Procrastination and Perfectionism

Spilling the Juicy Details of Their Tortuous Love Affair

by Jamie Wilson

It happens to most of us. We get a great idea, we consider writing a book, we consider taking a trip, we think about getting a higher degree, we consider looking for a better job, maybe we’ll go to the gym today, or try a new recipe. Did you ever think “maybe I would enjoy…” but then the thought fades away and the idea never becomes an experience?

Did you know that Perfectionism and Procrastination have a torid affair going on? They aren’t even careful about their relationship sometimes, just blatantly flaunt that they are together. They work together to gaslight humans, and then sit back and laugh saying “our work here is done” once the human loses hope and dreams. Once Procrastination and Perfectionism see the human sit down on the sidelines once again, they think “another job well done.”

This may not be new information for you, but it was like a lightbulb went off for me. I was listening to a podcast and heard that people think their problem is procrastination, they call themselves “lazy” – even if it’s just in their own world of self-judgment. We live in a performance-based world: how many things can you balance? How many hours can you work? How much salary can you negotiate for? How can you be loving and supportive with your kids, while maintaining your own boundaries? I remember a commercial with this gorgeous, fit woman in full makeup and stylish clothes whipping her way around a kitchen and feeding smiling, happy, clean, well-dressed children. My emotional response was anger and shame. How could this woman be so f-ckng perfect and I could be such a failure. How did she not spill a single drop of food on herself while cooking? I would be covered in food splatter. How is there not dog fur forming dustballs in the places she just cleaned – like at my house?

Can I be honest with you? My housecleaning skills have only recently improved. Because I didn’t think I could do it all, I felt overwhelmed. I would look at the toothepaste on the bathroom counter, the toilet bowl begin to be gunky inside, the dog/cat fur on all my floors and floating up onto the counters. How could I stop this madness of mess? I couldn’t, it was beyond me – so I did nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, you will hear me say over and over “take time to rest, renew, refresh yourself.” Sometimes the dishes stay in the sink piled over onto the counter. Sometimes the kitchen floor is sticky. That gorgeous woman in the commercial, is on a set….with staff, and a wardrobe specialist and professional hair and makeup and she may or may not have really made those cookies for those kids (the actress truly is an admirable human.) She sure isn’t responsible for washing the dishes and props on the set! Even though logically I KNOW she’s an actress on a set, emotionally I feel like she just proved I really can’t do anything well. The comparison trap is real, after all, and learning to navigate that is a mental exercise that builds self-acceptance and resilience.

The comparison trap sometimes joins perfectionism and procrastination for a sordid mé·na·ge à trois. If that woman can do all of that, what’s wrong with me? Clearly, I’m a failure. So I’m going to stay frozen in this panic of self-failure. Procrastination and perfectionism sing a duet that says “don’t even try since you can’t do it perfectly.” Sometimes we are able to stop our thoughts and say “wait a minute, these are intrusive thoughts! I am valid no matter how well or poorly I perform. My abilities are vast and diverse, but I have human limitations. Instead of looking at another woman for an example, I can look inside myself and find my passions and my strengths.

Guys, my house is so dirty right now. And that’s okay because I will clean it, after i finish this one task I’m already working on. I do have a harder time concentrating when the house is a mess, but I have kids and a dog and a cat and a husband. I’m learning how to ask for their help in cleaning. I used to get so much push back (whining, pouting, glaring) that I just said forget it, I’ll do it all myself. Resentment can also lead to procrastination. I’m not the one who drops food all over the floor, I’m not the one leaving my stuff all over the house (okay, I’m not the ONLY ONE)… Why should I be the only one to clean the kitchen counters and sweep the floors and clean the toilets…..I DID ask my kids to help, but they are kids and clean like kids. That was so off-topic but my kids just came into the room to greet me and so they were on my mind. If I was going to be totally honest, I would reconsider becoming a mom. There I said it. The kids that I have are fantastic, but having kids is exhausting on all levels. It’s almost nicer to clean than interact with other humans sometimes, which is another reason to burn myself out trying to clean and do it all myself. I prefer silence and solitude a lot of the times, but when you have young kids your body and time and face and words and thoughts and patience and love – they all go to those littler people first, because those littler people developmentally need that. It’s my JOB. So I HAVE TO stop everything I’m doing and cater to them, which can lead to resentment. There is a whole future post coming on setting boundaries with kids, but for now let me get myself back on track. My focus is so limited, that picking a place to start sometimes can lead to procrastination.

Overwhelm, fear, inadequacy – these feelings are common to every human. Maybe we truly do need the break, but we tell ourselves we are “lazy” if we choose to spend our time in leisure or self-care instead of being “productive.” Sister, let me tell you something right now: self-care needs to be a priority. It is a real human need, mom status or not. (I’m also going to throw in here that choosing NOT to have children is totally valid and there are many other ways for women to create life.)

Procrastination is “to delay or postpone something.” Sometimes when we judge ourselves we use the word procrastination instead of the words: prioritize, boundaries, limits, rest, mental break….

Sometimes when we judge ourselves, we know we really do need to stop binge watching Sweet Magnolias (LOVE) and do a task. How do we know if we need to keep watching or stop watching? Keep resting, or start doing?

Here comes another confession. I’m not the best at asking for help. I still tend to ignore my needs (including my need for help around the house), let resentment and victim-mentality build (“I’m their servant”), and then I sulk and pout. I’ve broken things and screamed when I maxed myself out. I didn’t know how to ask for help, and quite frankly I didn’t want to hear any g.d. whining about cleaning your own toothpaste off the bathroom counter, putting your socks in the dirty clothes instead of just leaving them all over the house….as amazing as my kids are, they are still human beings who need a lot from me. It’s overwhelming at times. So if I can’t do it “right” then why do it at all? And here we come to the heart of feeling like I’m a failure if I might do something wrong. Perfectionism.

Perfectionism is essentially striving for flawlessness, reaching for unattainable or unrealistic goals, while at the same time being self-critical and concern with others’ opinions. (I got this info here.) When I look around my dirty house and see it as one big dirty house, oh man I sink into my old shame-shell. If I can look around my house and say “I need help with [specific cleaning tasks]” I still feel like a failure sometimes, shouldn’t I be like Kelly Ripa after all? Maybe, maybe not. She’s not actually popping by my house any time soon to share her insecurities with me, but I’m sure I could watch some of her interviews, read her books, and peek behind the woman who has made herself so successful.

Right now the best way I can recommend to get off the comparison trap, is to remember that every successful person has overcome at least one major obstacle; they basically believed in themselves enough to keep getting back up. So what is the first lesson that sticks out to me there?

Get back up.

And my recommendation for perfectionism, is self-love and radically accepting all of the parts of yourself as valid and spectacular. There are so many online courses, challenges, opportunities to learn about self-acceptance. There are infinite possibilities for activities that may feed your soul.

My recommendation for procrastination is: listen to your inner wisdom. You instinctively know what you need, and if you’re confused or overwhelmed – start with either journaling it all out (aka a brain dump) or making a to-do list. Put three things on the to-do list: sweep the kitchen, wipe the kitchen counters, take out the kitchen trash. Those are realistic for me, I can do more if I want when I accomplish those three, and I’m at least getting started on what I need to do. “I need to, I need to, I need to” it’s all on me me me…..nope, not even close! I do have help from my family, my husband and kids. Learning how to say “I need help” without feeling embarrassed or like a failure is a skill I need to continue to work on.

Sometimes we may just be bored, and we may need to reach for a challenge or actively look for an opportunity to do something outside of our comfort zone. A new gym class, a dance class, an art class, a martial arts class, a hiking club, a book club, a social media support group…Sometimes we procrastinate because we know we can do it whenever we want – so it’s no biggie. If you wanted to try something that is a biggie – go for it! If you want to work on your time management skills, go for it! If you want to work on your cooking skills, go for it! I’ve found when I have nothing to do, I do nothing, but if I have enough to get me excited, I’ll go for it.

Do you have any ways of coping with procrastination, perfectionism, or the comparison trap? Which of these do you struggle the most/least with? Connect with me by leaving a comment.

Thank you for being here,

𝓙𝓪𝓶𝓲𝓮

Published by Surthrivor

Surthrivor: a survivor who takes control of their own recovery.

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