Perfectionism and procrastination
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines perfectionism as “a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable”.
On the flipside, perfectionism can also be viewed as a genuinely positive motivation to achieve excellence in specific areas of life.
Which definition applies to your life? If you are a perfectionist, it is best if your main motivation is to really achieve excellence at something.
Nine times out of ten, self-proclaimed perfectionists are concerned only with upholding their own personal standards. How does this lead to procrastination? If we look at what happens to a person when he tries too hard to create “perfect” results, we will immediately see that false perfectionism actually slows down a personís’ continuous progress.
Why? The most basic reason is that a false perfectionist becomes more preoccupied with pettiness and fault-finding than actually excelling at something. If you want to see real perfectionism that benefits the doer and those around him, try to see how top athletes train for the Olympics or for any other major competition. Athletes are competitive, and they cannot avoid being perfectionists because their main goal is to come out on top.
So these people are indeed perfectionists, but you don’t see them arguing with their coaches or other athletes. You don’t see these people beating themselves up, and skipping training because they feel that they will never measure up to the existing standards.
Athletes may have bouts of anxiety and depression (these emotions are normal), but they immediately pick themselves up and continue with the goals they have set for themselves. Failure is a possibility, but they put this fact at the back of their minds because they need to keep moving forward.
These people are also very aware of the exacting standards they must meet, and they respond to the challenge by training and practicing consistently, day after day. Top athletes work so hard and so consistently that many of them actually get injuries during practice.
I am not asking you to work so hard that you end up in the hospital. However, if you have a tendency to be a perfectionist, but you are unable to meet deadlines and work consistently, your perfectionism may be the root cause of your habitual procrastination.
Procrastination is a behavior that is often found in people. It is the act of delaying an intended task to a later time. Procrastination can be caused by many different things, such as lack of motivation, negative moods, or low self-esteem. There are many reasons why people procrastinate and it doesn’t always mean they’re lazy.
Addressing Perfectionism and Procrastination
The first step in addressing a problem is to recognize the elements of the problem itself. The following are some of the recognized criteria of negative or false perfectionism that may also contribute to habitual procrastination. If you have several or all of these traits or tendencies, you need to break the habit now, before trying to address your procrastination habit:
- You have precise standards that you have set for yourself and others. When you can measure up to your standards, you still feel unhappy because you feel that you could have done better.
- You are never sure of your ability to do something well. There is always an essential flaw or fault that will prevent you from excelling at an activity.
- Your only option is achieving the absolute best. Anything below this standard is a failure.
- Just thinking of “not doing well enough” (based on your standards) causes stress and anxiety.
- You tend to avoid doing things so that you wonít have to deal with the common negative emotions that arise when you think about accomplishing something.
- You begin to force people to follow your personal standards. Anyone who doesnít measure up, or doesnít believe in your standards, is automatically excluded from your pursuits and activities.
Perfectionism is the tendency to judge oneself and others based on unrealistic or unattainable personal standards. It can be either adaptive or maladaptive, depending on how it is manifested.
Perfectionism can be maladaptive when it causes people to constantly put off tasks or procrastinate, to the point where they become immobilized and unable to function. It can also cause people to become overly self-critical, to the point where they experience severe personal dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and other mental health problems.
You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to get started.
Perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand. We want to avoid feelings of shame, so we don’t start the work. The reality is that the work never gets started because it’s not ready. The work is not ready because we haven’t reached the imagined ideal. What’s the solution? Start by accepting the fact that perfection is an illusion, and then move forward. The work is never perfect, so you can’t let it stop you. You start the work and improve your mistakes as you go along.
You may also want to read more about perfectionism and academic procrastination or perfectionism and procrastination in college students