to yourself. This type of intentional thought redirection acts like a reset button on your brain. In other words, it is a rewiring of your neural circuitry and rerouting of synaptic pathways and the entire body to absorb that good enough is good enough.